I begin my paintings with no plan – just a blank canvas and a some appealing colors of paint. Usually I start with three or four colors (sometimes just using up leftovers on my palette), and in a very loose, free-flowing style I cover the canvas with a variety of brush strokes. Often I spray the paint with water to encourage it to drip and spread as it will.
Over the initial layers I add in more paint, more colors, more shapes. I may include abstract lines and forms, or patterns stamped with hand-carved stamps or found materials. Often I add motifs from nature – flowers, leaves, tree branches, birds, fish, or other creatures.
This all adds up to lots of layers.
As I keep painting, I switch between the loose, anything goes mode, and a more analytical approach, where I’m deciding what works and what doesn’t. Some layers are about adding interest through contrast or new focal points. Other layers are about covering up what isn’t working and simplifying what’s too chaotic.
There’s lots of making mistakes and fixing them.
Gradually, I streamline the composition, color scheme, and shape repetition. As I work, elements come and go, and the look may change dramatically from start to finish. I still can never predict what a final painting will look like until it is close to done. I just take the next step, and the next, until there’s nothing else to add or change.
I tend to have a lot (like 20 to 30) of in-progress paintings, all in different stages, at any one time. This keeps me from being over invested in any single work and more willing to try things which may not work at all. It also means when one painting is being completely frustrating, I can set it aside and have plenty of others to make progress on instead