Do you start to get nervous half way through a painting that you are really happy with, but know there is still a long way to go? What happens when you have done a fantastic looking background and now you get to the stage of putting in foreground objects but you aren’t sure exactly where they should go or even what shape to paint? You don’t want to muck up the great work that you have already done and often you start to get very nervous about adding more to the painting. Here are a couple of great tips showing you how I get around that problem with my paintings.

I mostly work with acrylic, which means that i can start with my background and work my way forward by overpainting. I do this so that my background brushstrokes will continue flowing behind the foreground objects without interruption. The downside of this method is that any lines that I have drawn on the canvas will be painted over and it can be difficult to see where the shapes were in the original drawing. In this example I started by painting a very rough sketch onto the canvas just to position the main objects and character on my canvas. But as you can see after painting the background, much of the sketch is lost by overpainting.

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Here is where I get out the magic tool, tracing paper! I tape the tracing paper directly to the dry canvas and do my drawing straight onto the tracing paper. Its actually great to draw on, the graphite draws well onto the smooth surface and also rubs out really well (its a very different feeling to drawing on paper). I started by marking out the area that I have got to work with and marking any key points that need to match the backround, eg the edge of the rock, basic shape of the head and position that hands and feet need to connect with the rock. Then put a large sheet of cardboard behind my tracing paper while doing my drawing. This lets me work on the drawing in more detail without the background image getting in the way. At any stage you can remove the backing cardboard to see how well it is sitting on the background.

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When I’m happy with the drawing I get out the next magic tool, transfer paper (also known as graphite paper). Transfer paper is great, you can buy it in a few different colours (I just use graphite and white transfer papers). One side of the transfer paper has a layer of graphite like substance that transfers onto your paper/canvas if you draw on the other side. Just one sheet is enough because you can slide it around behind your tracing paper. Put it between your canvas and your tracing paper (make sure it is transfer side down) and draw over your own drawing on the tracing paper.

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Once you are finished you can remove the tracing paper and you can see this will now give you an outline on your canvas that you paint up to. I use this method for details that I want to be sure to get correct.

If you are making a big change or adding something significant but you aren’t sure if it will add value to the painting, I often take a photo of the work in its current state and work on it in photoshop to test out different options. Its a great tool, allowing you to use layers and colour corrections and can easily make changes without destroying your painting. When I am happy with the result then I’ll go back and put it into my painting. How I use photoshop will be another story for another day.

Hope that helps, have fun painting!


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