Helena Tarn Art

Starting A New Painting: Planning and Process

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.

Pablo Picasso

I love starting a new painting. For me the process is part of the whole story of an artwork. It is just as important (if not more so) than the end result. I didn’t always plan my paintings. Especially when I started out, I took the ‘wing it, experiment, and see how it turns out’ kind of method. And it worked. Some of the time. However, I’ve noticed that when I really take the time to study and plan the direction and mood of the painting, then I am often a lot happier with the final outcome. I think this is especially important when painting abstract. Abstract art relies heavily on colour, value and composition. As a result, careful forethought really does go a long way. I do however leave room for a bit of spontaneity – you can’t be too rigid. Sometimes things don’t quite turn out as you expect, and half the fun of the process is experimentation! Read below my steps on how I (mostly) begin a new abstract artwork.

There is so much anticipation when beginning a new painting. It’s exciting, but can also be a little daunting. That blank canvas or sheet of paper glaring at you. It can be intimidating! The possibilities are endless and I’m still deciding the way. I don’t worry as much as I used to, as with experience, I’ve learned that everything is fixable and it’s only paint. Don’t over think it, just paint over the bits you don’t like!

Gathering the a mood board

I like to work in a series or collection of paintings. This is because I love to really explore a theme. Currently I’m working on a series called Untamed, based on the glorious and wild Northern Irish coastline. I love to get out in to nature and capture the mood and the essence of the landscape. I take a sketch book and jot down notes and lines and marks that take my interest. I don’t paint very realistically. For me it’s more important to capture the emotion of a landscape, rather than the exact scene. So for that, I take my time, I write notes, I smell the air and take billions of photographs to remember the moment. I want to translate the textures, movements and colours into something personal and rich with meaning. Read about how I gathered inspiration for my latest collection here.

Picking a colour palette

The next step is to gather the colour palette. As I don’t paint realistically, this gives me the freedom to choose a varied colour palette. I don’t have to stick to the usual colours. In my Untamed abstract coastal seascape paintings, I have picked a few different colour schemes, purple, blue, yellow and pinks, all bold and all vibrant. I often search Pinterest for colour palette inspiration. In fact I even have an entire board here that I’ve created which is dedicated to colour combinations that I love and will no doubt inspire a painting sooner or later.

Once I’ve decided on my colour choices it is time to mix my paints and make colour swatches. I usually dedicate a page of my small sketchbook for this. I aim to mix a varied amount of colours that match the palette as whole. I’ll try and swatch a few colours that are a similar hue, and then mix up a few to complement and contrast the palette. Then of course I write down which paint colours (and amount) I used to reach the final colour so I can mix it again in the future!

Let me know if you enjoyed it below or if there are any other parts of my process you’d like to hear about!

Until next time,

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