Evolution of a Painting

Various stages of my newest painting, Catwalk .03

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I thought it would be interesting to share a few photos of my work in a few different stages through to completion. I have a smaller version of this painting that I created, I loved it so much I decided to create a larger, slightly different version.

I spend a lot of time stretching the canvas and priming and sanding the surface. Sometimes I use pre-stretched canvas but I love involving myself in the process from the very beginning. Afterwards, I began by laying loose marks down using oil. I mixed the oils with various mediums so they were very thin and fluid and dried quickly. I gradually began to paint on thinned out layers of white, grey and lavender into the background. After each layer I used towels to wipe off and rub it into the surface. The last layers of colors were thick and rich, but I etched down into the surface and left some areas exposed to reveal all the prior work. Using this technique created a lot of interest in the painting.

After the layers were down and dried the next phase happened more quickly, I used oil sticks and thick brushes, brushes that have bristles stuck together, etc., and the painting started to evolve and reveal itself. I stepped back often to make sure the composition is strong and pulled together and by this point I really was not even look back at my first study. The canvas just speaks to me.

Towards the end of the painting I sat and observed for days without much mark-making. It’s not that I was afraid to make any marks or fuck anything up, it’s because I get to the point where I have to look and wait for the canvas to talk (….it really does have this way of ‘talking’.) I probably spent hours scanning over the surface inch by inch completely satisfied with everything that is there. But after I left the studio and come back the next morning it was obvious the marks that need to go down. Does that sound odd? It’s abstract, it’s a bit wild. Even though I have a study I originally worked from, most of the mark-making on this new canvas is coming from a deeper level inside. I put on my music and connect with it fully but later on in the process, I kind of switch that all off and observe from another point of view. When I observe, leave and come back and still feel the same about it, that’s how I know its finished.

I wanted to share one more thing that was special about this painting. Besides oil I used bits of a ripped up vintage kimono and some old Chinese newspapers. Everything is completely sealed off before moving onto the oils. I had been thinking about a book my dad had when I was little which had this great padded cover. I was so curious and just wanted to find out what the padding was. I took my play scissors and worked hard for a long time to cut open the cover (typical Susan move). When I finally opened it I found the padding was created from a bunch of old Chinese newspapers! I remember being so excited, like, I uncovered a top secret. I put some of those and some newer Chinese newspaper pieces into this painting. You really have to look for them in the painting but I hope viewers are as excited as I was when they discover them. I’m going to add a few photos here though…in case you don’t see it in person ;)


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Susan WashingtonComment