I find it very useful to make preliminary drawings of a concept before I start a painting. I tend to break my composition up into individual elements at this stage so I can focus on getting the details of each object just right before transferring it to a final composition sketch and checking proportions. This is the stage at which I send the first sketch to a commission client for approval.
This system works well for me because I tend to work graphically, especially when I am adding text to the composition. It may seem tedious and archaic to some, but I was at a fine art college before computer design took over and we were still learning to hand letter and do graphic design from a draftsman’s perspective.
I know many artists work on an overall composition or start directly on the painting surface. Although I sometimes work this way, it is not my preference.
How do you set up your composition for a painting?
Right now, I am working on a rooster with culinary elements for a client who has commissioned several paintings over the last couple of years. This painting is a tribute to his late wife, so I feel even more compelled than usual to make it a special piece. When completed, it will hang in their kitchen.
It is an honor to have repeat clients, particularly when they trust me with work that memorializes a loved one. I will enjoy working on this painting because it is a rooster. For whatever reason, I really love chickens, and I think it shows through in my paintings of them. In fact, they often become subjects.
As you can see in the line drawings above, I made some changes to the initial sketch of the rooster before finalizing the composition. I had chosen a piece of paper slightly smaller than the panel I will be painting on and the proportions of my rooster were off.
This painting will have text elements referencing french country style poster advertising. Because this painting is memorializing someone, I wanted it to have a more illustrative feel that would tell the personal story of my patron and his wife, who was an excellent cook of french cuisine.
Some of her favorite ingredients comprise the decorative elements of the composition.
The next step will be to put together a full color sketch that will be submitted to my client for approval. I will also be working on color mixing and submitting samples for approval to make sure I have the color scheme he requested for this painting.
I hope you will check back to follow my progress on the blog. Please feel free to leave any feedback you have on my process or the sketches shown here.