PAINTING:PHOTOS:VIDEO:Small Shadow Box Still Life

The following is a walk-through of a creative work that I had done for the Language of Painting program. It is a small 7x5" Oil on Panel piece titled “Discovery.”

As with many of my works, I began with an extremely light graphite cartoon. I do not fix this cartoon in any way as I prefer to make more informed decisions regarding shape and proportion as visual information is added. Therefore, there is no real reason for me to add an unnecessary material aimed at preserving the initial drawing.

With a cartoon all set I covered the piece with a blank piece of paper. I often add a layer of paper over a painting surface that can be peeled away as the “lay-in” progresses. This paper is placed over my painting surface and initial cartoon to eliminate any hand-rest-smearing or other potential surface contamination. In addition, this paper keeps me from jumping around the painting and on a more focused path of development.

My first applications here were easily-established anchors. In the earliest stages of any work, I take great care to ensure that my early shapes and values are “accurate.” Sometimes early color is sacrificed in favor of opaque, value-accurate applications. It is my experience that color can be more easily and effectively corrected with minimal procedural impact as opposed to value or opacity.

The execution of this particular piece saw some procedural diversity. For example, I tackled some regions in a more direct, wet-into-wet painting method, while other elements, like the graphics of the scrabble piece, were developed with a more indirect method. I have often found far more success with procedural diversity that adapts to the subject matter, as opposed to a rigid, one-size-fits-all approach.

Regardless of any application brush type/size utilized for this piece–every effort was made to maintain a paint load on the brush which allowed for the optimal bush pressure dynamic I often mention. Here’s a bit more on that:

The above graphic illustrates an approximate range of “ideal” paint loads (yellow is the ideal here) that a typical application brush (filbert bristle shown) should hold in an effort to mimic the application dynamic that is experienced with most dry media. This basic dynamic can be described as “greater pressure=greater material deployment”, (like how increased pressure leaves a darker mark with charcoal.) By maintaining this paint load/pressure dynamic, you may better take advantage of much of the automaticity that you have most likely developed with your dry media experience. If this dynamic is diminished, you may need to either draw more paint from the palette or remove unwanted excess.

With my first pass in and dry I proceeded to add the additional graphics in the “indirect” manner mentioned earlier. To do this I first made sure that the area did not suffer from the effects of sinking. If it did, I would need to verify or restore the appearance of the initial paint film before I was able to make decisions based on accurate information. The process of restoring sunken paint to its original appearance is known as “oiling out”. This process consists of applying an activating material like drying oil or a particular painting medium to a sunken paint film in an effort to restore its original appearance. While there are several different approaches to oiling out a painting, my process is extremely conservative. First, I gently test the area to be worked with a light colored synthetic brush to see if there is any evidence of wet color. If that test is passed (no color), I then add an extremely conservative amount of painting medium to the target area, along with the immediate surround, with a synthetic brush. I add just enough medium to see the original appearance of the paint return. I make a strong effort to not add any more material than is absolutely necessary.

When the entire painting surface was again completely dry, I began my full ‘refining’ pass. As with the addition of the scrabble graphic, I used a light-haired synthetic brush to check for any signs of wet color. I also was sure to check here if any unwanted surface buildup was present from the first paint layer. Such buildups can be removed with very light sanding.

With my refinements completed I moved to the outer arena of the piece—the shadow box’s chalkboard surround.

As you can see, the chalkboard background that I had chosen for this piece was also done in an indirect manner. When the flat even second layer of dark was completely dry I began to scumble on thin veils of white to simulate years of chalk dust buildup. I continued to reactivate or verify any areas of my first layer with extremely conservative amounts of medium.

With the chalkboard established, I scoured the piece for any remaining breaks in gradations, unrefined values, colors, or gradations. I addressed those issues, slapped on a signature and called this one finished. :slight_smile:

EDIT/ADDITION: Short clip from the Language of Painting’s filming of “Discovery”:

Happy Painting!


so exquisite, and a very great idea that one can squeeze a lot of message in a small box!LOVE8!

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@AWaichulis this is great to see!

Side note—if you have more footage of this (or other paintings), a nicely edited time lapse of the whole thing could be an interesting candidate for the home page of your website (at least on desktop where file size is less of a consideration).

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Thanks for sharing this step by step process of your work, Anthony! Always incredible seeing what you do.

Just curious how you photograph your works in progress without getting any glare. When I take WIP photos for Instagram I often find that it’s hard to avoid reflectivity, as the paint is generally wet, or uneven, since it hasn’t been varnished.

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What a great question Josh. Sorry I did not get to it sooner but I was away last week and did not get the chance to sit down and check in here. As you know, the variations in surface reflection can be an absolute nightmare. If it is severe enough–I will often take shots from a slightly skewed angle and then use Photoshop to transform the perspective. You might also consider trying a polarizing filter if you are using a regular camera and not a smart phone. We have had some success with that in the past as well.

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Okay, that’s good to know it’s not just me lol! Yes, I find the skewed angle helps and that’s a good reminder about the polarizing filter.

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Awesome! Side note: What music is this?

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Thanks Peter—I usually credit the music on all my videos but I guess I didn’t on this one. I’m not sure off-hand but I’ll look it up!

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@JoshTiessen - To minimise the visible reflections through your camera, make sure you have a dark/black background behind you and that you’re wearing dark clothes too (I sometimes have to resort to wearing gloves and a hat)! Lighting it from the side at a 45-50 degree angle helps too.


Thanks, Tom!

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