Wednesday, 1 July 2009

The Daily Painting Routine

Analysis of the previous day's work stimulated us to thinking carefully about our successes/ failures of the previous day. By far the most difficult thing for all of us was editing the scene in front of us and taking away enough to provide the basis for studio painting. It followed that we should make a concerted effort to enhance our skill level in observing, editing and making crucial decisions about the approach to any composition.

Martin put up the photograph below as a prompt (scare tactic!) and asked how sense could be made of it in translating it into something simplified that could be built upon.

The following three pictures are how he then stripped this down to its essence in terms of a composition that had a focal point, colour notes and tonal relationships.

M. Kinnear

M. Kinnear

M. Kinnear

To summarise the approach:

1) On a daily basis, take a difficult photograph or go outside. Decide on a focal point and from that decide on a compositional plan;

2) Decide between a tonal or colour approach as the dominant feature for your composition;

3) Unify the elements, creating as few blocks of colour or tone as possible;

4) Block in the shapes then develop them with tones or hues keeping lit areas opaque and shadow areas translucent;

5) Try to minimise the detail to a few important and suggestive - rather than illustrative - marks.

Martin has published the routine on his blog, 'The Studio' at

The next three panels are a selection of the ones that I produced in the ensuing feverish activity.

Light in the forest - 11" x 9" MDF panel

Sea Cave - 11" x 9" MDF panel

Boats laid up for the night - 11" x 9" MDF panel

This procedure along with Notan sketches provide significant source material for paintings and most of all underline, what for many of us, is the most difficult hurdle in developing our painting that being forgetting the ingrained search for photographic type imagery in our work. The essence of good painting being the way we draw the viewer into an interactive approach with the work prompted by the suggestive marks we have created on the canvas.


michelleFRANTOM said...

Thanks Mick.....I might grab that one too!

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

Looks like a solid approach. I must take a look.

Mick Carney said...

Michelle - it would be good if you could let me know how your students respond.

Mary - give it a go, it certainly makes you think.