My painting technique depends on the subject. I generally use an alla prima approach for small landscapes painted en plein air, or for still life and portraits painted from live subjects.
I generally use a direct painting technique. Painting landscapes, I work from the background to the foreground, and usually lay down the sky first. Often, skies are the focus in my landscapes. For still life or portrait paintings, shapes are first blocked in with darks and/or simple colors. Form is developed by painting in the cast shadows and core shadows. Highlights and details Iíll save for last. Occasionally, Iíll go back into one of these direct paintings to push up contrast by using glazes, or correcting something that isnít right.
For larger works I often employ indirect painting techniques, using an underpainting and subsequent layers with more accurate detail, remembering the basic ďfat over leanĒ principles of sound painting. Often I will paint the initial blocking in after making sketches of the planned composition. For really detailed and complex paintings, the sketching/planning stage is important to work out compositional problems, and particulars of what goes where.
There are other techniques I employ in my paintings at times. Iíll use anything that works for me as long as it is archivally sound and doesnít create conservation problems. These include using grisaille, sgraffito, scumbling, impasto, imprimatura, and tools other than brushes for paint application.
For little pieces I usually paint directly on hardboard which has been primed on both sides and the edges. The smooth surface is helpful for detail, especially for miniatures and small works. Sometimes canvas texture can interfere on a tiny painting. Additionally, hardboard is sturdy and resists most of the damage that can happen to stretched canvas (dings and tears). Large pieces do get heavy, however, so I might use stretched canvas or linen for large paintings, especially if theyíll be shipped.
Iíve prepared most of my own supports through the years, and have used a variety of preparation materials, ranging from the traditional rabbit-skin glue size with oil priming, to modern PVA or acrylic size. Archival methods and materials are vital for a work to stand the test of time, so I read conservation research and ask questions about new materials.
I use commercial tubes of oil paint and enjoy the pigment rich brands. Often I add a medium to speed drying, which I make from stand oil, turpentine and cobalt drier. I also use commercially made alkyd painting mediums and oil paints. My palette consists of about a dozen colours with occasional additions.
I love Trekelís sable brushes for painting detail, skies, and smooth surfaces. Iíve been delighted to find them at such a reasonable price. The bristle brushes I use for scrubbing in, blocking in large areas and whenever I want a rougher, uneven appearance that I donít get with the sables.
Most often I work realistically from a real scene outdoors, model or still life set-up, endeavoring to paint what I see. Sometimes, however, Iíll work out of my mind for exercises, or to develop an idea. If I need to pose models or employ realistic scenes to make the painting look believable I achieve those references to fulfill my idea for the piece by posing models or otherwise finding what I need for reference.
Iím always trying to grow and learn as an artist. Looking at my past work, I realize Iím making progress. I look forward someday to looking back on my current work and seeing Iíve become the painter I wanted to be.