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John Davison © 2003-2004 all rights reserved

 

A work in progress.

November-December 2003.
Acrylic on canvas, 34" x 46".

A sketch made on a kayak trip down the Na Pali coast of Kauai this past summer becomes the inspiration for a new painting.

Note: These photos were taken in my studio at rather arbitrary moments. They do not represent equal amounts of painting time. Quite a bit more painting has gone on between some of the images than others. I should also point out that these are not the best of photos. Much of the finer detail and shading is lost, but hopefully they will give an idea of my process.

 


After a few quick sketches to plan the composition, I draw the basic outlines and shading on the canvas, and then I begin to paint.

At this point I try to quickly establish areas of color and contrast, knowing that most of this first paint layer will be overpainted in the final painting.

I tend to use brighter, more saturated color in the beginning, which will help to add a glow from underneath subsequent paint layers.

I enjoy this early stage of the painting. It's the beginning of a new creation, and I like the boldness of the shapes, lines and colors as they appear on the blank canvas.

 


In some areas I apply colors that will be close to what I think the final color should be. In other places I might apply the opposite color to what I imagine the final result will be. Although my sketch does have some basic color notations for certain areas, most of my color choices are intuitive or from memory.

There is no formula to how I approach a painting. I try to be open and not overthink things too much. Working from a simple black and white ink sketch helps in that way, so that I feel free to experiment and experience the piece as simply paint on canvas, while at the same time integrating my feelings and memories of the place.

At this point I have covered the canvas with one rough initial layer of paint, and the "euphoria" of the early stage is gone. This is usually the most difficult point for me. The painting is a confused mass with little cohesion or unity, but I know that these early colors and shapes are already creating relationships and harmonies that will guide and influence the path of this painting.

Hopefully I can create something from this mess with at least a little beauty and poetry.

 


Much work has been done since the last version and nearly all of the original paint has been overpainted with one or more layers. I have lightened some areas and darkened others. Remnants of the original colors still show through from underneath, especially along edges of shapes.

I apply paint in thin layers blended and scumbled into and over surrounding and underlying colors. I think this approach of building up a painting through thinner layers stems from my years of working primarily in watercolor, a medium dependent on transparent washes of color.

Most areas of the painting have been reworked several times with multiple layers of paint. The sky especially has gone through many changes, with the cloud forms evolving in search of a satisfying arrangement. I like that the skies in my paintings go through these changes, much in the same way as our island skies are constantly moving and shifting.

 


Although the finished painting appears little changed from the previous version, quite a bit of additional painting has been done, most noticeably in the sky, distant ridges, and ocean. I have continued to darken and lighten certain areas as the painting evolved.

Finer details and touches of color to define areas and shapes are the last bits of painting to be done.

The piece is titled "Between Sea and Clouds."

I hope this has been of some interest. It has dealt mainly with the physical process, the "how" of developing a painting. See my artist statement for more on "why" I do this.

 

 

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