From 1 to 25 paintings – Developing Process, Technique and Colour Pallet

This is a follow on from my last post “From 0 to 1 paintings – Courage to find your Authentic Mark“.

Over the last 12 months I’ve been on a journey of self therapy through art. I had never previously created any art and so relished the opportunity to experience the beginners mind again. This post covers what I learned over my first 25 full size paintings.

When I look back now at my early work I am, at the same time, embarrassed of the level of work (which at one point I thought was pretty good), and at the same time proud of how far i’ve come in a relatively short amount of time. (while i’m writing this i’m wincing at the slide show below).

Getting started

As I covered in my last post, it’s important to just get started and to explore all types of media, art forms, colors, and methods. Before I produced any full size paintings I experimented with water colours, oil paints, pastels, pens, abstracts, landscapes, tribal forms etc. I recognized that I knew nothing at all about this new skill and so I had to get as much learning under my belt as possible.

This was generally good fun and in fact is something i should maintain on the side. It was a great way to learn what I liked and perhaps more importantly what I didn’t like.

Influences define process

After my early testing I then did a bunch or research on artists that I liked, and that I wanted to use as inspiration. I very quickly settled on a bunch of artists listed here. In particular I enjoyed the tribal forms of Anton Vitkovskiy (left), as well as the forms and depth of Dan Cassado’s work (middle). But I absolutely loved the outer-wordly work of Jesse Reno (right) and in particular appreciated the creative destruction of his process.

My study of these artists and their processes highly influenced me and helped me to launch into my first few paintings with something resembling a creative process. I was going to leverage the creative destruction of Jesse reno and combine it with the depth of characters from Dan Cassado and then over layer with tribal markings to reflect my own maori heritage as well as to capture symbolism of self expression.

I wanted to evolve a painting voice and technique as well as evolve myself so self-reflection was a large part of my process and so I also incorporated words and text through either directly writing on the canvas or collaging from various works. And then I just experimented.

Technique and Colour Palette

Once I had some ideas about a creative process and how to get started I could begin and start to work on technique and colour palette. At an early point I was educated by my wife about the color wheel and how to use opposing colours to contrast – although to be honest i’m not completely sure I understand it completely.

I did however have a desire to leverage pastel blues and pastel pinks in my palette to soften the atmosphere of my paintings as I was pretty sure the subject was going to be pretty harsh – I have a bull in a china shop approach sometimes.

And so I got started. Technically, I was learning how to apply paint, how to mix colours on a pallet, and then how to apply some basic shading to highlight certain objects over others. All your typical grade 1 learnings.

I enjoyed the experimentation and liked the pastel palette scheme that I had started out with and expanded it to include some pastel greens, and then contrasted it with warmer oranges and yellows. By my 25th painting (on the right) I had a preferred palette and I had created a diversity of techniques for adding depth and legibility to my works.

I had also evolved an basic understanding of composition and had evolved several techniques such as the inverted world (see right), the placement of other geographic subjects (middle), or the addition of other objects such as flowers (left) to help address compositional challenges. I had also evolved and continue to explore some fairly strong symbolism in my paintings including the focus on the eye, the inclusion of the third eye in the forehead, incorporation of tears, the mandala, and whatever came to mind.

When I look back, it’s fun to see the process I went through and the amount I learned in just a short time. It wasn’t as explicit a learning process as it seems in this post – I’m benefiting from 2020 in detailing this post. But more or less these are the core things I focused on and learned in my first 25 paintings.

In my next post in this series i’ll look at paintings 25 to 75 : gaining confidence and defining my voice.