Last winter while lounging in the boring sunshine of Sun City West, I got the notion that it was time to do something I have never tried before. I painted a picture on canvas. I do well with pencil, and I have even worked in charcoal. My favorite medium is color pencil although I limit that to book illustrations. The only formal training I ever received came from the nuns in grammar school. I took drawing class at a local Junior college, but I was already beyond what they taught me. The benefit of going to school came from doing pictures for assignments. The practice helped tremendously. The only schooling I had for working with paints came from watching an artist on Public Television do paint projects where the teacher did a complete landscape in a thirty minute time slot.
The engineer in me prescribed the method I used to make this painting. First, I have very little creativity to draw something from scratch. My brain does not work that way. I received a beautiful photograph of a cactus flower from a cousin by eMail. This would be my masterpiece. I’ll take you through the steps I used to paint an 18 x 24 canvas.
1. Make a hard copy print of the subject photo.
2 Draw a 1×1 grid on the hard copy print with pencil.
3. Start with a fresh canvas of any size. This description uses a 18 by 24.
4. Add a grid that is square and proportional, i.e. the number of squares on the canvas equals the number on your photo. To make things less stressful, number the grid lines across left to right on both the photo and the canvas. Use letters to id the lines from top to bottom.
5. Begin transferring the picture to the canvas by marking where the subject crosses the grid lines. For instance, say your starting point on the photo crosses the grid at 4-c. make a point on the canvas at 4-c. Repeat this process until you have the subject shaped with dots on the canvas. Connect the dots lightly with pencil to make the subject appear on the canvas.
6. Continue the placing of dots until the entire subject is on canvas in dots. Connect the dots lightly with pencil to make the full image appear on the canvas.
7. Begin painting. I used acrylic paints because I don’t have patience to wait for oil to dry, and I like a water clean-up. The hardest thing to do is to match the colors. I always begin with a dab of white and add a color to it. In this case I added a tiny dab of red color into the white and mixed it completely with a popsicle stick. I continued adding red in ever so small amounts until I matched the lightest pink in the photo.
8. Continue adding colors.
9. Fill in areas to define the image. In this case I filled the area around the flowers with a grey that is in the background. This defined the petals and gave me a base to work the backdrop. Notice how the grey fill made the flowers pop.
10. Complete the painting by adding more to the background to make the grey blend in. Add more detail to the yellow stamen, and highlight dark areas to give the image depth.
11. Finished painting next to the starting photograph.
I did this on my kitchen counter top using a piece of cardboard for my paint palette. I bought a set of brushes, and a starter set of acrylic paints with a portable easel to hold the work. I spent less than fifty dollars for the set up, but have enough paint to do several more pictures. I never painted for more than two hours at a time, and I completed the piece in about a week and a half. Will I ever become rich painting pictures? Nope, not a chance. I have a deeper appreciation of art now that I completed this project. I understand why art is so expensive, and also why the term “starving artist,” defines most people who sell their art. Today, there is a modern technique to make a picture faster, and with less effort. I could have taken the electronic image to Staples, and had them print the picture on canvas, and mount it for about a hundred dollars.
Pink Cactus Flower now hangs in my Great Room where I can enjoy seeing it everyday.