Evolution of a Painting by Elizabeth Robbins

The process of bringing a painting to it’s finished state can sometimes be quite challenging.  There comes a time when you step back and realize that your initial vision of what you wanted the painting to look  just isn’t working.  We have to be willing to let go of our idea and let the painting speak to us and tune into the energy that comes from the painting itself.  I hope that by reading through my thoughts and process you will also be able to make judgement calls on your own paintings and I do hope that you are inspired to paint.

Here is my initial set up.  After looking at it as a thumbnail I decided that the area to the right of the vase where the cast shadow is was too empty.  The little cup didn’t do enough to carry my eye down the canvas

By adding the taller white vase on the right it helped draw your eye down more gradually and facilitated a better flow

Step 1:  My initial wash of thin paint just to map out the basic shapes

Step 2:  My next stage is to start with basic light and dark shapes for the roses.  The white roses were first massed in with a thin layer of Indian Yellow.  From there I can just pick up straight White and start to put in the light shapes.  The intensity of Indian Yellow helps warm up the Titanium white so it’s not so cold.  For the pink roses I used Alizarin Crimson plus a tiny bit of Viridian for the darker pinks and Alizarin + White + a tiny bit of Cadmium Yellow to soften    I work on the roses some more until I feel like I need a break for all those smaller shapes and block in the vase with a mixture of Viridian and Transparent Earth Red

Step 3: The leaves were Thalo Green + some Transparent Red Earth for the darks and then adding Yellow Ochre + some White for the lighter ears.

Step4:  Using Raw Umber, Transparent Earth Red, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Yellow Medium + White in varying values and temperatures, I begin to paint the brass containers.  I used similar colors from the roses to begin to paint the taller white vase.  You can see at this stage I am not worrying about detail.  I’m just trying to get the biggest shapes and values as soon as possible.  Painting for me is like putting together a puzzle.  A few pieces here and there working on the whole and not isolating an element of the painting to it’s finished detail at this stage.

Step 5:  This is just a cell phone image so it’s not a great image but you can see here I’m trying to work out the pattern of the rug.  the paint is very thin at this point because I’m not sure if I like the pattern or not.  I’ve also refined the roses a bit more and darkened the table top with Transparent Earth red and Raw Umber.

Step 6:  I didn’t like the straight lines that I had in the rug in the previous image.  Too many verticals so i decided to just make up a pattern.  This is where I left the painting for a couple weeks just looking at it.  I decided that I did not like the color and value changes from the red part of the rug and the yellow part.  I also felt that the two element on both right and left of the main vase weren’t working mass wise.  Each of those vases were showing the entire ellipse which felt empty to me.

Step 7:  Again, just a cell phone shot that I took as I was contemplating the added grapes in the little brass bowl and the new rug pattern.  The addition of the grapes made a huge improvement it also connected that shape to the white vase.  Design wise I think this is much better.  The diagonal lines of the rug mimic the diagonal lines of the roses.  I also decided to make the centers of the rose more pink instead of the yellow I had before.  The yellow centers worked when I had the rug more yellow but wasn’t working now that the rug is more pink.

Step 8:  The finished painting.  Or is it?  I think the value and color relationships in the rug are much better.  It’s quiet enough that it doesn’t detract from the roses.  I wasn’t happy with just the one rose on the bottom left.  It felt too light and commanded too much attention so I painted it a bit darker and more pink.  I also added a few buds which made a big difference along with petals on the table which softens the whole feel of the painting.  The biggest dilemma for being an artist is that we are never quite sure if we can improve on what’s already there or mess it up.   At this point I am happy with the painting.  I think it’s a huge improvement from where it was before.