Designing a painting - early stages

I’m back to talk about how I design compositions. More than a few years ago I got the chance to photograph at opening day of the Arapahoe Hunt club. I took hundreds of photos. Among them many close-ups of the hounds. I have kept these photos in my future ideas file and finally pulled them out and started working.


I needed to figure out how to take the idea of these photos and pull them into a cohesive visual statement. The first thing I did was zero in on the dog in the above photo who is looking straight at the viewer with a lovely expression. He will be the focal point of this painting. My thought was if I use the rule of thirds and place his head close to the upper right corner of the painting the rest of the dogs will be secondary. There are a lot of things happening in these images so it is necessary to edit the dogs by thinking about the placement of shadows and shape. The next stage is to do a small pencil sketch to see how to put them all together.


Once I can see how this idea looks and how all the shapes are fitting into an overall composition I am ready to start the final painting. For this piece I will do a fairly detailed underpainting, which is essentially a monochromatic version of the painting which simply shows me the placement of shapes and the values that will be used.


Here I can see the dark light pattern and the beginnings of the value relationships. I will continue to work on this stage a bit more. I don’t always do underpaintings, sometimes I am just too impatient, however this piece feels like I need a map to follow so I get all the pieces working well together. I will continue to post progress pictures perhaps here and on my Instagram account at rsfineart. Wish me luck!