“All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.”
There’s the process of seeing and the process of doing. Both, for me, are solitary.
Seeing: Over the years—with the help of a long design career—I developed a way of seeing or approaching subjects with a strong compositional eye. Finding subjects is never a problem. Sifting through them, looking for an image that can sustain my interest is another story. The camera as my sketchbook allows relevant information gathering especially in changing light situations. I prefer to take fewer photographs—sometimes only one—so I won’t get lost in the information overload. Finding non-typical aspects in each subject is my goal. Ferreting out one or two important pieces of information that communicates what I see and what I feel about the subject for the viewer. The light might be great on one grouping of buoys but the shapes and textures might become the focus on another. The challenge for me is to uncover a special, unique point-of-view in the seeing part of the process.
Doing: There is a natural overlap from the seeing to the doing part of the process. Using the camera is an integral part of the doing as well. After I make the compositional decisions, I begin the mental process of how to approach the piece making basic decisions of what ground to use and whether it is to be a drawing or painting, etc. Either way, I mentally work through as many steps as possible so I can see the final version in my head. I guess you could say that is part of the “seeing” as well. Athletes are taught to visualize winning to aid them in accomplishing their goals. It is the same for artists. Visualizing the end result helps me get where I want to go. Hopefully, there aren’t too many hiccups along the way.
The subject is chosen and the mental process begins, which could take a few days or several weeks, I typically make a one-to-one print for reference. Transferring the print to the ground to scale, I start the painting part of the process. Color is a particular challenge for me, so I experiment with different palettes. The image suggests the starting point for color. I am constantly learning about color and how to manipulate it especially with acrylics.
Sidebar: I should mention that during all of this “seeing” and “doing” I am reading and looking at other art—mostly contemporary realists—in books, online, and in galleries. It is a very necessary part of my process. I find it encouraging to read and see artists of stature having similar issues I face in my work and process.
Finally, I just work through the problems until it says stop.