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How This Painting Happened

Updated: Dec 1, 2020

I need to get better at taking process photos of my artwork, as I love when other artists do it. Unfortunately, I always get so lost in the moment that I forget to grab the camera when I'm in the zone. I wish I had taken even more process shots of this piece, but there are a few interesting ones here that might help other artists (of any kind) when they make errors along the way.

There were a few disaster moments that fetched that "Oh my god, what did I just do?" reaction, so take a look at my close calls, along with the recovery.

In this first shot, I grabbed two or three Dylusion spray inks, along with a flower stencil.

I then created a circle (the face), then some curved paint swipes using light pink acrylics. I could see immediately that these curves looked like she was sitting in a hunched position, so I sketched in some arms, put some details on the face, and for some reason began a headdress that was really just a bunch of bubbles.

After that, I cut out some wrapping paper and lightly placed it down (with pen as paperweight) without gluing it to see how it looked as a dress. I then colored the bubbles in with watercolor crayons and saw immediately that they were a disaster. But I was pretty sure the dress was going to work, provided I separated it somehow from the background.

So I covered the bubbles with white gesso, glued down the dress using Liquitex Matte Medium, then realized that in order to see the dress design, I would have to darken the area around the character. I initially chose a burgundy acrylic, but it was way too red. I also felt bad about covering up those pretty ink flowers in the background, but I had no choice.

So to finish, I darkened the area around her body with an acrylic brown by Golden, put more white on the bubbles, then turned them into sponge curlers with some light pink lines. I could clearly see that I was painting my Aunt Ceil, who was a real '60s fashion dish. But before she got dolled up, her hair was always in rollers and she wore a mumu around the house with a design much like the design on this dress.

I continued to enhance the face using acrylics and watercolor crayons, then stenciled some white flowers (using gesso) on either side of the girl in order to bring them back, as they'd gotten quite covered up. I also created some shadows under the arms using watercolor crayons. I think that's pretty much it! I totally love this gal and think I might do a series of her. As artists, we constantly reinvent the wheel with each new painting, but we need to be more like Mozart, who would do many movements (variations) on a melody. So hopefully you'll be seeing Aunt Ceil again very soon!

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P.S. Check out this free YouTube video on how to draw a simple whimsical face! You can also get it as a FREE DOWNLOAD to keep and do in your spare time offline!

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Mary Ann Farley
Mary Ann Farley
Jul 26, 2019

Yes, Chuck. I'm way overdue in doing a tribute to Kattie, which is how I spelled her name. :) She would sign her cards "Aunt Kathy," so figure that one out! We always thought her real name was Kathleen, but found out when she died that she was Katherine! Lol! I have an old essay somewhere about that whole crew and their names. Maybe I can find it. Thanks for commenting!


Charles Moroney
Charles Moroney
Jul 24, 2019

Hey Farley... "hair rollers and a mumu"... I think both Ceil and Caddy would have been laughing their ass'es off! Cousin Chuck

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