Lisa Penz Art

The Evolution of my Little Mermaid Painting

October 23, 2012

Whenever I finish a painting, I don’t typically look back at my process. It is infact part of my natural process to move onto the next inspiration, without ever consciously reflecting on the steps I took to arrive at the finality of the piece. Each of my works involve a logical progression and it isn’t until someone asks me about my process, that I actually consider it.

In my latest mixed media painting below featuring Disney’s The Little Mermaid, there were so many components to it that I decided to document the various steps I take to building a piece of art. Although there’s plenty of technicality to creating one of my works, much of my process relies on the emotive, the unseen—which is especially challenging to articulate to you.

It all begins with an inspired idea. If there is no passion, there is no point to it. After the spark of the inspired idea, there is research and sometimes even writing that follows. You won’t find a sketch book in my process. Personally, there is too much associated pressure to draw in a sketch book, so it’s seldom that I would sketch out my ideas. If, on the rare occasion that I might, I draw on a café napkin or a loose piece of foolscap. This might sound unusual but some of my best ideas are born on serviettes!… No pressure to hang onto it or for it to be perfect. Another reason for not making sketching apart of my regular process is that when I approach the canvas, I want my intension to be fresh and not over-thought or too planned. I like to leave some room for spontaneity but more importantly I want to create an honest piece of art — a work that is in-line with what I’m feeling at the time — not last year, last month, etc.

Step 1: Painting an outline after priming with gesso.

After preparing the canvas (or in this case wood panel) with 2-4 coats of gesso and sanding it, I’ll sketch out the outline with some Raw Umber in acrylic. The entire concept of the piece may not be there yet but this outline gives me a rough idea of placement and composition.

Step 2: “Fleshing” out the subject and painting in the background

Step 2 involves fleshing out the shadows and tones, while identifying the highlights also. This step gives me a chance to work with perfecting proportions and shape. At this stage, it’s always a good idea to begin to paint in the background as well. It’s very difficult to start the background after completing the foreground (I’ve found) so painting the two simultaneously is always best.

Step: 3 Building up the various layers and adding detail

I probably should have taken another photo in-between steps 2 and 3. I could easily break step 3 down into multiple stages as it takes up the majority of the process time (sometimes 20 hours!). Step 3 is when big decisions are made in terms of colour, blending, expression and the real “soul” of the painting. For this piece I used acrylc paints for the first say— 8 layers and then for the final layers, I used water soluble oil paints to achieve the dreamy, luminescent look that is captured in Step 3.

Step 4: Finishing touches

This step may be the most fun. During step 4 I go over the highlights again and again with the emphasis on Ariel’s face, tail and the Mickey balloons. This is also the time to add in the little ‘glints’ that give my paintings character. In this work, I painted bubbles and added glimmer to the seaweed. It was important that this painting have an ethereal look to it.

As I mentioned above, although my paintings follow a technical formula, it is the special energy I experience that compels me to move forward with the piece once it’s started; it is part curiosity and part excitement. I may start off with a plan for my piece but I never know exactly how it will turn out and it often times takes a different course and evolves into something I didn’t expect.

Any questions??? : )

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