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The Painting Progress of “Cool Blue Jars”


I’ve been extra productive over these past couple of days and have managed to start four paintings! One is a commission and the other three are entries for juried exhibitions (due in January, February and September). Granted that September one is crazy early but I may use it as a double entry for February, which all depends on whether or not I have it done on time.

If you have read through my earlier blog posts you would know the drill in regards to how I start a painting and what my process is BUT I will reiterate for those new to my blog, plus I enjoy explaining my process, which doesn’t imply that it’s special, only that it’s always interesting to see how an artist goes from point A to point B, from point B to point C, etc…

My Painting Process…

Step One: Firstly I determine what the painting will be used for. Is it a commission? If so then I have a slightly different path which I must follow in regards to choosing the image, how it is rendered and to what to degree AND most importantly it is someone else that I must please with the end result. That fact ranks highest when working on a commission, which most certainly makes sense BUT I’m not going to talk about this just yet. I will go into detail about how I work on commissioned pieces in future posts.

Step Two: Once I have decided what the art will be used for, ie.exhibition, juried exhibition, porfolio, etc…then I start envisioning what images would work best. If it is a themed show then I have to approach the image selection process a little differently, only in that I would definitely need to be more selective and focus on if the image reflects the theme in a suitable and appropriate manner. If the work is just for my own pleasure, which would just be added to my catalogue of work, then perhaps I would paint something that I have been sitting on for a while be it a series of paintings or a one off. Those can be difficult to determine as well because I have TONS of photographs that I would LOVE to transform into an oil painting!

Those are the beginning stages of the process. Now I can show you a piece that I am currently working on.  It’s for a juried exhibition and the deadline is in January. The theme is Darkness and Light, so my choice in images was narrowed down to only finding ones that reflected the theme without having to use “words”.

On a side note: I think having to use words to describe your theme is a BIG factor in choosing an image. If you have to tell a short story for people to ‘get’ what you were trying to represent then it’s over baby. You’ve missed the point. Paintings should not be accompanied by a small novel UNLESS that was what you were planning on doing…which in turn makes it sound like an illustration, which is another can of beans that I won’t be getting into…well not just yet!


Here is the photo that I chose for “Darkness and Light”

Original photo

FYI: By chance in September I happened to have photographed a bunch of jars that were sitting on a window sill. The afternoon light lazily filtered through the milky white curtains, which gave the jars a cool bluish glow. I remembered that they caught my eye and I could not pass up the chance to capture them digitally…thinking one day I will paint these! And here is that day! Oh and I will not be adding this “story” to my submission, it’s just for you to know!


Step Three: I visually and literally crop the photo in Photoshop. I crop the photo to a size that correlates to a canvas or board that I can buy. Some times I make my own if the local art store does not carry my imagined dimension. Below is an example of the uncropped photo vs cropped. I decided that a dimension of 16×12 would work best for this image as I did not want the jars to be larger than life sized. I also decided to use a Wooden Panel instead of canvas. Why? because I’m really digging the surface texture and how smoothly & easily the paint goes on!

Uncropped (original photo) vs. Cropped (reference photo)


Step Four: Prepping the panel. Since I’m new to painting on a wooden surface I did a lot of searching online to see what the best way to prep would be and it seems that gessoing many layers on the entire panel was necessary. That meant applying the gesso on the front, sides and back of the panel, with a light sanding in between. I applied four coats. You can make the painting surface as textured as you like but I decided to just go with what four layers of applying gesso “normally” would produce. I applied each layer going in opposite directions.

Prepped panels and canvas


Step Five: Transferring the image onto the board. Many artists use different techniques for this step but since I am partial to drawing and am a little anal I use the grid system. I print out two copies of the reference photo. One is a large full colour image that is printed on a sheet of double sided matte paper. I will use this as my reference photo while I paint. The other is a smaller black and white image printed on a sheet of regular printer paper. I will draw my grid on this image.  I begin by dividing the image up by centre both vertically and horizontally. I then further divide the quadrants into halves resulting with an average of four columns both vertically and horizontally. Sometimes if a block has detailed information such as a face then I will add more divisions to help me transfer those details onto the board or canvas BUT in this particular image I didn’t need to.

FYI: Sometimes I don’t use the Grid System. Why? The image has organic lines and using a Grid isn’t necessary. Organic lines are more free flowing and easily manipulated and do not have to be exact. For example, if the image is of a flower, I just eye ball the proportions and use thinned paint to ‘draw’ the image onto the canvas. I can play with the edges and make them work more easily with the ‘feel’ of the painting rather than drawing the shapes exactly as they appear.

Panel with grid and grid reference image


Step Six: I transfer the image onto the board using a hard pencil, 2H is my preferred choice. I refer to the Grid Reference Photo as I transfer my image. I also refer to the full colour version, the “Reference Photo”, for details since sometimes it’s hard to see areas of the image when it’s in black and white. Once I am done I like to erase the grid as best as I can. Not that it really matters but I prefer not to see lines after the image is drawn. Sometimes if the lines are really dark or I was having trouble transferring an area I will apply a coat of gesso to that area. A new coat of gesso will make it easier for me to try my drawing again since it will eliminate most of the dark and messy lines and give me a fresh surface to work with.

Jars transferred onto the wooden panel

FYI: As you can see I have slightly altered the salt and pepper shakers. Hey, that’s allowed! Ha ha ha, I decided that one should be smaller adding more interest.  I will add more details to the jar lids but first I need to refer to some ‘real’ ones in person to see how the groves slope. It’s hard to see their shapes in the reference since it’s quite dark.


That’s all that I have done thus far. I will be working on Step Seven today. Stay tuned for that post! Also, that’s as far as I’ve gone with the other three paintings, though one of them I didn’t use the grid system and just painted the drawing on. I will post progress shots of those paintings some other time. I still haven’t decided when I should since I don’t want to make my posts confusing…any suggestions?



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