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I thought I'd share my step-by-step (can't say that without thinking of the Back Street Boys) process for creating a painting. It's quite intuitive though there are definitely a few techniques and steps I follow. Typically I work on several canvases at once so that there's drying time in between each layer but, in this case because the canvas was small, I used a heat gun to dry each layer as I worked.
First I begin by flooding the canvas with colour, typically a variation of 2-3 warm (orange, red, yellow) or cool (blue, green, purple) colours but in this case I decided to use neutrals (unbleached titanium and payne's gray). After applying the paint very roughly I wet the canvas thoroughly and allow it to sit awhile. Then I usually use a piece of fabric or rag to lift the extra liquid and to add texture and pattern but this time I used an interesting patterned paper towel.
This is where it gets really fun, selecting either a warm (in this case) or cool palette to keep the colours from becoming muddy, I begin adding patterns and shapes using my fingers or thumbs, container lids (milk, shampoo, peanut butter), different sized brushes, rubber stamps, stencils, my hands. After that layer dries, I repeat the previous step with new patterns in the opposite palette.
Because I constantly carry a sketchbook with me, I usually take the time my canvas is drying to flip through my rough sketches for a drawing to transfer to my canvas. Using white or a dark blue or charcoal, I draw the image onto my canvas with a paintbrush, allowing the sketch to be very loose and gestural.
For the final layer, I typically select a pair of colours (often complimentary - red/green, blue/orange, or yellow/purple) and add white to them for opacity and begin roughly painting around the sketch. In this layer I often add scratched marks (symbols or words) with the back of a paintbrush or a well-used pencil and continue adding patterns and symbols until I am satisfied with the results.
Because I grew up in the north, the symbols and imagery of the aboriginal culture resonates with me. Petroglyphs and pictographs as well as canoes and the stories of the Cree Grandmothers and Elders form the biggest pieces of my memory. This work has become extremely important to me as a reflection of not only my history, but of the history of my country.
Throughout the process I step back from the work often to see where a pattern or colour should be repeated and to begin to envision what image might lie in the painting. I also like to add texture on occasion to the canvas prior to beginning the work by using modelling paste and/or gel media, sometimes incorporating paper as well.