As I work from direct observation (as opposed to photographic references), setting up and lighting the scenario (requiring its own time) begins the physical creative process, 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 am surrounded with potential props. The objects to paint are selected firstly for their aesthetic contribution, but as the painting's concept develops and comes into focus, they must also survive layers of intellectual and visceral filtering in order to ultimately remain and participate within a constructed scene. It is a fluid, spontaneous experience. These objects, some of which have a personal connection to me, I continue to collect, or if need be (as in the case of "The Wonderweapon" [a sculpture created to then paint]), make. Along with my origami dragons and dolls, another visual trademark is my inclusion of colored glass to produce luminous shadows: shadows in general, are a major compositional contributor to my designs. What will be obvious is that these objects are ordered, formal so to speak: deliberately placed: a world constructed by my desire to order. Speaking to this, I noticed over time my tendency to include a "perfect" horizontal line somewhere within the image, however small, often the mere lip of a bottle, etc.. This seems to be a need I have, and so I find this inclusion of design "stability" 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 from a mid-tone ground, with the brushstrokes being eliminated by stipple brushes; the end result is my soft-edged version of "realism" wherein the represented objects are allowed to emerge from their surroundings and shadows, gradually becoming more solid only as need be. In fact, I seek opportunities wherein contours can be completely lost. Along with glazing and wiping, a variety of other techniques are employed to produce the many subtle 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, my brush selection descends in size as the painting proceeds, however I often unify large areas by means of glazes using the larger specialty brushes; this is done at various stages of the image development, often adding a final, subtle glaze of light or shadow at the very end.
Though I cannot over-stress the importance of draftsmanship to the visual artist's skill set, I do no preparatory drawing for my still life paintings; the "drawing" is worked out in paint.
My glazing medium is Windsor & Newton Original Liquin. My full palette consists largely of Windsor & Newton Artist's Oil Paints: Cobalt Blue, French Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Blue, Phthalo Green, Quinacridone Violet (M. Graham Co.), Cobalt Violet, Cadmium Scarlet, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Naples Yellow Light, and Ivory Black (Bone Black) - as well as Weber Permalba White & Gamblin Flake White Replacement. My limited "constant" palette is noted in bold type.
This palette consists of transparent and opaque pigments.
I use Masonite and birch panels, applying a traditional 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. Once thoroughly dry, a thin isolating layer of alkyd resin is added over the traditional gesso which is also allowed to dry thoroughly. Finally, an alkyd based mid-tone ground is added with a 2" brush, with application brushstrokes then being 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.