How a Painting Is Made, Part 4

I've needed to slow the pace of posting lately. It's been an incredibly wet, drenching month in the Northeast. We've had 3 major storm systems drop a total of more than 15 inches of rain on us, and my basement has flooded 3 separate times. All this culminated in an emergency visit from my electrician today when I noticed water flowing through my circuit breaker panel... through it. Terrifying, to say the least, but he was able to fix the problem straight away. Overall, no serious or permanent damage has been done by the flooding (the pumps have been working nonstop), but obviously it's demanded a lot of my time and attention, especially this week. When I've had the time, I've spent it, you know, actually painting...

However... I've also spent a little time on the mouse project, and am ready to show the next step in the process. After working out the composition and deciding the dimension of the painting, a panel is cut. I actually prepare and prime large (2 x 4 feet) sheets of masonite in advance, so I always have stock on hand; all I have to do is cut to the required size, which in this case is 6 x 7 inches.

I then lay down the initial drawing. To me, the general outline and a mapping of some of the internal detail are the most important considerations at this point. While I am very much thinking about areas of light and dark, and the shape and volume of the objects, I don't consider it necessary to include that information in the drawing. As you can see from the image above, this stage of the drawing would clearly not pass as a finished work of art. It's kind of my own shorthand, I suppose, which works well enough for me, but is probably not recommended for others. Expressing the patterns of the light, as well as the masses of the objects, are reserved for the next step, the underpainting.

Immediately after finishing the drawing, I apply a coat of retouch varnish, and let it sit for a few days. This isolates the drawing, protecting it from smudging, and also prevents the graphite from working into the underpainting, which can distort the tones I'm trying to lay down.

As I was working on the drawing, and in particular the drawing of the Buddha statue, I definitely had a few moments where I questioned the wisdom of tackling such a complex subject. The filigree work alone on that statue will be daunting to paint. As I've mentioned before, though, I think it's important that my reach exceed my grasp. Attempting things I think I can't do is the only real way to grow; in painting or anything else.

So... this piece will become a teachable moment, so to speak.