Thursday, February 23, 2017

Working Big to Small...

This idea helps me everyday, no matter the subject.
I painted the two works below with the idea of working big to small, using an economy of brush strokes and mark making. The green apples and grapes show a passage in a recent 11 x 14 painting. I worked out a color palette for the apples beforehand in order to keep my initial brush marks as fresh as possible. The sunset study is 6 x 6. I like this size for quickly capturing the glow in an evening sky. I toned the canvas with a pale yellow and used two different painting knives. These are great to lay on color and clean up is easy. :) A few preliminary studies helped me determine color palette before going out this particular evening. Sunsets are fast acting, so the practice work allowed me time to think, paint and start again. I managed to get this in a 35 minute session with an economy of marks with knife. As with any subject matter, close observation and memory are helpful during the process. 

Detail from 11 x 14 - Counted Brushstrokes Exercise - economy of marks
Sunset Study - 6 x 6 oil on panel
Progression of Figure, charcoal on paper

My class demo on the right shows one way I choose to work big to small. This method allows me to simplify form and rely on directional line, and larger shapes at the beginning of a work.

I start with intersecting line to explore and define the shape of the figure, height versus width. Tonal value comes next; presenting a more graphic image. This helps me establish spacial relationships within the figure. Once light and dark patterns are laid in, I can look more at the negative space surrounding the figure. This helps me check proportion and make adjustments.

Refinements come as I feel satisfied with initial shape, proportion and value. This is one way I can begin a drawing or painting - it works well and I use it often when questions arise. Focus on the larger shapes first reminds me to put aside the name assigned to a particular subject matter. In this case the figure is a closed shape with angles that are pretty easy to read. I can rely more on those identifying shapes, directional line and pattern at the start of any work. I also love the crop of dark hair on the figure. It provides a great dark pop in a key area of the composition.

Thanks for stopping by and enjoy the day. I invite you to visit me at 

Peace and Health all - 


  1. Hi George - I appreciate your comment. It's wonderful to hear from artists whose work I admire. Thank You and Be Well!