Painting Process: Arches

The following images show the stages of my painting process in working with acrylic and pastel on canvas. This was a very basic breakdown of elements from back to front with some finishing touches at the end. I find that seeing the process of how someone creates can provide understanding in your own unique applications.

Stage 1

Most of the time when I finish a painting, I will use the remaining paint to create an abstract or blended background on a blank canvas. It will usually end up sitting for quite a while until I decide what to do with it. For this particular piece, I felt the purples and blues looked like a night sky, and I felt the warm colors of the desert monument would provide great contrast. I started by flicking a few white droplets for the stars, lightly sketched my foreground with chalk (I find this works great on dried acrylic because you can easily erase), and then began with the formations in the distance.

Stage 2

Whether I am painting with acrylic or drawing in a vector software, it is easiest to start by blocking in your shadows and then slowly pulling the light out of your shapes. I try to pick out what the formations would look like and continue to layer mid-tones then highlights.

Stage 3

Often times I will have one stage of color between my shadows and mid-tones, and one to two stages between my mid-tones and highlights. The closer to the foreground I am painting, the more color I will add to the shadows. My use of purple, red, and pink in this stage help to bring out some of the reflections in the night sky.

Stage 4

I am imagining that there is a full moon somewhere off the canvas, this allows me to get a bit extreme with some of the highlights in order to create more contrast and depth. In this stage I am also putting down the base shadow layer for the foreground. I want this area to be the brightest part of the image, so the shadow is actually much brighter than that of the other layers.

Stage 5

Now it is time to start forming the foreground shapes out of the shadows. You can notice some areas are darker than others on the base layer, that is because I used a putty knife to scrape away the areas that will receive more light to give the shadowed areas a deeper tone.

Stage 6

Using many different shades I continue to speckle in light and shape to form the landscape.

Stage 7

At this stage I have covered most of the base shadow layer, only leaving the deepest areas exposed. I have also gone back over with minimal extreme highlights to define the form of the rocks and sand.

Stage 8

Now we get to the fun parts! This stage is my pastel stage. I really enjoy using pastels over acrylics because they catch the texture of the paint and canvas, provide a simple atmospheric elements, and allow for great subtle highlights of color. I used a number of yellows in the brighter areas, orange for the mid-tones, and reds or pinks in-between the shadows and mid-tones.

Stage 9

Now for the finishing touches. At this stage I will use an acrylic marker and define the shape of the foreground elements with chaotic lines, blips, crosshatches, or whatever I feel. I usually just put on some music and move at a very quick pace let the energy flow through my hands in rhythm. The high contrast of the black not only brings out the detail and provides more depth, but it gives the image a great comic/street art feel that I think modernizes a more traditional medium.

Finished Painting

Below is the finished piece, hope you enjoyed and learned something from this quick breakdown of my process!

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