Technique

Collectors have frequently asked me questions as to the method I use to construct a painting. Here are the steps I follow; from the inception or the core idea of what the painting will be about to the final product - the finished oil painting.

   When I get an idea for a painting, I start by doing a small thumbnail sketch. This rough sketch sets the idea in my mind. At this stage I often write myself notes on the sketch itself; notes like, cast the primary light from the upper left or dress the subjects in 20s fashions.

   I then proceed to enhance and modify this basic idea with more detailed sketches. When I am satisfied with the sketches, I begin to prepare my board. I paint on board, rather than canvas, for several reasons. When I use a board, I don't have to worry about humidity causing the canvas to shrink, buckle, or get floppy loose in its stretchers. The texture of the weave of the canvas itself is usually too rough for me to render my small intricate details. I also prefer the rigidity of the board to the soft or give of canvas.

   The board I use is Medite, a very high-quality hardboard. I cut four-foot by eight-foot sheets into 4 X 4, 3 X 4 or 2 X 4 sizes. Using an electric hand sander and 100 grit sandpaper I carefully sand the sheen off the surface of the Medite and vacuum the surface to remove the dust. I then wipe the surface down with a clean damp cloth to eliminate any remaining dust.
I then use a short nap ( or 3/8) 9 house-painting roller to give the board two coats of Liquitex Gesso. This is the ground of the painting. I roll the boards back and forth, up, and down until I reach a smooth surface with no roller marks.

   Using a 4H drawing pencil, I carefully draw my idea onto the board. When the drawing is completed, I paint a thin wash over the board. This tints the surface and sets the graphite of the pencil so that the pencil marks won't bleed or smudge into the paint. For this transparent wash, I use Burnt Umber and Permanent Green Deep oil paint mixed with pure gum turpentine. I apply the wash over the entire surface of the board with a large soft brush.

   After the wash dries (usually overnight), I begin my underpainting directly over the sketch. This is like rendering the entire painting in black and white to establish my darks and lights. When creating the underpainting, I use Burnt Umber, Pthalo Blue and once again pure gum turpentine. At this stage, my oil painting resembles a black and white watercolor. When it is dry, I began painting the full strength oil color over the underpainting.

   When the final painting is dry, I brush its surface with Retouch varnish to restore the sheen and depth of the oil paint, which has gone matte in some of the darker areas.