Approach to Painting

If am fortunate enough receive a gift of flowers or purchase some flowers myself, I draw directly from life.  If drawing onto paper, I will often enlarge the drawing onto canvas.

Many of my compositions begin as photographs – of flowers, plants and trees I have photographed growing in the garden, or at the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide. My process in working from photographs is the subject of this post.

The flowers below were my Mother’s, and as she had had them for a while she allowed me to ‘borrow’ them, back in 2009.  I loved the way the leaves curled; and the flowers had a certain character, having been drying out for a while.

I assess many photographs taken of a prospective subject, and make a choice on which to base my composition. The photo becomes a base to prepare a drawing on canvas.

IMG_0832 Winner so Far

To enlarge the image, a grid is drawn directly onto the printed photograph, and a corresponding grid is drawn onto a canvas.  The canvas has to be a suitable size taking ratios into account. This involves Maths!  It can be quite frustrating.


Once the grid is drawn up, the drawing is commenced.

IMG_1138Drawing for Mother’s Bunch,

Elisabeth Howlett, on my easel. It’s quite a large canvas, 40 x 48 inches.

Once the drawing onto canvas is completed, I complete a thin acrylic layer. Although thin, it’s fairly detailed.  I make a lot of decisions at this stage, and solve as many of the ‘problems’ typically encountered in completing an art work. This allows me to paint freely in oil once the underpainting is complete.  The photo below shows a fair bit of the underpainting.

IMG_1242Underpainting for Mother’s Bunch, Elisabeth Howlett, on my easel.

Then I start painting  my first layer in oil.  Additional layers of oil are added. Due to my style of painting, I don’t usually add more than 1 or 2 layers.  In the image below, the main part of the bouquet is painted in oil.

IMG_1714Mothers Bunch, oil on canvas, Elisabeth Howlett, on my easel.

I remove fresh paint if I am not happy with the result. I scrape the paint off that day or soon after to avoid the painful process of waiting until oil paint dries and removing it with sandpaper.

I use professional oil paint (Windsor and Newton, Art Spectrum, Langridge) thickened with Wax Paint Paste by Landgridge.  I use student oils for experimental works.

For me, oil paints have a thickness and body which, once applied, I hope gives texture and form to my subject.  Paint is applied thickly using hog hair brushes.  I  apply thick ‘impasto style’ paint, hoping to emphasise each brushstroke.

I love the look of full bodied oil paint where the brush strokes are emphasised to their full extent.


I generally use one paintbrush only per painting.  I commonly wiping excess paint off of the brush to pick up the next colour, or if it gets too mucky, or a new area is being commenced, the brush is cleaned with artist solvent.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *