Actually, it’s probably somewhere in the billions. Anyone with a pencil or brush can devise a new method. I like to experiment. Here’s my newest: take an original field sketch and make a thumbnail rough on another piece of paper. Keep it small (it can literally be the size of your thumbnail). No details, just dark and light and vague (guan-like) shapes. I use a scanner to get drawings into the computer, but a digital photo will do the trick. You want to print out and paint over it.
It seems the hand drawn thumbnail- the act of hand drawing- is a crucial step. I’m not positive, but I think the hand has all the talent. Something spontaneous happens between a field sketch and a thumbnail design. A rough sketch is no big commitment, either, so you can freely generate ideas by the bushel. Take advantage of creative bursts; if you’re on a roll, stay there and crank it out. Thumbnails don’t have to be good, just abundant. You’re priming the pump and you might get something you can develop and use for real.
I noticed that, in redrawing the field sketch, it underwent some unplanned changes. The guan became more animated. It turned its head to catch more light in the wattle. Here’s where I make choices. Do I keep the original pose or follow the thumbnail’s interesting suggestions?
After I scanned the colored rough back into Photoshop, tweaked color and contrast, copied and pasted the sunlit palm leaf back over the guan, I moved the image around and resized and cropped until it seemed ready. Then I framed it.
Framing helps. It may only be a photo of a frame, but even so, it helps me visualize how it will look, finished. The digital version will be reference for the next phase: the actual painting, made by hand with brushes and paint. Can’t wait to start.
5 thoughts on “100,000 Ways to Start a Painting”
Love the ideas! Just picked up the Cowboy edition of Oklahoma Today. Your drawings of the Clydesdales, stagecoach and Dalmation are very inspiring. Beautiful work! I just wish they would give you a two-page spread!
Thanks, Becky! I’m thrilled they let me do this every issue. And those Clydesdales are sure fun to draw. Wait, you know that already.
thanx man … the idea of a digital reference is simply brilliant
I haven’t been here in awhile. It’s fun to see the creative process at work. I need to prime my own pump! Thanks for the encouragement!