As I work from direct observation (as opposed to photographic references), setting up and lighting the scenario begins the physical creative process - requiring its own time - followed by a few months of actual painting. Mine is a relatively slow process, but I have learned by experience that my results are best when I allow developmental time. Having said that, and within that context, my process is efficient. I must also mention my admiration for painters who can successfully sum things up quickly - in a few delicious brushstrokes. I too have done so on occasion with satisfying results, for I have painted in a great variety of ways (short of vomiting pigment, or leaving my naked impression upon anything lasting [visually speaking only, of course]). However, I believe my best results require time and (gulp) thought. Honestly - and for a variety of reasons - sometimes I wish that wasn't so.
I surround myself with potential still life props: some used repeatedly, some in waiting. Developing the setup is a fluid, spontaneous experience, more so in fact than my associated manner of painting. These objects (props) are selected consciously and subconsciously, I believe, obviously chosen for their aesthetic contribution, but they must also - as the concept develops and comes into focus - survive layers of intellectual and visceral filtering in order to ultimately remain and participate within a constructed scene. They must "earn the right to stay," so to speak. Fittingly, I am an appreciator of peculiar things (seldom having to do with monetary value), and continue to gather objects, or if need be (as in the case of "The Wonderweapon" [a sculpture created to then paint]), I construct them. Amusingly perhaps, I do not consider myself "a collector" of anything, really, yet have accumulated collections of dolls, bottles, and a variety of stuff. My visual trademarks are the use of origami dragons, dolls, and colored glass to produce luminous shadows: shadows in general, are a major compositional contributor to my designs. I must also mention my emphasis on edges: soft vs crisp, lost and found.
What will be obvious is that these objects are ordered, formal so to speak: deliberately placed. After all, it's my little world in which to order. I am obsessive/compulsive, as I certainly obsess over my work, and am driven by compulsion to produce it, yet I must note that - if my work contains any perceived quality - it is because of this very fact. Speaking to this, I have noticed in hindsight my tendency to include a "perfect" horizontal line somewhere within my still lifes, however small, often the mere lip of a bottle. I was not doing this consciously, initially that is. This seems to be a need I have (compulsion), and so I find this inclusion of design "stability" (order) satisfying. Lastly, though I stress the importance of draftsmanship to the visual artist's fundamental skill set, I do no preparatory drawing for my still lifes; the drawing is worked out directly in paint. No mechanical devices (including photography) are utilized to produce these paintings.
From a technical standpoint, each painting is built up in glazes, usually from a mid-tone ground, with brushstrokes being eliminated by stipple brushes; the end result is my version of "realism" (as we currently use the term) wherein the represented objects are allowed to emerge from their surroundings and shadows, gradually becoming more solid only as need be. This allows for a particular softness to be achieved. In fact, I seek opportunities wherein contours can be completely lost; treatment of edges, as mentioned earlier, are of great importance. Likewise, placing emphasis on nuance and subtlety, the parameters I set for this work (color temperature and contrast, etc.) may be relatively narrow. Along with glazing and wiping, a variety of other techniques are employed to produce the surface textures, including dragging, rubbing, scumbling, tamping, and even a few more secretive methods of paint manipulation: a combination of direct and indirect painting.
Typically, as expected, my brush selection descends in size as the painting proceeds, however I intermittently glaze broad areas adjusting light, shadow, or color temperature by means of large stipple brushes throughout the image development. I mention this only to point out that the final touches to my "detailed work" might be applied with a three inch diameter brush in my hand.
My glazing medium is Windsor & Newton Original Liquin. My full palette consists of Phthalo Blue, Cobalt Blue, Ivory Black (Bone Black), Burnt Umber, Quinacridone Violet, Cadmium Scarlet, Raw Sienna, Yellow Ochre Pale, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Naples Yellow Light, as well as Permalba White. I utilize Ultramarine Blue, and Phthalo Green on occasion. This palette consists of mostly transparent pigments.
I currently use birch panels, applying gesso with a foam roller. This leaves a subtle orange peel texture which is visible through the final varnish, and is thus important to my surface. An alkyd based mid-tone ground is brushed over the gesso, after which the application brushstrokes are eliminated by a Stipple Block. The panel is now prepped for painting.
Among my most important tools are blue Scott Shop Towels, which I fold into quarters for rubbing or wiping, and roll to points for precise "drawing" into the paint; as they are a staple of my studio, I will list them first. My tools also include a variety of stipple brushes, Pouncers, and mops: the smallest being an Artist's Loft #10 Scrumbler, the 1/2" Grumbacher Oval Wash (used for stippling), the Loew-Cornell 275 Oval Wash & Artist's Loft 1 1/2" Oval (used for stippling), and the largest of which is the Dynasty Big Mop. Much stiffer than mops, I also use Pouncers and Stencil brushes often designed for the craft market. Two of my favorites are the ChalkPro 2" & 1 1/2" rounds sold as "waxing" brushes for the furniture market; these are fantastic stipple brushes, and very well made. Other specialty brushes include small Deer Foot stipple brushes (they can be problem solvers). As to more traditional brushes, I generally utilize flats (descending in size):#8 Series 279 MC Long Flat: Rosemary & Co. Brushes, a #10 6700F Shader: Royal & Langnickel, a Series 55 1/4" Pure kolinsky One Stroke: Rosemary & Co. Brushes, and finally a #4 6700F Shader: Royal & Langnickel. For fine detail I often use a #4 Master's Touch 870 Script Liner.
The process of glazing requires a degree of wiping/rubbing, in my case, with Scott Shop Towels; blue wipes, as I call them. When rubbing, the towel is dry, but when wiping the surface clean I use OMS.
I do not "oil out" the final painting. I do, however, add a slight alkyd resin isolating layer instead. This isolating layer is to ensure that the delicate gradations of paint are separated from any future varnish removal and cleaning. I use Gamblin Gamvar as a final varnish, then apply a dulling over-spray to achieve a satin finish.
I maintain 2 lidded gallon containers which remain about 1/4 full of artist's grade Odorless Mineral Spirits: one is a "dirty wash" of OMS (to collect the paint from the brushes), followed by a "clean wash" of OMS to rinse the brush. Obviously, these containers must be tended to on occasion (when sediment is settled) by pouring off the OMS and disposing of the sediments (I collect this "goop" in another sealed container, for final disposal). The poured off OMS may then be poured back and topped off for continued use.
My final rinses are with Distilled Turpentine, then again in clean OMS, followed by a washing in warm water and saved in Murphy's Oil Soap.
I don't recall ever having a cute little smudge on the tip of my nose, but if I ever do I'll clean that up too.