One of the things I’ve noticed about creative endeavors is that you never know where an idea will lead you. All you can do is take a first step in one direction and then something else becomes clear. From there another step becomes clear and you keep moving. In my experience, there’s no way to know subsequent steps without taking the first step.
When I started painting triangles, the triangles led to more triangles. Those triangles led to new ideas and, of course, even more triangles. I frequently don’t know what the end painting will look like. All I know is what comes next (and even that can be uncertain). The line or color I’m painting right now, this moment, is the one that informs the next color and form. It’s an intuitive and iterative way of painting.
Here’s what it looks like in pictures . . .
First, you start with a blank wood panel. You tape off the edges and and prime the surface with some gesso or paint. I recommend a couple of coats of gesso with sanding in between. This is a good time to start thinking about where the painting might start.
After priming the panel, you can lay down more tape and choose color. The first color doesn’t really matter, it’s just a matter of preference, style, and taste. I lean towards starting with greens, blue, and aqua colors. Those colors remind me of nature and seem calming. Frankly, it’s a little alarming to look at a barren white panel that’s begging for paint so it feels good to get something calm down on the surface.
As you continue along, one color leads to the next color and you start to realize that the last choice informs the next choice. If you’re lucky, something that feels like flow starts to happen.
Basically, you just continue taping, painting, and peeling off tape until the painting is complete.
Experimenting and making “mistakes”
My Dad used to say that the enemy of good is better. Sometimes I can’t stop with a painting and want to keep going. I start thinking, hey, I have an idea that I want to test. What if I decide to overlay some additional colors? It’s scary to take something you like “well enough” and risk experimenting with it. One of the benefits of small format paintings is that the stakes are lower. The worst that can happen is that you’ll hate it and want to recreate the original painting. Experimenting is the best way to learn and sometimes that means making a “mistake.”
Getting more specific . . . after painting the image above, I decided to overlay some contrasting colors. I knew that it might end up looking bad, but I wanted to experiment and knew that I could repaint a similar painting if I wanted to replace it. I taped of the painting in a few places and then put on some color with light strokes and then dabbed it off with a damp paper towel. I pretty quickly knew that I didn’t like it.
After getting the additional colors on there was this moment of, hmmm, that wasn’t a great idea. Now I know. Sometimes you just need to take a chance and see what happens. I have a whole shelf of oops paintings that have helped me learn things. That’s where this one is going . . . unless I decide to do something else to it first.