The most common question I’m asked when sharing paintings from my ‘Lost in Colour’ collection, is how I create them and what the creative process involves.
My ‘Lost in Colour’ paintings are distinct style; they characteristically feature line-drawn architectural details and expressive flowers against vivid abstract backgrounds. You can see several contrasting techniques together on a single canvas, from intricate linework to expressive brushstrokes.
These paintings are created in many layers, where the artistic process can be split into multiple distinct stages:
In this post, I share details of each stage, the tools I use, and my favourite aspects of each.
Planning the painting
I love reminiscing about past experiences and travels as I look through photographs of my city of choice.
Before taking to the canvas, I develop my ideas and crystalise a plan for my paintings. I start by flipping through my sketchbook and looking through old photographs to decide on the city & architectural point of interest that will anchor my piece. Then, I develop the composition – from the view and position of the building, to the types and sizes of flowers, to the colour palette I employ. Iteratively creating thumbnail sketches in pen & wash, digital sketches in procreate, and studies in paint on paper, I formalise my composition.
Prepping the canvas
I love the ritual of applying and spreading gesso and inks in anticipation of what’s to come.
Recently, I’ve been working on pre-stretched canvas as my material (rather than stretching and priming my own canvas). These already come primed with gesso, which is the layer that prevents paint from being absorbed into the canvas material. However, I take the time to apply additional layers of gesso on these canvases to better ready them for my paintings. This adds more tooth for my acrylic paints.
Another step I recently adopted is underpainting the surface with warm-toned acrylic inks. Personally, I find it easier to work with a canvas that already has some colour – plus the way that subsequent layers of paint interact with and reveal the underpainting adds something extra!
Building up the abstract background
I love leaning into the process of applying paints rather than focusing on the end goal.
Using a combination of palette knives and brushes, I apply and spread acrylic paints and inks across the canvas. I work intuitively and lean into the process as I build up the layers. As I create, I continue to reference earlier studies and digital sketches. It’s funny, I often find myself in limbo in this stage where I’m not sure how I feel about my paintings and find it hard to know when to move on… But, at some stage, I trust in the process and just have to call it!
Drawing in architectural details
I love engaging the left side of my brain as I work on accuracy and perspective.
Once the background layers are dry, I start work on the architectural details. My tool of choice for drawing in these lines is a white, fine-tip acrylic ink marker. Accurate perspective and scale is crucial in my pieces – I map a grid over my digital sketch/study and use a tape measure & rule to translate the key anchor points of the building onto my canvas. I then free-hand draw in the building’s structural elements, followed by detailing the embellishments. I usually find myself getting lost in the linework as I become consumed in a completely different process to the earlier creative stages. As a previous physicist, this type of work speaks to my analytic side!
Painting in flowers
I love bringing nature into my paintings to round out the composition.
Flowers are always found against the backdrop of the city. So, painting in flowers that overlay my buildings feels so natural. I love switching back to paintbrushes and acrylic paints as I work on add flowers in a contrasting style to the rest of the piece. I use multiple reference photos in addition to studies and sketches for this. Whilst I paint with intention at this stage, there’s still a lot of freedom and flexibility – I often play with how expressive and loose my flowers are based on my interpretation of the city at that point in time.
Sealing and finishing
I love the satisfaction and pride that comes from completing a piece so that it’s ready for the public.
Attention to detail until the very end is so important for me. As my paintings near completion, I finish the edges – one third of the edges are an extension of my composition, and two thirds are painted with a solid colour that complements the rest of the canvas. Once completely finished, I sign the front of the painting and apply several coats of satin varnish to seal and protect. Finally, I sign, title and date the back of the painting and install d-rings & hanging wire – now the painting is ready to display!
Explore the collection for yourself
Now you know how I create my pieces, I invite you to see the collection yourself. Join me for my debut solo exhibition in May 2023, presented by the Lindsay Dirkx Brown Gallery, San Ramon CA. This exhibition is named after the collection, Lost in Colour.
Interested in a VIP preview of the new pieces in the collection? Make sure you’re signed up to my Collector’s Club to be the first to see the newest additions to the Lost in Colour collection as they are released.