How to Paint... Planning

How to Paint… Planning

I know the title of this blog is how to paint… planning  but it’s really about how to keep painting when the plan goes badly.  I get an idea in my head for a new painting and it develops until I find source material to fit my idea.  When I started the pink elephant painting I had an idea of the little elephants running towards me in and out of the sunlight so the viewer would wonder if they were really pink or was it the light.

Now that the painting is done and I do not have to make any more decisions about the landscape I can ask myself  which is better, planning or developing a painting.

Even when my painting is planned out it always changes from the original idea to the end painting.  I changed this painting so many times I began doubting my ability to bring the painting to a conclusion.  But I did finish it. I kept to my rule of keep going even when I think I can’t. I developed the scenery over a period of trial and error.  At one point there was even a Cheetah in the foreground.  I have never been as crazy painting a painting as this one.

"A Splash of Pink" Progress 1 – Wildlife Art by: Laura Curtin“A Splash of Pink” Progress 1 – Wildlife Art by: Laura Curtin


Here we go with the first block in of the painting. I thought it went really well until I looked at it the next day.  Then I didn’t like the color of the sky.  That was the first change of many.

"A Splash of Pink" Progress 2 – Wildlife Art by: Laura Curtin“A Splash of Pink” Progress 2 – Wildlife Art by: Laura Curtin


The next morning I decided to put  Manganize  blue  into the sky, leaving some of the pink peach color as clouds.  I was much happier with blue skies.

"A Splash of Pink" Progress 3 – Wildlife Art by: Laura Curtin“A Splash of Pink” Progress 3 – Wildlife Art by: Laura Curtin

I went on to paint the acacia trees in the background. I was trying to keep distance in the background and found that a path from the trees to the forefront  added depth and interest to the landscape. I also added broken acacia trees along the path.  I didn’t like the first addition of these trees so I went back with the peach color and painted over them.


"A Splash of Pink" Progress 4 – Wildlife Art by: Laura Curtin“A Splash of Pink” Progress 4 – Wildlife Art by: Laura Curtin

I love oil paints for many reasons one of them being I can paint over stuff I don’t like.  Coming to the realization that something I spent hours painting is, not working, looks awful and must be painted out can be painful but necessary. My son keeps telling me to do thumbnail sketches to help plan out my paintings and I keep resisting.  I don’t know if I resist thumbnails because of the extra time and work that goes into them or because they restrict my creativity.

My next venture into changing the landscape was the grass in the foreground.  I started to feel intimidated by all the grass in the painting.  I thought it was boring. I couldn’t see myself painting blade after blade of grass.  Hmm, how about more road?

"A Splash of Pink" Progress 5 – Wildlife Art by: Laura Curtin“A Splash of Pink” Progress 5 – Wildlife Art by: Laura Curtin

With this incarnation of the landscape I thought , well, I got rid of the grass all right. I now have lots of road, road that needs rocks and holes in the road and stuff, lot’s of stuff.  I then thought, Water, I could put a stream in here, I see a river bank here.  And off I went changing the landscape once again.

"A Splash of Pink" Progress 6 – Wildlife Art by: Laura CurtIn“A Splash of Pink” Progress 6 – Wildlife Art by: Laura CurtIn

Now I had a good feeling about the painting.  I could see a real place developing, a place with trees and blue skies, flowing water and Pink Elephants, of course.  It took a long time to get to the point where I could see the end and I knew that adding water and a river bank would be additional work but worth it.  After all the splash the little girl makes as she runs through the water became the name of the painting. “A Splash of Pink.”

So what to do, plan or develop.  I think planning a painting is much smarter and probably less stressful but letting the painting develop is a wonderful journey.