Many people have been interested in the process that is involved in developing an image. Below, I use the painting, "A Fragile Fall", as an example to show how I develop an image in stages.

Of course, each painting is very different and the artistic process for each can also be quite different. I try to maintain a balance between the decisions that I make early in the planning process and the decisions that I make later while doing the painting. The medium I am using also makes a huge difference in the process - acrylic paint (which is what I used for "A Fragile Fall") has much more latitude than watercolor paint for making changes and rethinking decisions in the midst of painting.

The starting point - a rough sketch containing the basic idea for the painting. It also contains a number of ideas that did not make it into the finished piece.
The first thing I did was to paint the leaves, by pressing real leaves into wet paint, then let the paint dry with them in place. When they were removed, they left an impression of the stem, veins, etc. This photo shows the painting at this point, covered by tracing paper on which I have drawn an outline of the basic design.
Next, I applied masking fluid to the paper in the areas of the 2 central shapes, to keep those areas free of paint while I painted the background. Then, I painted the background (black acrylic covered by red acrylic spattered with a toothbrush) and removed the masking from the 2 central shapes. Then, I outlined the leaves in black and applied masking fluid over the leaves (that is why they look shiny in the photograph) in preparation for the next step.
Here, I added a thin layer of light blue and burnt sienna to cover the right shape. The leaves were protected by the masking fluid.
Next, I removed the masking from the leaves and began painting the left shape. The blue tape and surrounding paper are to protect the painting from accidental spatters. I painted the left shape in a number of thin layers, building it up slowly. I used masking fluid to create the central "stem" and "veins". I also added the gingko leaf negative space shape, painted to resemble the background.
Here, I have darkened the left shape and it is almost complete.
 
In the final painting, I have added a violet/red/orange layer on the outside of the right shape and outlined its leaves with a red line. For the overall painting, I added thin light lines over the background which surround the shapes and connect them to the outside edge of the painting.
 

All images © 2008 Hans Heilman