How I start new paintings in the studio

This year I am developing a body of landscape work for exhibition at Gallery Oldham in spring 2022 and therefore how I start new paintings is foremost in my mind!   I started my explorations last year , mostly on location so I now have to get going with my studio painting!.    To ensure that I develop enough paintings, I have created a framework with targets and exploration areas for each quarter of the year.

I have previously written a blog post about generally preparing for new artwork development here. You can see  a video  where I talk about my new approaches for 2021 here

Over the last couple of weeks I have started on all my paintings for the current quarter.  For me, its good to get them started so that I have something to react to.   This is especially important because I actually find starting easier than continuing!!  So by starting, I make sure that I don’t keep staring a few at a time to stay in my comfort zone!!

 To pre-prepare for studio work, I have been out on location. I’ve been creating a series of drawings/mark making and reformatted collages as inspiration.  It is also helpful to develop colour studies and notes about thoughts and feelings as start points.   I find that this background work really puts me in touch with my subject matter. It also means that I have a variety of inspiration for my work.  I don’t want to paint representationally, but I do want my work to be about my feelings and interests in the subject matter.   I will go out regularly during the development of the paintings, to stay in touch with my subject.  My colour pallets aren’t set in stone, but they act as a start point for the work.

For these paintings, I have taken a selection of 4-5 of the colours and tools that spread the paint well.  My approach is to try to act intuitively and not overthink at this stage!  I have taken 15 minutes or less on each 50 cm board, to get the colour onto the surface. 

How I start new paintings:

How I get started on new paintings   mixed media landscape , Liz Ackerley Art

Below are 5 ways that I start a painting. For this current group (I always work in series), I have started them all in the same way. I may well vary things as I go through the year.

  • Take a number of colours  (2-5) and go about getting a good layer of them onto the panel.  This is how I have started the panels I have on the go now.  The approach is somewhat of a blunt instrument. However, it gets good covering of paint onto the surface. The use of a trowel and squeegees as well as brushes helps to get some interesting effects.
  • Start with making a series of marks on the board. These can be based on the marks that have been identified through previous studies of the subject matter. Or marks that reflect the subject matter in some way, e.g. lines, shapes, textures,
  • Start by adding collage.   This can be paper from previous exercises, or marks from studies on the subject you are painting.  Perhaps add 2 or 3 pieces. Then add paint so that you integrate and connect the marks on the collage pieces.
  • Start by adding an element from a previous painting.   Perhaps something from one of your location studies that you’d like to explore and develop further. 
  • Start with just a couple of colours. This approach is very similar to the first one but with an even more limited colour pallet.  Aim to get good coverage and some interesting affects so that you have something to respond to.

Note these are my approaches for non-representational works.  I don’t think it matters how you start.  The main thing is that you start!  This then gives you something to react to and develop from. For these paintings I am going to build up layers, so in that sense, it really doesn’t matter what’s on the first one!!

Here is my latest video that shows me getting started with 4 of my cradle panels in the studio.  I share the tools and approach I take to my very first layer of paint:

Apologies for having the camera behind me, but the space is restricted. I thought with the variation in speed you do actually get to see quite a bit of the process!

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