Work in Progress – the First Dabs of Paint

February 9, 2009 at 6:49 pm 5 comments

Now that I’ve done the prep work (selected the reference photo, painted the canvas red, and outlined the image on the canvas in chalk), the painting finally begins in earnest.

All artists get asked the question: “How long does it take to paint one of your paintings?” This is one of those pesky, difficult-to-answer questions because “painting a painting” isn’t very well defined. Or at least for me it isn’t. Do you count the time it took me to paint the canvas red? The time it took to draw the chalk grid on the canvas? How about the days spent hiking and taking digital photos? How about the hours spent cropping, rotating, editing, and printing out all the digital photos that never got used (along with the one chosen for the painting)?

Anyway, the one part that everyone can agree should be counted is the time spent standing at the easel, paintbrush in hand, actually putting dabs of colored paint on the canvas. This is the good stuff! This is painting!

Not surprisingly, when you paint with dots and smallish slashes of almost-random color (as I do) the beginning stages of “real” painting don’t look like much. Almost random, really. But there is a method to the madness.


First off, I need to reinforce my “roadmap”. Those chalk lines are a temporary guide and need to be made permanent with paint. Areas that are in shadow need to be blocked in as a darker color. Horizons, hilltops, and folds in the land need to be indicated so I don’t lose their place.

The other thing I start doing right away is using interesting colors. If I know a field of dry grass will eventually be a yellowish color, I might start out by putting some lavender color in, just to give the yellow something to contrast with. If the sky is blue, maybe I’ll paint some orange or yellow up there so the blue will vibrate against it and look all the more vibrant.

Of course, the one color I can’t paint is red. It’s already all over the canvas! If I were to try painting red, it would disappear against the background. So, this constrains me in a way.

Next: filling in the gaps.


Entry filed under: Landscape, Painting, Process.

Work in Progress – the Grid Work in Progress – the Hard Part


  • 1. david  |  February 10, 2009 at 11:56 am

    just stumbled upon your blog. looks like some interesting stuff here.

    check my blog out if you have the time.

    all the best,


  • 2. Work in Progress - the Hard Part « Barbara J Carter  |  February 10, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    […] 10, 2009 All the planning and prep work and the initial sketchy “roadmap” painting is done. Now the real work, the meat of the painting, […]

  • 3. New Painting: “Satwiwa” « Barbara J Carter  |  February 17, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    […] 17, 2009 If you read my “Work in Progress” posts (here, here, here, and here) you’ll recognize this painting. "Satwiwa" by Barbara J Carter, […]

  • 4. carolepatrice  |  March 12, 2009 at 3:48 am

    Hi Barbara – interesting blog. I am in the process of doing a commission and logging my time and expenses – so I understand where you are coming from. Love the idea of dabbing complimentary colours in before your main colour – might give that a go myself on the beach I am painting at the moment, hopefully that will give it more texture- really lookimng forwards to seeing you finished painting

  • 5. Work in Progress – the Grid « Barbara J Carter  |  August 12, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    […] the painting begins in earnest. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)The Sadness of MedusaWaiting For Rain […]

Barbara J Carter

I'm an artist. I make paintings with dots.

I work in acrylic paint, in a couple of distinct styles: landscapes and abstracts.

Native to California, I've lived elsewhere and only recently returned to my home state. I now live in Los Angeles.

I mostly show my art in outdoor festivals in California. I also occasionally show my work in art galleries or open studio events. You can see an up-to-date list of upcoming shows on my website (click here).

I invite you to sign up to receive my free email newsletter, in which I list my upcoming shows and talk about my latest work. I send it irregularly, a few times a year.

My links

My paintings

Follow me on Twitter: @barbarajcarter

Why I call my landscapes neo-Pointillist landscape paintings

A bunch of my abstract dot paintings

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Click here to receive my free email newsletter for up-to-date info on my shows, my art, and anything else that I'm up to. I send it out irregularly, a few times a year.

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