Wednesday, 9 January 2013

So here comes 2013. Where did last year go? I think I said that already, didn't I? I had to wait until the cats had worn themselves out battering fabric baubles up and down the hallway to get some peace to finish the Three Hares but here it is with it's digital background - the original, in white looked okay but I prefer this one:

3 Hares - © Shona M MacDonald 2012. All Rights Reserved

There are lots of 'how to' books and tutorials out there in book and on the net full of great information and techniques for artists, but few people write about the thought processes behind creating a painting. So I  thought for the next couple of posts I'd talk a bit about what goes on in my head when I'm starting to work on a new painting. The inside of my head isn't always a good place to be but I'll try to keep to the stuff that might be useful :)

Sometimes ideas, usually the simpler ones, arrive in my head fully formed, sparked by something I've seen, a few lines in a story or a poem. But at other times an idea will grow more slowly, building up from a sketch, to become something I had never imagined when I started doodling. That's the kind of painting I've just started working on so I thought I'd take you through the thinking process I went through to get to the final drawing stage before I began painting.

When I set out to start my (less than successful) August Sketchbook Project last year I'd gathered together a bunch of images I thought might be helpful - stock photos, magazine clipping that might be starting points for drawings. I picked a stock photo by kebehut-stock that seemed to suggest some possibilities but with no real idea of what I was going to do with it. I just liked the pose:

After quickly drawing the outline of the basic pose I began changing some of the facial features. Although I didn't quite know where I was going with it I at least knew I wanted it to be some kind of faery creature. As often happens I hit a point of a sort of auto-pilot while I was scribbling away. I LOVE auto-pilot. I do my best stuff when my conscious brain is worrying about other stuff and lets my sub-conscious have a go with the pencil. So it wasn't an entirely conscious decision to make it a woodland spirit but that tends to be where my brain veers off to when I'm not concentrating. I love the intricacies of branches and twigs tangled together. As I was drawing I was already looking forward to the pleasure of painting those strands of twisted bark.

The one entirely conscious decision I did make was in choosing which type of tree she would be. This wasn't, at this point at least, anything to do with the pose but more because  I love painting those little berries, so she became a Hawthorn. I noodled away a bit longer on the drawing, shading, adding detail and filling it out. As I was doing this the lines of Kipling's poem from Puck of Pook's Hill came into my head:

Of all the trees that grow so fair,
Old England to adorn,
Greater are none beneath the Sun,
Than Oak and Ash and Thorn.
Sing Oak and Ash and Thorn, good Sirs
(All of a Midsummer morn)!
Surely we sing no little thing,
In Oak and Ash and Thorn!

And that was when the idea for a much larger painting started to form.

Next post I'll go through the next phase of the process - working out the other elements, lots of staring into space and the drawing of a hundred leaves... 

 Snippets - bits of things I'm working on