It start with a thought or an image, although these words seems too precise, an ephemeral vision often brought by an emotion that I wish to capture and further address. It lasts but a second and leaves no details just the fleeting remains of an image that simply wishes to be held. This conscious initial vision can not be taught, it is a precious gift that must be honored and with time, cultivated as one write down their dream.
I first create a sketch in pencil, a quick and spontaneous drawing to recall this image, a few lines here and there, a first layer followed by another and another, the lines becoming each time more graceful until clear forms emerge followed by more details and a touch of shadows as I must decide early where the source of light is coming from. Sometimes this sketch (done with a graphite pencil, a ballpoint pen or a colored pencil) requires an hour, sometimes two days. Once in a while, one of these sketches feels so great that it begs to be made into a drawing or a painting.
Then like a piece of music calling for its own instrument, this sketch will dictate its own medium, a pen and ink drawing is intimate, a pastel soft and sensual, an oil painting brilliant and bold… After preparing the paper or the canvas (I choose the very best quality, archival cotton or linen canvas), I sketch lightly, erasing again and again, re-drawing each line until it has the right elegance and tension. I do not copy my initial sketch but inspire myself from it while attempting to retain its spontaneity. For a pencil drawing or a pen and ink, I use an HB or a 2B pencil, neither too dark or too hard. For a pastel or an oil, I use a light pastel pencil as a line done with graphite would show under a light color such as yellow. Sketching is the best creative part of the process and should not be hurried. Once one fills up these shapes with color or ink, it is often too late to change the lines or the general composition.
As with old masters techniques, I develop the background first, then the middle ground followed by the foreground, systematically working from back to front to give my art more depth. I thus block areas and work them separately. When doing a landscape, I start with the sky (leaving the outlined land blank) and give no thought to the foreground. I want my sky to be great even if they were no landscape. I create a great sky, then a great hill, then a great tree sequentially. Many people are afraid that a too detailed background will dominate their foreground when it is the quality of the background that often gives depth to the foreground. The two of them combine to create contrast. The background while far away and less sharp still has infinite details, interest, highlights and shading.
Little by little I work toward the viewer. When objects or figures are closer, there have more details, the light is brighter, the shading is darker and the contrast more intense. Further away they diminish and fade. Throughout the artwork, I use different techniques as if each area were played by a different musical instrument. While there must be a main focal area, each must be exciting and capable of holding the viewer’s interest on their own. Mystery and magic are everywhere and each area is an artwork into itself.
When working in color, I choose three colors for each area I am about to paint, the main color, a color for the highlights and one for the shade. If I paint a leaf for example in pastel or oil, I choose or mix the appropriate green, then a white or a yellow for the highlights and a dark blue, black or violet for shading. I then add more nuances and other colors with each successive layers. I generally use the same colors for highlights and shade throughout the entire painting as I want the entire piece to be espoused by the same light. With pastels, I build up layers upon layers, blend and refine endlessly. With oils, I work on the first coat which may take me two days depending on the size of the area, leave a week of drying time between each layers and generally apply 3 to 4 coats. I always apply more layers as I get closer to the viewer.
When working with graphite and pen and ink, a variety of strokes replaces color. If I draw the foliage of a tree, I simply add more leaves in the darker areas and less in the area that receives the most light. The leaves closer to me will have more details while the one far away will fade and appear smaller. Again, I treat each area with a different texture and am always aware that each is three -dimensional. To suggest water or sky for example, my pencil or pen and ink strokes will be lighter and done faster to suggest movement. If I draw a solid tree, my strokes will appear more solid and still. The closer I approach the viewer, the more detail this will entail and my work will slow down.
While not everyone will like my work, I always set out to create something that I will find beautiful. One can not create beauty while thinking that their work is average. I often tell myself that this may be the last artwork that I create. Surely, one would have much to say, if one knew that today was their last. The sun would be brighter, feelings would be more deeply felt, beauty and essence would be conveyed with more passion.
I then varnish and frame the art that required 3 months to 1 year of work and think of selling my work. Though I must say that while my creative department is inventive, dynamic and hard working, my sales division lacks far behind, procrastinating, walking their dogs, writing poetry or away on vacation. Tomorrow I shall have a talk with them…