From the Phone to the Canvas: How I Make a Painting

As you may know, I gather most of my painting reference material by taking shapshots with my smartphone. I then edit the photos on my phone directly. Here’s how I paint from phone photos.

(Can’t see the video? Click here.)

Start with the phone

My phone is always in my pocket, so it’s the most convenient camera. Plus, I can edit from the phone. I tend to take photos of fog and sunrises. Bonus points if I can get them both in the same shot! I’ll then edit with something like Mextures or Snapseed right on the phone. Sometimes I have an idea of what I want to do with the color. Usually I start with the composition, and then give it color in Mextures. It’s always about the mood. In this case, I wanted to create warmth.

Once I’ve edited the photo, I send it to my first generation iPad mini. It sits on my painting table next to my easel. It beats printing it out because I can get started much faster and zoom in on details if I need to. The zoom feature isn’t often necessary since by the time I’m at the detail stage, the painting doesn’t look that much like the source photo. The photo is simply a guide until the canvas takes on a life of its own.

To the canvas!

On a canvas I’ve toned orange I’ll establish the overall shapes by massing in the dark areas. I create texture with lots of drips.

Now I start building up the color. I try to work quickly and not get stuck in one area. I want to establish a full range of values as soon as possible. I allow the orange bleed through in some places.

Wrap it up.

From here it’s mostly just building up layers of paint. Once I’m finished, I sign it, varnish it, and paint the edges charcoal gray.