Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tropical Landscape Painting

It took three months, but I finally finished my first painting on canvas!  It's not perfect, but I learned so much as I worked, and I'm happy with it. After doing three paintings on paper, I realized I love doing it and will continue for the foreseeable future, so I began to invest in better supplies. Now I'm perusing the Dick Blick catalog as it it's Vogue, lusting after thick, buttery, densely-pigmented paints the way other women lust after Louboutins.
Hi. I made a thing.
I love the look of vintage paint-by-number paintings. It's fun to consider that the the mind needs to make sense of chaos, takes a group of colored blobs, and translates them into a recognizable image. It's like inviting Rorschach into your living room. Juxtaposing the casualness of paint-by-number with the seriousness of certain images amuses me. My friend Adam has asked me to paint Medieval religious iconography in this style for him, and I love that idea. But this piece was made for Keith, and he isn't as interested in the irreverent juxtaposition of images. But Keith wants to visit Hawaii, and he can't do it now. So for this piece, I combined the look of a paint by number with that of a postcard.

I used the "make your own paint by number" method I described before, but this time I worked from a stock image. Every step of the process was done by hand. After I made my template on paper, I transferred it to canvas with carbon paper and red pencil. Do you know how hard it is to find carbon paper nowadays?! It's also time-consuming; the tracing alone took about 5 hours. But I'm glad I did it. As I traced, I changed parts of the image and made it my own. Before, I painted directly onto my template, and it felt too impersonal.

When I began painting, the lessons began...  

First lesson: One's first piece on canvas probably shouldn't be twenty-four by thirty-six inches. Oops.

More lessons, a few more pictures, and what I did with it when I was finished...

Second lesson: Do not use thin, cheap paint. The dark green portion in the lower right part of the image took about 5 hours to paint because the dark bluish-green paint I bought was thin, cheap crap.

These pictures are about to become very redundant. Sorry.
It's not like the painting suddenly grows tentacles and walks across the room.
Third lesson: Do not do all the (insert color name here) sections first, then all the (insert other color name here) sections, ad nauseum. It's easier to work from top to bottom, doing all the areas that touch each other. I was afraid I'd waste paint if I did that, but that was a mistake.

Fourth lesson: You don't waste paint because you worked in the wrong order. You waste paint because you squeezed out too much paint at once, and then it began to dry on the palette, and then you got icky bits of dried paint on the canvas, and then you picked them off and messed up the image and had to do that section again. 

Fifth lesson: When you're finished, use a sealant. You know how your posters in college faded after a few years in the sunshine? A sealant protects the image from sun, makes your colors look richer, and it adds a depth I didn't expect from acrylics. I spent $15 I don't have on Liquitex Gloss Varnish, and I'm so glad I did. Looks like I should have bought it on Amazon, though. Oops!

The only problem with a sealant: It makes it hard to photograph your painting.
That glare on the left isn't really real. Just trust me: The sealant is worth it!

Sixth lesson: Get Amazon Prime, and buy it on Amazon!

Want to know what I did with it? I traded it for a receiver and expertly refurbished pair of Technics SB-7070 speakers. These are gigantic, doo-doo brown '70s speakers, and I don't care, because they sound so good. In a past life, these speakers lived in the Protomen party house in Murfreesboro, and somehow they survived. Last night the painting was claimed and the speakers were hooked up, and as soon as I was alone, I had a one-woman dance party in go-go boots. This is awesome; my neighbors are going to hate me!


  1. Hi, I found you blog by googling how to make your own paint by numbers and I am really excited to try your technique. I have just finished turning one of my own photographs into a template using your Photoshop tutorial. We will see how painting goes!

    1. Hi Evangeline, I'm so glad you found my blog and it was helpful! I'd love to see how your painting turns out. Please post pictures when you finish? :)

  2. How cool! I've never heard of this before! I'll have to try it too. Love how your painting turned out! Would have looked awesome in my home down here in PR :)


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