“Pack Rat” creative process

Posted on

There is this idea among many that creating a painting quickly results in a more expressive, therefore honest, interpretation of the subject. “Quick” and “Good” appear to be brothers. There is a great fascination with the sketch. It seems to have begun in the 1800’s with the onset of Impressionism, but we really see it today with the plein air movement. Going hand in hand with this popular movement is the thinking…”the process is more important than the result”. Obviously, I totally disagree. The process of painting is important but never more important than the result.

Everything we observe was designed and created with a purpose in mind, I believe the creation of art is no different.

Every part of creating a painting needs to be carefully considered…the concept, composition, drawing, values, edges, color, even technique. The best of the plein air painters are considering all these as they work, but there are many who are caught up in the plein air movement that have little understanding of these things. Don’t neglect them, you will be better painters for it.

Plein air painting is critical to the education of the landscape painter and the knowledge gained outdoors will greatly improve our work indoors. The studio gives us more time to reflect and apply what we’ve learned outside.

Because of particular restraints on my painting time lately, I’ve been creating a number of smaller paintings. Below is the process followed when creating one of my latest. Each step has been considered:

Concept: I want to get across the idea that these farm people collect stuff and do not throw things away. How that is depicted is personal. One could choose an upbeat, cheerful, positive attitude toward collecting a lot of “junk”, or a less cheerful depiction, as I have here.

Composition: The canvas proportion selected for this piece helps emphasize what is important. Consideration of positive and negative shapes and the overall organization of each element within the space is carefully considered. I strive for unity with diversity.

Drawing: Determining where the horizon line will be, and it’s placement on the canvas sets one’s point of view. I make sure all perspective lines vanish to some point on the horizon line, and that all objects within the picture are in proper relationship to one another.

Values: I make sure all values from white to black are appropriate for the mood I wish to depict. Mood will determine what the correct contrasts within the scene must be. Contrast in values are also important in directing the viewer to the focal point of the painting.

Edges: The softness or sharpness of an edge work hand in hand with values to direct the viewer’s attention. Lost or soft edges are easily and quickly passed over, while sharp, distinct edges capture and hold one’s attention.

Color: I always select a palette of colors that will help achieve, support, and enhance the mood I created in the value stage. I try to limit the number to the fewest possible as color harmony is more easily achieved. The palette of colors selected for “Pack Rat” were: Titanium White, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Siena, Yellow Ochre, Prussian Green, Ivory Black.

Technique: This is my handwriting. The more paintings completed, the more understanding attained, the more personal the signature. Everyone’s handwriting is different, therefore creating a unique signature.

Careful attention given to each stage will increase the possibility of creating something of significance.

Most every painting I do begins with a line drawing of the subject using raw umber. In other cases, like this one, drawing and values are created simultaneously.

All the values for the painting are established using raw umber, no white. This stage is the foundation of the painting and establishes the mood.

Once the value structure of the painting is set, and the palette of colors selected, application of color begins. I take great care to match the already established value so that the painting retains the original motivation.

“Pack Rat” – 5.31″ x 8.59″ – Oil  (Completed painting)

This painting is available for purchase. Click image for details.

***If you would like to receive this weekly blog automatically, please complete the simple form to the right of this page.


The video and accompanying book, shown here, along with my first video, "Limited Palette Landscape", include everything I've taught in my workshops. You can now take my oil painting workshop right in the comfort of your home, and for a lot less money than physically being present.

I’m pleased to announce the release of my latest teaching video and book. The video and accompanying book, shown here, along with my first video, “Limited Palette Landscape”, include everything I’ve taught in my workshops. You can now take my oil painting workshop right in the comfort of your home, and for a lot less money than physically being present. (Click image to learn more)


John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Living Master. To view his art and bio, please click HERE.


Please Note - You must be logged into a Facebook account in order to write comments. We highly recommend using Google Chrome, Fire Fox, or Internet Explorer since some individuals have not been able to leave comments on the Safari browser. If you have any issues, please email me.