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Monday, February 20, 2012

Here's a Quick Way to Plan Your Next Painting

'The Spirit Calls' 8x10 pastel ©Karen Margulis
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Take time to plan your painting! If you are an artist I'm sure you have heard this before. Not everyone agrees with it. Some artists like to be more spontaneous and feel that planning ahead of time takes away from the inspiration and excitement for the subject. I like to be spontaneous and play at times but I also appreciate how having a plan can help me avoid a lot of the problems that can crop up as I paint. Spending time doing some planning before picking up a pastel allows me to get the thinking part of painting out of the way so I can respond more intuitively when I am painting. Having a direction for your painting helps you make good decisions and makes it easier to solve any problems. As Richard McKinley said at a lecture I attended "If you don't know WHY then you won't know WHAT". So how can we make it quick and easy to put in some planning time?

Some of My Painting Plan Worksheets ©Karen Margulis

I like worksheets. I like things to be simple and clear. And I found I would forget everything I should think about when making a painting plan. So I developed a worksheet to do before I start a studio painting. It takes me less than 20 minutes to do the worksheet and when I am finished I have plans for 5 potential paintings. Here is what I include in my worksheet
  • A place for you to verbalize your concept for the painting. Why you want to paint this scene
  • Working title
  • Thumbnail possibility sketches...landscape, portrait, square, long and narrow.
  • Value maps (notans)
  • Evaluation questions such as focal area and design.
  • An area for a small color study
  • A place for extra notes.
Paintings completed from a Planning Worksheet

One of the great things that comes from doing the planning worksheet is that you can avoid the problem of having too much going on in one painting. You have plans for several paintings and you can easily do a series based upon your thumbnail sketches. In the above photo you can see that I came up with three variations of this Taos desert scene. I tried different papers, formats, compositions and underpaintings to give each painting a different feel.


Nora MacPhail said...

Awesome! Thanks for the procedure advice. Planning a painting is very necessary, especially with watercolour!

Jo Castillo said...

Wow, this is a great post. Thanks for sharing.

Marian Fortunati said...

Nice post!!
I like the idea of having several "starts" for future paintings...
I almost never can decide which thumbnail is the "best".

Always love your work!!!

Anonymous said...

Love your work. Planning is a great idea but one that I tend to skip - the worksheets would help me a lot. Did you buy the worksheets or create them yourself - regular paper or a heavy sheet.


Karen said...

Thanks everyone! I made these worksheets myself and just print them out when I need more. You can make them have the information you use the most.

Sarah Bachhuber Peroutka said...

Karen, I'm interested in using or purchasing your worksheets--could you let me know how to do that? Thank you.

Vanessa said...

I always end up dissatisfied with my paintings most often because I did not think the process through entirely, especially the execution stages. This is suh a great idea! I'm going to make sure I develop a worksheet this weekend. I'm sure it would really help. Thanks for sharing this!

DragonFire said...

Do you have a source where one can print out your "Thinking Part of Painting" Worksheets? I find they would be so useful to have. Thanks. Love your work.

Karen said...

Thank you!! Yes I have made the worksheets available in my Etsy shop as a pdf download for 99 cents. You can find it at www.etsy.com/shop/karenmargulisfineart