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how to grow a painting

The Evolution of a Painting

Monday 15 August 2022

Paintings begin in many different ways.  They can start as an idea, a development from another painting, or simply be the growth of studies from life.  The paintings in this blog were inspired by an art video that I saw at the Victoria & Albert Museum as part of the ‘Fashioning Masculinities’ exhibition.  This video showed an incredible flow of movement of the human form, which made me think of how energy moves through the natural world from humanity to the landscape around us.


My initial ideas tend to be a scribble in my art journal, and this was no different.  You can see in this biro drawing I am trying to capture movement, energy, and flow.

Drawing of figures moving


Once I have started to formalise the idea, I research the forms that I will have in the painting.  I like to be accurate, with a lot of detail.  Whilst the final image may not contain lots of detail, if I am drawing a moving human figure in various stances, this needs to be accurate, so the sense of the flow isn’t impeded.  This includes the weight of the figure, positioning of limbs and tension of muscles foreshortening.  I therefore begin by studying a model from life.


Figure drawingFigure Drawing

Figure DrawingFigure Drawing


Once I understand how the human body moves and the shapes it can make, I can then start to think developing these ideas into an artwork.  The drawing on the bottom right is simply tracking the model’s movements with lines; at this stage of developing the painting I am taking a closer look at visualising my initial idea of portraying movement, energy and flow.

Figure Drawing  Figure Drawing  Drawing of movement


During my creative process I frequently refer to life and study the details.  In this case I was looking at the tension within the figure and how that effects the shape of the form.

Figure Drawing


Whilst I appreciate the intricacies of detail, I always question how much to put into a final piece.  My work does not provide a photographic realism of my subject; my artwork is about bringing creativity to the painting and creating a piece of art.  My first stage was to think about how little information I could include without compromising the idea of the human form, you can see this in my two drawings below.

Figure Drawing  Figure Drawing  

In the following drawings I am thinking about the overall composition and representing flow of energy between the human form and nature:

Figure Drawing  Figure Drawing

I have now clarified these ideas into my final forms, which will be the backbone and structure of the painting:

Figure DrawingFigure DrawingFigure Drawing


Working with the flow and shapes, I then add flowers and nature, applying shading to evaluate the overall composition:

Figure DrawingFigure Drawing

Once I have created this final idea, I think about whether I have achieved the ideas I set out to do, is there a relationship between humanity and nature portrayed?  Is there a sense of energy and flow from the figures as they track through the composition?  For the final idea, I add shading and colour, to decide on which elements of the composition I want to be obvious and which not and I finally decide upon the amount of detail I want to add.

At this stage I also decide if I need to go back to the drawing board and try again, or if it will continue to develop into a painting.  Creativity is not always linear or happen in logical process, sometimes drawings happened at different times, but the final idea above does happen last. 
The neatly portrayed wall of ideas happens at the end of the process.  The last 2 weeks this wall has been spread around my studio covering 2 desks and the floor…



The first stages of a painting can take several months, as I add very thin layers of oil paint to provide detail and depth of colour.  Because it is oil paint, each layer has to dry fully before the next can be added.

Painting in progressPainting in progress

Painting in progress


Whilst I am quite literally waiting for the paint to dry before I add the next layer, I either work on other paintings or I continue the same theme described above to develop other pieces of work.  In this case, I have been enthralled by portraying the flow of  energy through nature, that I have continued to develop this series.

When I create a series of work, I frequently jump back to my sketchbook or journal to explore further compositional ideas:

Drawing of figures and flowers

Painting of figures and flowers

I also consider alternative colour schemes and materials used to see how this affects the piece.  As watercolour is a more fluid medium than oil, I decided to experiment with that because by using water I can literally show the idea flow through colour.


Once I have decided on further sketches that I wish to develop from my process, I start working on these pieces, ensuring that they emphasise both movement and flow.

Painting in progress  Painting of figures and flowers

In the pictures below you can see some of the detail within the painting, highlighting the patterns which water brings to the watercolour medium:

Painting of flowersPainting of  flowers

Painting in progressPainting in progress

watercolour painting

watercolour painting detailwatercolour painting detail

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog showing the evolution of my paintings and where my inspiration comes from. Each artist’s creative process is unique to them, and I have just given you a small insight into how I have been creating my latest oil painting and series. I am fascinated with the idea of energy and flow within nature because humanity is intrinsically linked with nature and it’s natural cycles. From water to carbon, we take and give back to the environment, and not always in a bad way.

If you would like further information that my FAQ’s don’t answer, or would like to reserve one of my paintings please don’t hesitate to contact me on


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