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Is That Painting Talking to Me? (or is that just the voices in my head?)

I recently read an article that said not everyone has an internal monologue. This blew my mind. Which of COURSE, led to reading even more on the subject. For me, it seems I have a continual internal discussion going at all times. It’s like an inner voice. Sometimes it is a narration of things happening at the moment, and sometimes a discussion or debate with myself about an issue, idea or event. The notion of NOT having that feels not only alien to me, but also seems like it would be a bit lonely. Maybe that’s why some people need the company of others more than I sometimes do. An interesting notion - one that I’ve debated with my inner voice 😊. Do you have an internal narrative voice too?

But wait, I hear you (and my inner voice) say, what does this have to do with your paintings? Well, the inner voice is a vital partner to me in all stages of a painting. It starts with a debate about what my subject matter should be and why. Then, the question of materials and approach: should I do something special for the foundation layer, should I do a value study first, what colors should I use, etc. Then, as I get into the application of paint, the painting (really my inner voice) ‘talks’ to me to let me know what’s working, what isn’t quite right, what I need to do next, what I need to do to finish it and so on. It is a very active and iterative process for me that keeps me engaged the whole time. That’s a big part of what keeps it fun and interesting! There’s always some kind of puzzle to debate and solve.

For example, for my current work in progress, here are some of the decisions I made along the way:

  • What subject matter: animal, landscape, seascape, floral? I decided I wanted to work on a floral since I haven’t done one recently. I went back through my photo reference stash and selected one I loved – a bright pink peony photo from several years back. Peonies are so pretty, and I love the bright colors on it.

  • What size and format? The original photo is a rectangle but after playing with it on the computer and trying out a variety of sizes, shapes and crops I decided to do a cropped detail shot from the original photo and to put it on a 16x16 inch square panel. I do love the square format and I sometimes enjoy working on a little larger surface!

  • What starting method to use: detailed sketch, quick sketch, value study, color block-in, etc? There are so many different ways to start a painting. I haven’t settled on “one way” that works best for me, so for each piece I have to decide which method feels like it will work best for this subject matter. For this one, I decided on a quick sketch with charcoal followed by a color block-in.

Painting Prep: Sketching Out the Image

  • Should the entire painting be realistic or do I want to do something more loose/abstracted with the background? I’ve done both and I like both. For this one, I stuck with realism throughout.

  • Should the paint be thick, showing the brushstrokes and texture or thin and smooth? This one is a bit easier, I pretty much always prefer thin and smooth.

  • What paint colors do I need to use to get the look that I want? There are literally thousands of tubes of different paint colors you can buy and use, or you can custom blend colors. One of the trickiest puzzles sometimes is which tubes of paint will be best to use to get the right colors. Virtually every color you see in one of my paintings is a blend of at least two colors from separate tubes.

Here’s what this one looks like currently as I continue to work on it. You can definitely tell there are parts I haven’t finished yet (hello yellow center - I’m talking to you!)

Photo of Pink Peony Painting in Progress

Once the piece is finished there will be a whole new series of questions about finishing and framing that come into play. You can see why it all keeps me mentally engaged!

I hope you (and your inner voice, if you have one) enjoyed this!


Here are a few articles about the inner monologue issue in case you're interested in following me down that rabbit hole too :-)


Please feel free to share this with anyone you think might enjoy this message or my art!

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