Painting Process and Series: Examples for Independent* and Self Directed Projects*

*Oil Painting classes offered now through The Art Verve Academy:

Figuring it all out takes time.  Process is important, you don’t always know where it’s going to take you…then, surprise!

The following 7 examples of process and how series can develop are meant to get you thinking about what might go into the creation of an image, where it comes from and where it (might be) going.


Egg and D-Art*

(*after egg and dart, a neoclassical motif)

It began with a pastel sketch of an abandoned beaver dam full of small beaver gnawed branches, some of which I collected. Later, in an oil painting class, students worked from portable still life’s which I made using the gnawed sticks, painted egg-orbs, and other collected material. After the class was over, the little dioramas sat on a shelf. Eventually, on their way into storage, I made some drawings, for the beaver dam memory, and now, the drawings are becoming paintings.

The Hawaiian themed backdrop is for fun (variety).

First painting pass: Tone (colored background) and roughing in shapes and general colors.

2nd painting pass: Glazing (transparent layering) and scumbling (opaque layering).

Continuing on: Glazing and Impasto ( impasto means “like paste”, in other words, thick paint.) In process.

Sanctuary Cove

On a recent Plein Air outing with The Pastel Society,  we discovered this wonderful piece of the Tucson Mountains. To explore this new place, I opted for a series of color sketches of some of the things that jumped out first time through.

This feels like a place to explore more.

Such is the process of Plein Air.

Vingettini Italia

(tiny vignettes of italy)

On a recent trip to Tuscany, Italy we had a good time living it up, eating and traveling. It was so good, I almost forgot to paint. Work needed to get done, fast. My friend pointed out tiny sketchbooks for sale at a local market. How about that?! The tiny sketch allowed for a composition, including colored pencil, to be completed in less than 20 minutes. 90 tiny pictures later, my mission to make art in Italy was satisfied, without regrets.

Two tiny paintings inspired from tiny-book, so far.

At this point waiting for paint to dry so painting can proceed. Just because they are tiny doesn’t mean they take less time to paint.


While in Florence we visited the Galleria dell’Accademia where Michelangelo’s David is displayed.


In a adjacent room are many plaster casts of original sculptures. Determined to bring something useful back, I made quick, near blind-contour pen drawings of a few, capturing gesture, if not proportion…managing one color sketch and a few photos too. Time constraints can be very beneficial.

The freshness of the drawings and the rainbow gradient of natural light over the white forms will make interesting paintings.


A friend showed me her charm bracelet of 40+ years…

IMG_6139_2 3

I borrowed it thinking it would be a challenge to figure out a way to paint it…after several trials I’m combining 5 charms next to each other for each painting. Something like this…6×6 inches. Puzzles.


There are 60 charms on the bracelet. If nothing else, this will be good composition and painting practice…

99 Bottles of Beer

Marketing can be pretty colorful. I am naturally drawn into the clever illustrations that adorn some of the craftier products, in this case beer.


This particular sketchbook is dedicated to this sort of thing. One good reason to keep a sketchbook, or two. Here is a spin on bottle(s) labeling, so to speak.


Parts of these may be incorporated as tertiary aspects of still-life paintings, virtually unrecognizable and significantly out of context enough not to infringe on copyright.


Fruits are most beautiful and colorful; wonderful inspiration. I take a lot of pictures, mostly of stuff that looks interesting to me. When reviewing photos, themes become apparent. Sometimes these themes prompt more observation in the form of drawings and paintings, sometimes, they are just pretty pictures that go nowhere.

This smoothie chronicle honors the fruits of life, (not the nuts…although a mixed-nut job might be an interesting challenge…who knows).

Pay attention to the stuff in your life. Draw and paint it. Use variations on a theme to get inspired and motivated to do the work. Have fun with it!


Color: #8 Simple Harmony

Today we work with a simple harmony. We use the cast  shadow color as a guide to determine the harmony. The shadow appears cool compared to the orangey gourds.  After some deliberation we choose blue for shadow because the harmony attached to this choice yields most versatility especially in mixing greens.

First build a grid to show color mixing potential: A simple  harmony is a complementary combo with 2 analogous attached to one of the comps. In this case blue is complementary to orange. The two analogous attached to orange are yellow-orange and yellow.  The grid follows the same orientation as the color wheel.

Grid developed vertically and diagonally.


Grid developed horizontally with each color clockwise-it’s subtle but changes slightly.



Once the grid is developed, make a measured line drawing of the still life subject showing the boundaries of shapes, light/value, and color changes.  Block in large areas of color first. Use a very light touch. Incorporate tints and shades of the 4 hues as well as warm and cool grays.

and finally.

Give yourself as much time as you need. We worked for 1 1/2 hours on just the drawing and felt we could’ve used more time.

Driving home I see this simple harmony in the sunset…pretty cool.

Thanks everyone for a great class!

In the meantime repeat our lessons again.

Plan on taking Color: Part II in January. We’ll continue to explore the effects of colored light on material color, reflective properties ,colors’ relationship to mood, earth tones and luminosity. We’ll be using pastel in addition to colored pencil. Pastel better prepares you for the loose gestural techniques used in painting.

Supply list for Color: Part II includes a set of 30 Rembrandt (or equivalent) soft half sticks, a box of 12 hard nu-pastels, a large sheet of 1-ply Strathmore acid free rag museum board to cut into different sizes, and at least two pastel pencils: yellow ochre and gray.

Color: #7 Equidistant Triad

The equidistant triad is represented as a equilateral triangle on the color wheel. This means there  will be 3 colors in between each of your triad. Most notorious is the primary triad: Red,  Yellow, and Blue, then the Secondary triad: Orange, Green, Violet. Tertiary triads: Blue-Green, Yellow-Orange, Red-Violet and Blue-Violet, Yellow-Green, and Red-Orange.

In the following demo we utilize a primary triad. It has a broad value range and is dynamic.  Make a 6 pointed star to use as a diagram for harmonies. Shade the points with a black to white value scale , then glaze the corresponding color over. This demonstrates the power and potential of black (and its tendency to “flatten” space).

Blue is dominant in this still-life so blue determines the triadic combo: Blue, yellow and red.

I match a blue to the blue glass. I make a color star first, then map the still-life, then begin lightly layering in shades and highlights. Look closely to notice how the blue changes in intensity throughout the glass. Mix in gray or black for duller areas according to value.  Gray will dull the intensity/saturation but will not effect value like black.

Adding some black to the base of the glass and background.

I choose 4 gray pencils to try; a light and dark “warm” gray and a light and dark “cool” gray. ( there are many shades of gray).

Try this exercise with other triads. Use transparent, reflective objects for greatest intensity variation.

Color: #6 Equidistant Tetrad

We are taking our color direction directly from our subject. Here we see red violet and blue . We decide blue will be dominant. We choose a tetrad containing these two colors and let the harmony dictate the other two colors. Colors equidistant apart on the color wheel are, clockwise: Blue, red-violet, orange and yellow-green; two complementary combinations.

Make a light line drawing mapping the dimensions of the silhouette and value changes.

In addition to the four pure hues, choose their tints and shades.  Use black sparingly. Look closely at the grid to see notations of all the pencils I’ve used next to each pure and  mixed square.

Color: #5 Rectangular Tetrad

We are looking at peppers on glass. Our dominant color is green. Green will dictate the harmony.

We are working with 4 colors. On the color wheel this is referred to as a tetrad. This particular harmony is represented as a rectangle.  The harmony has two sets of complements: green/red and yellow/violet. This harmony has a lot of potential for contrast in hue and value and temperature.

We begin the technical exercise with a 25 square grid. We place the dominant hue in the upper left and move clockwise to yellow, same as on the color wheel. The outer bands of the square are the two colors combined vertically and horizontally.

Next, cross the complements diagonally.

The middle square will have the most mixing and will be your “black” or darkest dark.

Now, begin the sketch of the pepper with a light gray colored pencil with a light touch.

Start with the lightest lights first. In this case yellow.

Next, green.

Next, violet.

Adding red.

Finally, all areas accounted for with varying degrees of the tetrad.

Color: #1 Spectrum, Achromatic, Monochromatic, Complement

Begin by making 12 consecutive sections across your paper. Next,  find 12 colored pencils to match the 12 color spectrum in this order: red-violet, red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, yellow, yellow-green, green, blue-green, blue, blue-violet, violet. Try out your colored pencils on paper to check their true hue before shading in.

Next, find a relative value for each color and shade it in beneath. Squinting your eyes to see value relationships helps.

Now for an exercise in the relationship of value to color, local color and complementary combination.

First, make a black and and white achromatic drawing.

Now find the local color of your subject. The local color refers to the color of the subject in noontime white, natural light.

Make another black and white drawing adding the local color to make a monochromatic (one color plus black and white) drawing.

Next, a drawing using only the local color. In this case; yellow-green, to match the tennis ball.

Now, using just the complement. The complement is the color directly opposite  of your first color on the color wheel. Red-violet is opposite yellow-green.

Finally,  make a drawing using the 2 colors together.


Color: #4 Temperature

Warm or advancing colors have longer wavelengths than cooler receding colors. These are warm.

“Cool” or receding colors have shorter wavelengths so they “scatter” before warmer hue’s longer wavelengths. This causes far away objects to appear bluer (and also the sky above us). In your drawing you’ll want to exaggerate this effect by giving your background more of the “coolest” colors in your palette. If you are working with a warm palette just remember that RED is your warmest, most advancing color.

These are cool.

Before you begin your drawing make a blended 12 color spectrum. Try to produce more “in-between” colors in the blended transitions. Practice using the side of your pencil for blending.

Full 12 color spectrum blended.

Choose a white subject. Place it on a mirror or other reflective surface.

Make a line drawing of your subject first.

Don’t forget to measure…


…and find angles.

Choose warm or cool hues for your drawing.

Map in the lights and darks first.

Continue layering and building up the surface. Remember warmer, more intense hues advance while cooler, dulled hues recede. Notice the difference between the subject and it’s reflection.

Now, try the warm palette. Notice how warm and cool palettes can effect the mood of your composition. When you choose a subject, think about conveying feeling or mood through palette choice.