Mittens. 5"x7". Oil on Panel.
I've been doing a lot of reflection about my art recently: the process, the meaning behind it, what’s working, and what isn’t. And it’s been difficult thinking about everything I want to do, what I’m ready to do, etc. Basically, a reality check.
To work through this time, (I’m doing better now) I decided to paint a close-up photo of my cat, Mittens. I wish I could tell you more about Mittens, like what kind of cat he is, but I have no idea lol. I will say he likes to go outside when it’s dark sometimes, he growls at people/cars outside (he stares out the window all day), and he’s such a cool cat overall.
Let’s talk about the painting!
I started with a very rough sketch. Having some combination of lines and shapes on the surface helps me feel more comfortable with the subject before I start painting anything. I usually do some type of sketch first, whether it be graphite or charcoal. After the sketch was okay to me, I painted a thin layer of yellow ochre acrylic paint over the entire panel. I have used oil paint for this step before, though I’ll typically use acrylic due to its ability to dry fast. I just thin the paint with water when using acrylic.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t super confident going into this painting. Obviously, that sketch is horrendous and it’s because I didn’t want to do one at all. I figured it was a good idea to put something down though. Whenever I don’t have a plan in mind, I find myself experimenting more, which is seen a lot through the process of this painting.
At this point, and I wish I had kept track of time for this painting, (and that’s simply another thing I am not yet in the habit of doing) I decided to use phthalo green and add some pink undertones along with the yellow. By doing this, I’m able to add a variety of values and hues that will show through in the finished piece, under the black and white fur. I also wanted to keep the texture interesting throughout the layers.
After this, I was wondering if I would be able to keep the texture I had created with the underpainting because I had planned to go over this with the black and white fur texture. I eventually decided to block in the main black and white values in a thin layer over the underpainting. I feel like I went a bit overboard in this step, trying to do too much, on a small canvas without any good liner brushes.
I felt stuck and honestly, I wanted to either give up or start over completely.... so then I bought new brushes a couple of days after getting to this stage (very much needed omg) and I kept going.
Below, you'll see a few progress photos where I used my new brushes before the final result. I learned a lot through this process of painting Mittens: more about myself and my art process and what it means to me to be an artist. I also am constantly learning new techniques, what works and what doesn't. During these last few stages, I was mostly working in smaller sections to get the detail I wanted until I decided there really isn't anything else I wanted to add, change or remove. And that's it!
I am still new to creating MY art, rather than doing custom commissions or paintings I think people would like. I absolutely love creating art for people, but I have so many original ideas I want to start finally working on. I created this painting to build my confidence as an artist. I really needed to convince myself that I actually knew what I was doing, which I do, and documenting this project and evaluating/reflecting on the process has given me the motivation and inspiration to keep going for sure.
You can see other Mittens content on my:
Insta - artbynicolegriffin
TikTok - imnicolegriffin
Thank you for reading!