process of painting ‘low moan, wide hat’

I’ve been busy painting, the last couple of weeks.  Three paintings done, another started.  My goal is to finish at least 5 paintings in May.  My art marketing book tells me that if I’m not able to produce new works at that volume or higher, it would be better not to try making a living from art.  I understand that that’s an arbitrary number, my milage my vary, and that I’m also running a publishing company.  I also understand that that’s the minimum prescribed, and that similar figures have been given through other resources I follow online.  So, if I can at least aim for getting a bunch of new paintings done all the time, plus getting new writing done, new audiobooks recorded, and time spent marketing, I figure I have a shot at this.  Plan way, way too much to do and, in failing, still get more than a reasonable amount of work done.

Anyway, last week I started work on another of my paintings based on a sketch / doodle I did in the margin of a page of notes at work last year.  At the time that I doodled it, I outlined what was supposed to be part of the drawing in red – you can see that there were some overlapping notes leftover, in the picture below on the left.  If you look closely at the picture on the right, you can just make out the pencil-line I sketched freehand onto the canvas to get things started for this piece.  It didn’t match the original sketch, but considering I was freehand drawing from a blurry photo of a doodle, and that the whole thing is in a pretty loose style, I wasn’t too worried about it.  The pencil sketch captured the important details of the figure.

low moan, wide hat - process step 1 low moan, wide hat - process step 2

Instead of doing what I’d been doing on the last few pieces, and building up layers, from foreground to background, I decided to just paint everything at once on this piece, and stitch the colors together with a thick border, akin to what I’d done to outline the figure in audacity of hope.  So, I knew the character’s skin would be a pale blue-green color, and wanted his hat & coat to be a darker, but cool color, somewhere between deep blue-black and a dark violet, or perhaps a dark grey with a hint of color.  But I wasn’t sure what color the background should be, so … I just picked the color that contrasted with dark blues and purples the most, and voila – an orange background!  Before the orange even started to dry (which is how I usually operate – paint one color, wait for it to dry, paint the next color, and so on…) I went ahead and got out some purple and blue and white to mix in for the band and top of the hat, and got to work on the hat and coat.  It was much more purple than I’d intended.  I kept mixing more blue in, especially into the coat, but in the end, it was all much too purple to match my intentions.  Since the orange had actually ended up much more saturated than I’d wanted, the contrast between the rich orange and the rich purple ended up being well matched.

low moan, wide hat - process step 3 low moan, wide hat - process step 4

low moan, wide hat - process step 5 Then, while those colors were still drying, I moved forward again.  I mixed up a pale blue-green for the skin, more blue in the skin and more green in the beard, but a very subtle gradation between hues was what I was going for.  In contrast with the blue-purple coat surrounding it, the green in the beard almost disappears.  I actually spent about as much time just on getting the beard to look the way I wanted as I had on the entire hat.  I knew I’d been planning on adding a thick outline to the major features of the character before I was done, but I also didn’t want to have to outline the beard – I wanted it to look furry/hairy on its own.  So I made sure that I not only was creating variations in color, but that I was creating a fully-overlapping color, beard-over-coat, with hairs and mess along the full edge of the beard, from lip to eyeball.  The other colors all had a bit of space between them, and were fairly rough, but for the beard I made sure that the edge I was painting would be an edge I was happy with.  More green added to the blue-green for the eyes, then black added to that for the centers, and then for the mouth.  For the centers, I also didn’t want to have them outlined, so I made sure the black was touching the green.  Then, finally, I decided to let it dry before doing the outlines.

low moan, wide hat - process step 6 The next morning, I went out to run some errands, among which was to pick up a gold paint pen.  I actually ended up going to six different places to find three items.  Only one of which was the gold paint pen that I used to outline the figure’s hat and coat.  I’d already had a pearlescent blue pen on hand to use to outline the figure’s eyes and mouth, and that was the easy part.  I fought with myself for a long while, trying to get happy with the shape of the hat, the thicknesses of the lines, how much purple was left, how much gold I wanted to use in total…  And the pen I’d bought was terrible.  Just terrible.  It was a real pain just trying to use it without screwing anything up, but after the morning I’d had running all over I wasn’t about to go out and start looking for another one, so I struggled through.

Then I spent a couple of hours debating with myself (and with a few people on Twitter) over whether or not I ought to add in the feather-in-his-cap that had appeared in the original sketch (but which, I think, would have made the figure look much more pimp-like, and much less jazz-y), and what, exactly to call the thing.  In the end, I decided no feather, and a title both evocative and descriptive in turns.

Thus, I give you: ‘low moan, wide hat’, available for purchase from

low moan, wide hat - finished