Saturday, October 13, 2012

How To Paint a Painting? Step Two: Prepping The Canvas

I used a blue color wash on this painting, which gives it a blue feel even after layers of paint have been added.
The second step in painting is preparing the surface to be painted. Normally for me this means deciding on the size and shape of a gallery-wrapped canvas. And then preparing the canvas for paint. 

The first step is determining how big and what size the painting should be. Over the years I have come up with a standard set of canvas sizes that I like to use, for example 24 x 24 and 18 x 36. But at times an image will strike me as needing to be painted and it will take a while to determine what size the image will scale to. This requires math and a ruler to determine the scale of the current image and then translating that into the size of the canvas to use. Yes! Artists use math! For example, a 4 x 6 picture could work well on a 24 x 36 (scale of 6), or 16 x 24 (scale of 4). 

Once I have the correct size of canvas to paint on, I then add a layer of gesso, which is very white, heavy paint to the canvas. While the canvas I buy has a layer of paint, it helps to add additional lays prior to painting. It also helps me feel that I own every inch of the canvas at the start of the process. Some artists create many layers of gesso on their canvas and sand down each layer so that the canvas is like glass. I like to work with a slightly textured surface, so I do not sand anything down. But that is a personal preference. 

Gessoing the canvas is probably the messiest part of the creation process. It is messy because I am covering every inch of the painting, including all the sides of the canvas. I always end up with white gesso all over myself and my studio floor. (Which is why I always do this process on a drop cloth.) 

After the gesso dries I may or may not add a light wash of color to the entire canvas as well. The advantage to adding a wash of color, is if the color is the same as your subject matter you have now saved yourself some time with establishing the middle shade for your art. The possible downside to creating a wash of color, is the entire painting now has that color as an undertone. Which will give your painting a different look than starting from white. Lately I have been forgoing a color wash on my more realistic figurative works, but I continue to use color wash in my abstract figurative paintings. 

 The last step in preparing the canvas for paint is sketching out the image onto the canvas. Normally this process goes smoothly. But occasionally, once an image is sketched out I decide that I don’t like how it is centered, or I think that a different shape or size of canvas would look better. Sometimes this means erasing my sketch and starting over, and sometimes I find it faster to simply re-gesso the canvas. After I am done grumbling to myself about waiting till I finished the process to figure this out, the end result and changes do make a difference to the overall presentation and the image I’m wishing to evoke. 

Because this process works well for an assembly line process, I tend to gesso and sketch multiple paintings at once. Taking me approximately 1/2 a day complete this process.
For Step one see How To Paint A Painting? Step One: Deciding What To Paint

Saturday, September 15, 2012

How To Paint A Painting? Step One: Deciding What To Paint

Finished Painting Titled: Classic 
Often people wonder how long it takes to take a painting and what the step are involved in the process. And the answer to how long it takes to paint any painting is a lifetime. In that every painting we have completed follows on the learnings we have learned in our past paintings. No painting would be possible without the skill and knowledge learned through the previous years of painting. And while the actual physical time it takes to create a work of art varies, and is in some ways unpredictable. I hope in this series of articles to show the steps involved in the creative process.A few of which I think most people are unaware of. 

Before an artist puts paint to canvas, there is an important first step that occurs, and that is deciding what to paint. This might seem easy, but in reality it is often one of the most time consuming parts of creating. 

For me, because I paint a painting over a series of weeks and months, and my best creative time is at night, I work off photographs. When I get the urge to paint a new group of paintings, I will look at my existing photographs taken in my studio. If nothing is speaking to me, I will then setup a photo shoot. I do this in my studio so that I can control the light and the environment. My work intentionally has a side that is more well lit, and one that is not. And during the photo shoot we will play with how close and how far away the model is to the light source, and the angle of the camera, to change the intensity and the variety of shadows on the human body. Using a tri-pod, a digital camera and a model, I take up to 500 shots before I am done. 

The next day I comb through the 500 shots and delete any that don’t work for me, that I don’t like, that are blurry because the model moved in the low light setting, or that are under lit. I also delete anything that is very similar to another shot that is a slightly better angle or better shadow play on the subject. This process generally nets me about 200 photos to continue combing through. 

Original Unaltered Model Photo
Sometimes because of the angle of the camera when I took the shot, the shot will look better when cropped. So this is where I being to digitally crop photos and possibly play with the lighting of the image. Once I’m done with this process, I have approximately 50-80 pictures that feel interesting enough for me to print. 

I then print these photos so that I have a visual, tangible image to work with. These are the group of images I will then work off of whenever I am looking for inspiration, or decide to paint from. 

In terms of looking through my now set of prints to determine what inspires me, often there is a feeling I am wishing to evoke. Or I have been told by clients I wish you would do this or this. Or this type of pose would finish the story of these three other paintings, etc. So my selection of what to paint is often a combination of the story and emotions I wish to tell with the new group of paintings, combined with the feedback I hear from those viewing my art about the story they would wish to see completed. 

 When I do a commission of someone, the process is the same but on a slightly smaller scale, as we generally have more of a focus for the photo shoot. I take pictures in a variety of settings if the client isn’t entirely sure what type of pose they are looking for, and then initially comb through 100-200 pictures together (to delete any immediately that the client might not be comfortable with). And then discuss which images they might like. I will then do the fine tuning of images, and return with anywhere from 2-5 images for the client to look through and then decide on a final image to sign off on. 

All in all this process can take anywhere between 20 and 40 hours. And isn’t something most people think about when they ask about painting. 

 If an artist is working off a still painting, or a live model, the process is a little different. In that there is setup time for the still. Or setup time for the model, followed by many breaks the model needs to take. But in general, there is always going to be time and thought put into what someone is painting and why. And the story they are wishing to convey through their art.
For Step 1 see How To Paint a Painting? Step Two: Prepping The Canvas

Saturday, August 11, 2012

One Of The Perks Of Being An Artist:

One of the funny things about being an artist is that it seems at times to be extremes of two worlds - one social and one very solitary. When creating in our studios, are is very solitary. But when we have an art show, or are meeting with clients it is then also very social. I find that the social aspect brings an unexpected twist to almost any outing I have. Which is a great perk of being an artist. For example, I was out on a date with my man this past week, and we ran into two wonderful clients of mine. One of the great things about my clients and fans of my art are really wonderful, supportive, warm and loving people. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s because in order to “get” my art, we have to think a like. So running into two of my favorite clients was a great and added surprise to my evening out. Then a few days later, my family and I were checking out a new spot during the weekend. And I ran into a fellow artist who has been in two galleries with me. His name is Dano and he is incredibly talented. And as is the case with most people I bond with over art, he and his manager Bill are “good people.” I was able to introduce the family to Dano and Bill. ( As well as catch up and exchange some great art talk. When we left, our son had a new personally autographed singed print of a surf painting Dano did. It was a great addition to our day out. These are some of the things that add to the warmth and depth of the fabric of my life, because I’m an artist. And I feel very blessed to know and connect with so many people around my area, and the world. All because of my art. What about you? What are you blessed to have in your life because of your work or your passion? For additional art show fun, see Funny Things I Hear at My Art Shows

Saturday, July 14, 2012

My “Other” Creative Life:

Most artist, being creative people, tend to create in more than one way. Many of us create in multiple mediums, and/or in multiple styles. Some artists do this all under one name. Most however, have additional names under which they create. For example, I share my photography under my ArtFullWorld shop on Etsy. And I also have a children’s line of paintings under the name Billie TK. I thought today I’d share one of those paintings with you. If you come into my home, on the wall of my living room is a series of 3 giraffe paintings. Guest have often commented that they feel they are being watched because somehow (I really have no idea how) the eyes of some of my subjects seem to follow you around the room as you moved. I personally love giraffes. When people ask why I started painting them I always ask if they have met a giraffe. Because for me, to meet a giraffe is to love giraffes. They are such amazing creatures. They are tall, really big animals that are at the same time quite gentle to humans. And also impressively can be quite strong when encountering by some of the fieriest animals on the African plains. I find when I take pictures of them that they rarely stay in frame – the most uncooperative of subjects! Giraffes are very curious of us, and the younger ones especially have some of the most comical yet cute expressions when looking at you. So this is what I try convey when I paint them. I know starting out with giraffes as subjects is somewhere of an odd/ off-beat topic. But after painting one of the pictures I had taken of a giraffe, I was amazed at the response of toddlers and young children coming into the group studio I was working from. And so I knew I had a hit. Of course a lot of my paintings actually end up on the walls of adult rooms. Because I am not the only one who loves things that make people smile like happy giraffess. If you’d like to see more of this style of my work, it’s available online at or on Etsy at for another side of creativity see: Behind the scenes look at my Abstract Landscapes

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Behind the Scenes Look at More Passion:

This was one of my first couple paintings. I actually created couple themed paintings before I started creating torso paintings. But because these paintings are considered risque by some viewers, any works with subtle nudity have never been shown at art shows. My goal as an artist is to show the beauty of the human body. But as we know, not everyone holds that belief, and many people would have the vapors should I bring one of these to a gallery or art fair. So to avoid drama, they remain for the most part unseen by the public accept online. I had actually created this same piece, but with a very different color palette (of blues and reds) first. Because of it’s almost angry color scheme, it had a very different feel than this one. I decided after the original sold, to try painting the painting again, but with a new color palette that I had recently started using. And this was the result. I chose this image because I felt that making love outside, near a waterfall would be quite sexy. I imagined that being in Hawaii in a deserted part of one of the islands, could lead to a very romantic tryst. So that was my intent when creating this piece - to portray that on canvas. I get this question a lot, so I will just try to put it to rest - no, that is not me in the painting! She has blonde hair only because I liked the contrast of his dark hair, and her light hair. Which is also why I made their skin contrasting as well. It was an artist choice, nothing else. I am often asked how long a painting such as this takes me. Every piece of art work is different. And of course, each piece contains the culmination of everything I have learned up until that point. So the most correct answer would be “a lifetime.” But for those who can’t see in the abstract like that - figurative works generally take me about a year to complete. Sometimes less, sometimes more. Partly because I am always painting multiple works at once. And partly because good things take time. And if I don’t have a specific show deadline, I let the paintings dictate their completion, rather than me. For another look at creation of art see Lack of Intention

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Behind the Scenes Look at My Abstract Landscape Series:

People always want to know why artists paint what we paint, so I thought over the next few months I’d share background on some of the paintings I get the most questions about.

At art shows people always ask me about these landscape paintings. They are surprised to learn that I paint them with my fingers.  I don’t use any brushes for my abstract landscape series, only my hands.  So yes - I guess you can still finger paint as an adult!

One of the reasons I started to use this technique, is that I wanted the paintings to really emote.  And the best way for me to do that - was to have nothing between me and the canvas. 

I also use music to help create emotion as well.  When painting this particular series, I intentionally listened to Bon Jovi's Lost Highway cd. I was trying to capture the emotions of their music, particularly the songs "Make a Memory" and "Whole Lot of Leavin"  Another reason I intentionally listen to the same CD when creating a series, is that painting a series can take many months of work.  In order to get into the same mental state as the last time in your studio working on a series, I find it helpful to continue to listen to the same set of music.  It helps me stay / return to a similar place mentally and emotionally.

The funny thing about using the same music over a period of time in the studio, is that my interpretation of that album can change. For example, some of the pieces in this series are more moody and dark, while others are light.  It all has to do with how I was feeling about the content of the album at the time I was listening and creating.

Another way to create emotion in a piece  is to make sure there is a good play of light on a piece. Which can be a little more difficult to do when working with something as blunt an imprecise as a finger.  So sometimes I also us an artists medium to make the paint stay wet a little longer than normal, in order to be better able to blend.

I hope this helped give you a little bit of insight into how and why I painted this series.  Let me know if you have any other questions about the series I can answer for you.

For another look at behind the painting, see My Latest Torso Series - A New Twist

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Funny Things I Hear At My Art Shows:

The Seduction, by Michelle Geromel ©
One of the fun things about an art festival or art show is hearing the positive and sometimes funny things people same about my art as they pass by.

The most common is when men and women both walk by and insist they are the model.  I will play along and tell everyone please to not let it out, that they were my model. This banter happens at least 5 times a day at an art festival. Normally everyone know we are joking, but once, this past spring, a Mom actually got a little hostile and really insisted that I must have some how gotten hold of her daughter’s photo shoot last month, because she had that exact same pink bra. This was funny considering, that I know the model quite well, and that bra actually had been black and I changed it to pink because I could. And, it takes me a heck of a lot longer than a few weeks to create most of my art, so it was also pretty outrageous of the Mom to be so upset. 

A lot of times women will insist that I have captured their lover perfectly.  Or the men will insist I have captured their wife or lover perfectly.  I always find this to be sweet. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a sucker for love.  

The funniest interaction was with a couple and their children, that actually ended up becoming friends after this - The little boy insisted that the couple embracing (The Seduction above) was Mommy and Daddy.  So I asked the little boy why that was - he said they were hugging.  Which is kind of what they were doing.  I thought it was great because the kid obviously saw his parents as affectionate and happy with each other.  Something not every child has the privilege of seeing. 

I once was at a show where across from me was a woman with beautiful, ruebinesque women.  More than once I heard “Before ...  After”.  I was never sure before and was after what. Although if the cupcakes I am sitting next to as I write this blog have there way as they silently call to me it will be before and after the cupcakes!
For another look at art shows see Lovers & Haters

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mourning the loss of film?

Golden Gate Bridge, By Michelle Geromel
I have heard my photographer friends bemoaning the change of film to digital. Indicating that no matter how advanced digital gets, it misses a depth and feel that film has. I wasn't really believing this until the other day when I picked up some pictures I had printed of pictures of Europe - some of which I took with digital, some of which I took with film. There is just something about the film, that makes things deeper, that the digital misses. 

Anyone else feel this way? Or see any other differences between digital and film?
For another look inside the making of art see Step Away From the Paintbrush!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

What is an Artist’s Medium?

Sometimes people look at a painting and try to figure out how so much texture got added to all or parts of a painting.  Artists can use a variety of things to mix with paints and create texture in work.  These types of things are called mediums. Some examples of homemade mediums include wall paper paste and caulk.  Some, like caulk, because of their heaviness are used best on wood based paintings.  Others, like wall paper paste, can be used on canvas without bowing the art in the middle over time.

Artists can also buy mediums specifically made to interact with and adhere to paint and canvas to create depth in our art.  These are either designed to either be mixed with artist’s paint, or painted on top of to create various effects. The consistencies available range for the very coarse to the very smooth.  

In the painting above, I used layer after layer of a gel like medium to create a glossy, 3-dimensional heart on canvas. (And yes, getting it to stay in that shape until it dried was a bit tricky!) The medium was at times mixed with paint, and other times not, until I got the effect I wanted. The result is a raised glassy heart  on the canvas with gold color trapped inside. 

What is your favorite type of medium to see or to work with?

For another look inside the making of art see How Long Does It Take to Paint a Painting

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Myth of the Artists

Somewhere in the ether is this myth - that artists don’t work at anything really - their craft, their business, their life.  We are mythological creatures who blissfully dance through existence. High on life, and paint fumes, without a care in the world.

On the flip side, there is a myth that all artists are morose creatures of the night, who love to wear black, drink themselves into oblivion and can only create when deep in the muck and the mire of self and world loathing.

While I admit that history has shown us a few poor souls who might fit into either category. The majority of artists are neither blissfully dancing through life, nor trudging through the murky outskirts of society.

Most artists are somewhere in the middle. They tend to expend energy on their craft on a regular basis.  Anyone with a portfolio of consistent work, does work a bit on creating.  And sometimes that work comes blissfully easy. Other times, not so much.

Any professional artist I know has a pretty set schedule of times they create. While they might not clock in from 9 to 5, they probably clock in from noon to midnight instead.

Art is business.  Art is fun.  And art is work. You can’t do it high or drunk (although I know a few who try). You don’t sell much or at all if it’s all depressing as hell. And you sure can’t make leaps and bounds in creative progress if you are out surfing or tanning all day. 

So why do these two myths persist?  Is it because it’s easier to romanticize that the thing of beauty on the wall took no effort to create? No countless hours of the paintings created before it to birth this one? Do people secretly wish that artists, who must by the very personal nature of their work, not care what others think, also not operate with the realm of the rest of the world in terms of taking steps to continue progress?

I really don’t know... But the next person who walks into my office, takes a look at my white board with all it’s to-do’s on it and says “wow, you really DO work” is getting a slap up side the head. (figuratively speaking of course)

Can anyone else relate?

For another post about Artists see What Is An Artist?