I am a planner (and not ashamed to admit it). While I may spend time sketching for fun, when beginning a new painting, I always have a plan. While I am a strong advocate for planning (in particular, using thumbnail sketches), my plans are always subject to change. At any point during the process, it is alright to say “this is not working.”
Planning for “The Watcher” began with observation of a snowy owl, videotaping, reference photos and several thumbnail sketches. After selecting the most dramatic sketch, the painting process began with an underpainting to tint the paper, selection of the pastels and laying in the initial dark values.
But something had gone awry. As commonly happens when a face is tilted, the beak had become misaligned. These types of errors can be discovered by frequently stepping back from the painting, viewing the painting in a mirror, or turning the painting upside down. Catching these types of errors early on makes correction easier. Even with the best of plans, adjustments might be needed along the way.
By the time I was laying in the mid-values, I noticed that the painting was starting to lose focus from my initial intention. The drama of the owl’s eyes was being diminished by the amount of area committed to feathers. The original dimensions of the painting were 11×14”.
No problem! Crop it! By changing the dimensions to 9×12”, it brought the focus back to the reason for the painting, those piercing golden eyes!
I may begin with a plan, but I am not bound to that plan. If I have to brush off pastel or even take a pair of scissors to a painting, I will do it to make the painting stronger. Any plan is subject to change.