I finished this mixed media painting recently for my latest piece on Every Day Original, and thought I’d share a bit about the process here.

To See The Wind, 5×5″, graphite and acrylic on panel

I started with a drawing with graphite powder and water on gessoed illustration board using brushes and erasers and pencils in the smaller strokes to make the marks. I’ve been enjoying working in graphite on gessoed surfaces on a few other drawings I’ve been doing in my sketchbooks because of the tooth that gesso has as well as the texture that the unsanded brushstrokes on the prepped gessoed surface provides.

My intention with this piece was to add acrylic paint in layers over the graphite drawing. Once I felt like the drawing was at a good point to start to add those paint layers, I sealed the drawing with a couple layers of spray fixative and then once that was dry, I brushed a coat of matte medium on it as well. I like to use matte medium especially when working in a mixed media piece that I may go back and draw with graphite on new layers. The matte finish still has a nice tooth to it that can be drawn on with pencil as opposed to using the gloss medium.

The first layers of paint were thinned with a mix of water and matte medium so that the drawing would still show through. The next layers were translucent, adding a bit of white mixed into my halftones and lights in some areas such as the face in order to push and pull the forms out from that drawing while still allowing for what was underneath to slightly show through. Another layer of translucent halftones was added to describe the forms while maintaining a steady transition from initial layer to these painted layers.

The graphite drawing gave me a lot of interesting textures to work into and manipulate a bit. There was an intention to tell a story in this, but to try to keep the imagery somewhat abstract, with hints at forms without describing the forms in full rendered iterations, so I did have some sort of intent going in, but to keep it the concept more abstract in nature. I’ve been working on some other sketchbook drawings here and there, and in those, I’ve been mainly attempting to depict abstract concepts or formless things such as weather and feelings or moods.

This image was painted from imagination, inspired by a dream depicting what I saw as a liminal state with a show of support in feathers swirling all around me, but never actually falling to the ground. I took it as a beautiful sign of transition, insight, protectiveness, and strength – a wider awareness in a time when the thought of what’s next seems daunting – to see the wind by way of seeing feathers floating in it as if to say that the direction is only determined by when/if I choose to go with where the wind takes me – and that there will be help and hope all around me, everywhere I may look to find it, in any or all of those directions.

I added the hands at a later stage, but had seen shapes that informed the development of them later as I built up the painting. There are a lot of ‘hidden’ forms of birds or bird-like features and shapes as well as feather-like imagery, but I chose to depict those as more like it was describing the movement of the wind or elements that we’d find in the sky. Well, my intent here in this post isn’t necessarily to describe what you should see because I’d really rather not do that with the images I paint, but I as I’m listing areas of development of the painting or any time I post about the process or progress of an image, it’s sometimes tough to not include things like that. The last thing I might add, though, is that I wanted the figure to feel calm and present in her surroundings. I intended to keep much of the marks loose as the initial drawing was, but refine in areas to add to the energy of the wind/movement and definition of the still/rendered forms. The purpose of layering, for me, is not really to cover the underpainting entirely, but to allow for it show through in some parts, as well as depicting a seamless integration of those layers by building up the transitions in thin layers. The last layer of paint is the most opaque but used in smaller areas and details.

It’s a small piece at 5×5”, and went relatively quickly because of the nature of the acrylic medium and how fast it dries. I work in oil in this same process of layering (but rarely with any kind of graphite underneath), but the drying time is slower, so it’s partly why I work with a few paintings going at once. I really enjoyed working on this and it was a nice switch from some of the other work I’ve currently also got going at the moment.