What is your process for making your art?

For me, since I'm a mixed media artist and I work in various styles, it's always different. But lately, I've been working on paper grocery bags. I still don't know how I feel about them, they are all graphic abstracts--very primitive-looking. I'd planned to make around fifteen of them and I have the process down, as I've made a couple so far. So, here I'm sharing the steps. I hope you will share yours too.

1. I start with a very small, and crude, ballpoint pen sketch.
2. I scan it and bring it into Photoshop.
3. I play with it, picking a color palette.
4. I print it out for reference and tape it to the wall.
5. I cut open a paper grocery bag, cut the bottom section off, then cut that in half.
6. I glue those two pieces to the sides of the bag so half-handles of the bag have little tabs that stick out and a full handle on top.
7. I iron the bag.
8. I draw the composition with a pencil onto the surface.
9. I paint the parts on the bag in acrylic (which I hate) that I want to be painted.
10. I then cut pieces of thick manila paper into shapes which will soon be collaged to the bag.
11. I cut fabric shapes and iron them with starch to make them flat and hard.
12. I spray adhesive on the back of the manila paper and the fabric and stick them to the bag where there isn't any paint.
13. After the adhesive dries, I spray the whole thing with a fixative to matte any sticky bits.
14. I may sew into the bag, depending.
14. Sign and date.

Takes about three full-time days.

Photoshop comp:


Photoshop comp:

  1. Decide the format and size (Picture Plane 1)
  2. Select and apply an armature (Picture Plane 2)
  3. Block in the major abstract shapes (Picture Plane 3)
  4. Refine these shapes into subjects (Picture Plane 4)
  5. Add the details (Picture Plane 5)
...and then there is Picture Plane 0. The Emotional plane where you decide what you feel about what you are about to paint.
...and then there is Picture Plane 6, Optional. Framing and Matting

YMMV as they say in the automobile advertisements
The process of carving a trad bird is just too complicated to get into here. The process of coming up with something that isn't a trad bird carving generally involves massive angsting, endless kvetching, and lots of nap time.
More often than not, I'm simply starting with no specific idea while drunk-depressive listening to the likes of Nick Cave, Lou Reed or the Stranger-Things-Soundscore etc, which is my favorite state to be in.

Usually the results cannot be shown in public, however neccessary their making was at the time.
Yet sometimes I feel proud of the outcome.

Here's a glimpse of the process [sorry for the miserable cellphone-photo-quality]:

Easiest way to describe is to post an animation, I'm not sure if it will work. Sometimes I just do a quick drawing and fill it in bit by bit and others I begin with marks, add mid tones and then finish with highlights. I don't really have a process, I just do what I feel like at the time.
This is a method I sometimes use to get ideas for paintings. I watch videos. If I have a general idea of the type of painting I want to do - a cityscape, night scene, landscape, people -- whatever -- I find a video that will likely have those types of scenes. Otherwise, I just play something more or less at random. It could be a documentary, feature, tv show, youtube, fact, fiction, sci-fi, foreign, home video, vlog, almost ANYthing.

I play it with the sound off, usually at double speed - and fast forward over sections less likely to have interesting images. As the scenes fly by at some point a frame will "light up" say a car driving thru a town at night, makes a turn and for an instant there is an arrangement of buildings, street signs, light, etc. that just "pops" I'll stop the video, rewind, play it at half speed then frame by frame - the composition changing by incremental degrees - until I find that one frame. I grab it, save it, then continue at double speed until the next "hit". Sometimes I'll find four or five in the same video, other times none after burning thru a half dozen films.

Then I take the "winning" frame - that's one-thirtyieth of a second from maybe an hour-long video - and study it. What was in that "blink" that registered as gold on my retina? What elements made it work, how can I turn that into a painting, what to frame in- out, eliminate, add, change, without losing the "it" that makes it work?

Having done this for years now, I can not watch a video with other people, because at some seemingly random moment I'll yell "STOP, STOP. STOP IT!, okay rewind - back back back, hold it! " - then often - " oh... naw...nothing .. okay go-ahead hit play"...
That is so funny! I often have done similar things with the TV--snapping still with my cellphone for the same purpose, but haven't used them as paintings yet. It doesn't mean I still won't. I just haven't yet! ;) Love the idea.

This thread has got me thinking a lot about process actually, a lot about plans, commitments, goals, new ideas, investments.

Sometimes I will get, what I think is a great idea. I'll let it sit in my head before I start on them. I wouldn't want to start making a bajillions of them until I'm sure it's good enough to invest my creative time into. The idea better be good (I thinks to myself). If I love it enough, I'll keep going through the steps, especially after I've made a couple of prototypes, and especially if I opened my big mouth about it.

But sometimes, when I want to do something else in the midst of it all, I'll get stuck in how to move forward with anything. It's because of all the energy I've invested into the first idea. I fear I won't come back to it. I'm scared that, if I don't see it all the way through, it may not get finished. But now I ask, does that matter? Does everything have to be executed? No.

In the meantime, I will feel stuck when my excitement for the first idea has sailed ship and I'm not working on neither that idea or the new one. I feel guilty and frozen. I won't do any art at all, and mope around.

The other day, mjp mentioned how this is a lot like people with gambling habits and lose their life savings. The preconceived idea of investments. Gamblers feel they're on an upswing for a while and inevitably keep making bets because they feel that've already come so far. They can home up at moment and they'll be bound to win their investment back and more, but they should've left the table when they were $9,000 up, or even a dollar up.--cut their looses and walked away. Gambling is for fun. It's not a career option.

So I think when we have invested a lot of time, money, energy, promotion, talk, plans, set-up, supplies, and commitment on a new project, it's not easy to abandon it and turn a new corner in a snap, but I'm feeling that way now. I keep having dreams about all new paintings that are not the ones I'd been making to make.
So I think when we have invested a lot of time, money, energy, promotion, talk, plans, set-up, supplies, and commitment on a new project, it's not easy to abandon it and turn a new corner in a snap, but I'm feeling that way now. I keep having dreams about all new paintings that are not the ones I'd been making to make.
This is the way I feel sometimes, in fact, I'm about ready to paint my current project under and start over. Some paintings that I really like have begun with paintings I got "stuck" on and gave them up and made a new painting. For instance, I started out with this underpainting:

Then started adding the color (I don't think I have any photos after I began adding color) and then I got stuck and just let it sit for months. Then I painted it under and went to this:
SaturdayWIP copy.jpg

Went from there to:

But the rocks looked to symmetrical, the tree lacked something and overall I was just dissatisfied with it so it sat here for a few more months and is now this:
Lone Pine.jpg
Yes, that's a beaut, and was well worth the evolution. I have done the same, but that feels less a lot less...bad--I can't think of another word.

You didn't probably buy more materials for it. And/or maybe you didn't tell friends, "This is going to be this still life and I'm really excited about finishing it, look! at my progress!" which only makes you feel like you've committed to it more. It's also not such a big financial investment to paint over the canvas. But I so know it's a lot of time that has vanished, sort of wasted, dep[ending how you look at it. I have no idea how much time or how much obsessing you do over one painting, but I spend a long time on making plans, especially for a whole series, and I've spent some money getting this whole series ready. *sigh*
My biggest investment is time. Well of course, I do invest in paint (which has gone out of sight), brushes and canvases but time is what I have the least of and what I waste the most of when a painting is not going my way. There comes a point though, that I give up and say, that's it, I'm moving on.
I have literally THOUSANDS of images saved on my computer (160,000+ at last count) and my iPad (almost 50,000). A huge many are of the human figure... nude and clothed... male and female. But I also have images of landscapes, architecture, furniture, clothing, flowers, animals, patterns, comics, film stills, almost anything you can think of. And of course I have thousands of reproductions of art works: paintings, drawings, sculpture, prints, cartoons, collage, etc... I may draw ideas from anywhere. A film scene or a photograph of an interior might inspire me with regard to mood or color. I've gotten ideas for the background in my paintings from tattoo designs and architecture. One of the strangest sources of inspiration came from a medieval Czech cathedral clock:



-Autumn Eve

I usually begin working with a figure reference... or more commonly, several figure references that I often edit and combine on my computer until I get a pose I like. At this point I often don't have any real idea of what the theme or subject will be. Recently, I have used a projector to rapidly transfer a gestural sketch of the figure to the surface. I'm not interested in any details at that point... just quickly (5 minutes) establishing the general proportions. I'll then spend the next several days working and reworking the drawing:

9. Temptation.700.jpg

12. IMG_2150.650.jpg

Once I have the pose somewhat established I'll leave off any work on the figure(s) until the end of the painting and Ill start working on the background. I use the Renaissance method of a string pinned to the surface to establish the larger "halos".

14. IMG_2184.650.jpg

I pull out all the drawing tools: compass, protractor, level, a slew of rules, etc... The whole of the painting surface will be primed in a reddish primer except for the figures (which will be primed in a tan color similar to that of the paper). The primer allows me to make repeated changes without damaging the surface of the paper. The reddish primer also shows through in places helping to unify the image as a whole.

15. IMG_2187.600.jpg


The reddish primer is also essential to the metal leaf.

At any point during the process I might take photographs and toy about with compositional ideas on the computer:



Alright... I'm not going to do this all at once, but here's the start of the Harris's hawk bust.

I begin with a simple template of oaktag.

Sigi Template.JPG

Then draw in the main anatomical features just to make sure things are in proportion.

Sigi Template 3.JPG

Then cut it out, lay it out on the wood and scribe it, making sure I've marked an accurate center line on the block, and over to the bandsaw. Followed by rounding off the chest and wings with a sanding drum in a Foredom flex-shaft machine. I've also faired the sides of the head into the beak.

Sigi Art 00.JPG

And that's all for now.

Sometimes I make a clay model before going to the wood, but I'm very familiar with this species, so I didn't bother.