Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The process behind a painting

On the forum I belong to - Painting Friends - we are having a "Year of Painting" Challenge. We paint one picture a month, and the photo is one we all use.
When we take part, there are certain things to hold in mind about what you did, what you liked ...etcetera.

So here, for anyone who has five minutes to spare in reading, is the process I go through whenever I make a painting.

Year of Painting (YOP)

Number One, Landscape.

Personal Goals for this Painting:

Firstly I set some goals for my thumbnail sketches.
These were :
  1. do a thumbnail showing the scene as is
  2. on the next two thumbs, change the ratio of sky to ground and remove anything which clutters the focal point
  3. on the last thumbnail, keep the focal point, but be completely off the wall in the scenery
  4. Choose which one of these thumbnails to paint.

Choosing (4), the choices for the painting were to try to
a) paint in a realistic style
b) or not.

I chose to paint the scene (b) 

I wanted to achieve a surreal feeling to the painting – a dreamlike state, as one who looks back on their past and remembers it, but not warts and all.
I already had in the back of my mind from the thumbnail stage that this would be The apple tree - the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.. and that the distance would be indicative of how far separated we are from Heaven.

So, here's the painting: The Distant Hills of Youth

What works and what could be improved.

I love the green grass in this painting – it is completely flat in colour, with no graduations and the only shadow that of the tree. This to me is what gives the painting the slightly surreal feel – because no grass would be quite that shade of green or that perfect. 

The sky! This could be improved.. I feel if I did it again I would make the sky bluer and the water bluer. I like the way they are now, and the way they meet on the horizon - but if its a dreamlike scenario, it ought to be bluer.

Challenges Faced

The challenge in painting this as a surreal rendition was not to paint as if it was realistic.

Share Personal Goals and whether you felt you Met Them

My personal goal was to make this a painting of a dream remembered landscape.. one that showed how far away the viewer had grown from Heaven. The hills are a way away from the tree, so I do feel I met that goal – and also the goal of making the landscape surreal.

How I created the Painting.

The sky was painted by dampening the sky and water area and then running in a wash of ultramarine in the wet area.
Distant land was created by making a wash of ultramarine and crimson . Washing over the whole land mass on the first wash, on two thirds on the second wash and on one third for the third wash.
Grass was painted by mixing cad yellow and cobalt blue and painting wet on dry.
When that was dry the tree shadow and the small shrubs were painted in a stickier mix of the two colours, plus a touch of indigo.
Rocks were all variations of raw sienna/burnt sienna and ultramarine, all painted so they merged in a random fashion. The foreground rocks had some dry brush too, as did the reflections in the water.

Size of Painting, Medium, Palette and Brushes.

The painting is on Arches Aquarelle Rough 140lb and is quarter sheet. 15”x11”
The medium is pencil for the under drawing and watercolour for the painting. W&N artists quality .
Palette colours used : French Ultramarine, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Yellow, Indigo
Brushes, Kolinsky, sizes 8 and 3, Sceptre Gold 1” Flat brush.


  1. That was very interesting. A lot of work goes into your paintings!

  2. This is just my opinion Pat, but I wouldn't make the sky and the water bluer. I would leave the painting just as it is. Surreal, to me, means dreamlike, and this painting is just that. Making the sky and water bluer, would seem to make it more of a regular landscape painting. I like the mystery, the stillness and the timeless look of this painting~~~


  3. Wow, Pat- thanks for all the insight into your work! I don't spend the time I should with thumbnails, and it would probably help in the long run!

  4. A lot of thinking went into this painting , but I think you totally succeeded in your intent. It IS very dreamlike, and the light haze in the water and the sky emphasizes this feeling. Very well done Pat.

  5. Thanks Jackie xx

    Thanks, Tonya - a lot does. Even if I don't always write it down, it goes on in my head! xx

    Why, thank you Jan. I think I will leave it as is. xx

    Thanks, Sheryl - the thumbs are useful :) xx

    Thanks Jane - a lot of thought did go in - I'm glad you could see that and think I succeeded too :) xx

  6. I agree with Jan,, it's dreamlike, surreal as is..
    Do Not Touch . Thanks Pat for all your encouraging words and support to my blog.
    hugs ,, BJ

  7. Interesting to see the thought process behind this painting. The result is very beautiful and soft. I like how the tree is leaning towards the distant hills.

  8. Thanks BJ - I got it - keep off the water and sky :lol: xx

    Thanks Judy, I like how it almost yearns for them :) xx

  9. Love seeing the background that went into your thinking there.
    Actually I love the light sea and sky, it makes it all look dreamy and far away

  10. Thanks Pam. Its staying - the sky and sea, that is xx

  11. That's very interesting to see the step by step process you go through with the challenge. I like the painting very much and it's also quite interesting to read your thoughts on what you liked or disliked about it.

  12. Pat thanks for sharing your way of creating very interesting and effective, I loved your interpretation surreal.
    A hug!

  13. Dear Pat, I hope you dont mind what I'm going to say. More than once I told you "you have a gift" or "you are talented" and I mean it. But, some paintings you make, from my point of view, are too rational and I think this disturbs your art. Sometimes you could use the right side of your brain and I think you would surprise us with incredible works of art. Sincerily, Anamaria

  14. Thank you Ann, glad you enjoyed it xx

    Thanks, Nil. Glad you liked the painting :) xx

    Anamaria, I have no problem with anything you say to me *hugs* But you'll have to explain yourself a bit more for me to try something different. I am a very rational kind of person, from school to work, everything was planned. Life as an accountant before I changed career, you see. That's still in me. Maths is logical.
    So when you say paint from the right side - what do you mean, and how do I do that?

  15. Anamaria, what have you started? :lol: I found a left brain/right brain quiz and I'm pretty even, 53% left, 47% right.
    Then I found some drawing on R side brain exercises and did those pretty easily. Now I have to find out how it applies to painting...

  16. I like the surreal feel Pat - It has an element of Georgia O'Keefe to it :0)

  17. Hello Pat, I came back to see what you have answered me. Relieved to see you have no problems with my suggestion

    Well, I'll try to explain better what I meant:the rigth side of the brain doesn't make things step by step, it captures the whole.

    I think maybe you could use the wet method, it helps to loosen the painting. You wet a good 300 g watercolor paper, choose some colors without even reding their names, and make some spots of paint on the wet paper.

    After you have done so, wait a bit for the paper to dry , meanwhile you look at your "painting".Perhaps you begin to see shapes that remind you of something.

    Than you continue painting to finish those shapes, forms, the painting itself has suggested you. No previous plan.

    I now remember I have seen a better explanation of this in Isabelle's blog, Ma decouverte artistique: Yes!!!! That's it!

    Hugs from your brazilian friend

    I learned to draw with Betty Edwards's book Drawing with the rigth side of the brain, and I know she published something about Colors, if you put the name on google you'll get a lot of information

  18. A me il dipinto piace così com'è, complimenti.
    Auguri di Buona Pasqua, ciao ciao.

  19. Thanks Sandra! It does have a certain feel to it :) xx

    Oh Anamaria, I know what you mean now! I have done this before, really I have! See here
    Perhaps I should do a few more! :)
    Thank you so much for coming back and explaining. I will definitely have another go at that technique :) xx

    Thank you Gabriele - the painting will be left as it is :) xx

  20. Dear Pat,
    Thank you for sharing the process, thoughts and your creativity. I love your art work that stands on a fine line between reality and dream. Congrats!!
    Cheers, Sadami


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