My Painting Process

My Painting Process

During the creation of my first painting series last year, Slow Burn, I brought a lot of design lead energy into the art process. I set up a tidy five-phase plan to transition into spending more of my time making art, complete with deadlines and small rewards after the completion of each phase. Everything stepped along nicely until it was time to transition from paper to canvas and actually paint the series. The plan didn’t tell me how to make a series, only that its deadline was nearing. I got stuck. And that was not in the five-phase plan, so I then got panicky. It was my first big lesson in the delta between design and art, a conversation I’m usually bored by as I feel it creates division where there should be celebration, but here I could feel it pushing against me as I forced my art along the designed plan. After stepping back and giving myself permission outside the timeline and creating 13 beautiful paintings, my takeaway was not that art creation can’t fit into a process like design does, but in learning where to bring structure and when and how to ease up and make space.

So this year, instead of ditching the plan, I’m adding a phase to my painting process. Its linearity is deceivingly neat. But still, having it written out makes space for each part of the process that is currently important to me in my beginning years, while the phased approach gives room on all sides so I do not skip anything I might otherwise rush through. While I work through it this winter, I look forward to learning where I got it wrong.


My (Current) Painting Process

Phase 1: Inspiration
Key Activities: walking, reading books, traveling, going to galleries and museums, talking to people, photo walks 

Outcome: mood boards, photos, sketches, notes, and well, inspiration 

Phase 2: Warm Up 
Key Activities: low-pressure painting studies on paper, remembering how to paint, remembering how to think about painting, remembering how to approach a painting, remembering how exciting it is when the paintings communicate back to you

Outcome: 20–25 paintings on paper (I did 100 paper paintings plus 100 thumbnails before working on the Slow Burn series last year because I just began to learn how to paint abstract)

Phase 3: Exploration 
Key Activities: develop some of the most exciting ideas from the paper studies on canvas

Outcome: multiple canvas paintings that explore color palettes, techniques, and subject matters

Phase 4: Depth 
Key Activities: focus on one color palette, one technique, and one subject matter 

Outcome: a unified series of 6–15 paintings on canvas! My favorite.

Phase 5: Launch 
Key Activities: photographing and photo editing all the paintings, adding them to my site, announcing the launch, ongoing digital marketing, and shipping pieces to collectors

Outcome: getting to share my finished work with the world 

Phase 6: Rest 
Key Activities: do nothing! Sleep, relax, chill, chillax, live the belief that even when work is this fun, it is not my whole life

Outcome: I get to acknowledge and celebrate all the emotional, mental, and physical work that goes into creating and launching a painting series and prepare for the next by making space for rest


🗣️ What is your process like? Do you have it written down? Is it subdivided into phases or stages? How have you drawn from your previous career to help you during a career transition?


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