Thursday, September 8, 2011

Painting Process--My Easel Set-up

Today, you see a typical set-up at my easel. For most paintings, I place an old piece of heavy poster board against the easel behind the canvas so that I can tape things to it for reference. Nearly all my landscape pieces are studio paintings based on actual scenes, so the main reference photos go up on the board first. Below, you see one of the marsh reference photos I am using for these small paintings. The other item you see in this easel photo is a sheet of paper with a couple of quick sketches and other notes. Many of you know that I am a planner, rather than painting completely spontaneously. However, the amount of advance planning varies for different paintings. This is a relatively simple example for a pair of 5" x 7" salt marsh paintings, currently in progress.
In the photo of the sheet of paper, you see that I have done minimal sketching for these pieces. Given their rocky progress to this point, I may have done better to prepare more detailed value studies, planning the balance of lights and darks--but I didn't this time. I also did less in the way of color studies than I might do for larger works, but I did explore some of the possible gold and buff mixes for the dry winter grasses. Notice (learned this the hard way) that I recorded the tube colors used for each mix and also wrote down the colors used for sky and water (though without a sample patch) and the list of tube colors for this particular limited palette. Some artists probably can do with less written down, but I often am working on several pieces at the same time, so one may be set aside for awhile. It definitely helps to have notes about color blends used when I return to a work in progress after some time has passed.
Linda Blondheim, my painting mentor, suggested this blog post topic when I journeyed over to Gainesville, Florida on Saturday for one of her Open Studio Classes. I am thrilled that she is offering this class again; she had stopped for a number of months, and I missed the guidance she offers painters with any work they bring to the gathering. When Linda saw this set-up, she felt that others might like a peek at my typical messy work board. You can find earlier posts on similar topics by entering "painting process" in the blog search box, top left of this blog. The June 28, 2010 post in particular shows the planning materials and easel set-up for a study of a shore bird--somewhat like this board. And, as always, you can click on a photo to enlarge it and see more detail.
Question of the day: What triggers, tools, or processes aid you in creative endeavors (whether "artistic " projects or creative problem solving and everyday living)?


  1. Love seeing how a real artist works, Mary. My process is largely in my head. The actual laying on of color is seat of my pants. This is why I am not so good. Nuff said.

  2. Sherry, I really think you are too hard on yourself--I enjoy seeing your charming work. And I am sure that many artists have a radically different approach from mine. It's fun to see people's varied approaches to creative activity and how well different methods work for different people.

  3. I think its my hiking, biking and dog walking which reveals scenes I want to duplicate in my woodland,and prairie wildflower gardens. I collect seeds, purchase plants and out come the shovels,forks, and other planting tools. Maybe copying Mother Nature planting arrangements is cheating... but I do enjoy it. :)

  4. Love this comment, TB--I don't think copying Mother Nature is cheating at all. Plus, I'm sure you "adapt" more than you directly copy every aspect of a natural scene. It all sounds very creative to me.