Friday, March 4, 2016

Painting without a plan

In one of my Top Ten painting tips (blog entry May 5, 2014) I quoted a fellow painter who said: "Failing to plan is planning to fail". I agree. He's right. Problem is I have another rule that says: "You need to break your own rules every now and then". And of course there is Leonardo da Vinci, who advised painters to look at old, weather-beaten walls, to sharpen their imagination. Much like kids look at clouds and see elephants and castles.

A few weeks ago I really felt like painting without a plan. I had a 90 x 120 cm panel, paint, brushes, everything you need to make a painting. I mixed a lot of soft blue and covered the panel with it. Sadly I forgot to take a picture of this first stage. Then I decided where my horizon would be and painted a slightly darker color above and below it. Immediately it looked like the reflection of a band of clouds. The fun of the whole thing is that you start seeing things in what is basically a surface covered with paint. By coincidence the right side of the painting was a bit darker than the left side and I imagined a dark cloud coming in. In this first stage everything is done wet-on-wet and with big flat brushes, so called spalters.

I won't bore you with every single step of the process, but in the end, the cloud disappeared, a dune popped up and I had a great time. The final image was (in my mind) a picture of an early morning with soft light coming through.

You should give it a try. If you do, let me know!

Morning, 90 x 120 cm, oil on panel


  1. Loved seeing the progression in this painting - It felt like I was witnessing a progressive clearing of a an early morning storm as the sun slowly came up and claimed center stage. Most delightful!

  2. Painting without a plan, I always end up with something abstract. I need rules, clear ideas and pencil drawings on the board. I think that's the result of lack of experience and despair about not knowing where I'll end up, haha. I can imagine it's your experience that gives you the confidence things will end up beautiful, but eh, how do you "keep calm"? And do you think you would be able to go down the challenging road of abstraction or will that make you feel at a loss? :)

    1. Hi Susan. I know I want to make a landscape, so in that sense I'm not totally without a plan. And to be honest, I don't always keep calm during the process. I'll leave it alone every now and then, so I'm able to look at it with an open mind.
      During my training at Art School I did go down the road of abstraction and it taught me a lot. Mainly
      about composition and rhythm. Both very helpful when you're a landscape painter.