How a Painting Is Made, Part 2

Paintings always begin with ideas. To start a painting, any painting, requires some sort of theme. It could be an object you wish to paint, some idea you'd like to express, or a particular light effect you want to explore. Anything.

In this case, I was restricted already by the choice of the bronze mouse; the whole point of doing this painting was to include him. I also decided early on to explore the notion of spiritual practice in a light-hearted way.

Taking another small statue that a friend brought us from Nepal, I started to look for ways to pair the two, and I also decided on a name for the painting: "Bodhisattvas". In Buddhist thought, a bodhisattva is a being who vows to devote all of their energy to helping others. There are some very important differences, but you could think of it as being roughly analogous to a Christian saint. The one really important thing about bodhisattvas is that anybody can become one; it's all a matter of intention.

So, by pairing the mouse with the Buddha statue (actually, Green Tara, for those who might be interested), I wanted to play with the notion of Sprightly beginning along the path to becoming a bodhisattva.

A number of you may recognize the light box I use in the picture above. It's where I set up most of my still lifes, allowing me to carefully control the light. At this point I'm beginning to work out the positions of the objects. Fortunately, there are only 2 objects here, and I want to put them at an angle to the line of sight into the painting. Working out the placement was comparatively simple.

This is also where I begin to think about context; the surfaces the objects will rest on and the background. Since both sculptures are metallic, and relatively subtle except for the gold on the Buddha, I wanted to introduce strong color by way of a cloth underneath them.

My first choice was this red cloth. Although it is a strong, beautiful color, it's also very much in the same color family as the sculptures, and therefore a little monotonous.

The royal blue cloth is a much better choice, but I also found that I wanted to include some element of the red into the context, possibly as a backdrop.

That definitely is the overall effect that I'm aiming at, thought I do find the pattern on the backdrop cloth introduces too much activity into the scene.

Much better. It's the right color, and during the painting process I will just suppress the wrinkles in the paper.

So there it is, at this point I have the composition essentially worked out. There might be some very minor tweaks I make in the positioning of the sculptures, but this is the final form the painting will take. What you've just seen is for me the most enjoyable part of the process; it's where the real play and creativity is. From here on in, everything else is... well.. work!

Part 3 in the beginning of next week. Have a great weekend everybody.