“Painting is a kind of call and response. During the act of painting one is listening, paying attention to a self, a voice simultaneously recognizable and foreign.” -Squeak Carnwath


I have had no formal training in painting. None. It’s odd because when I was learning about how to work with clay, I took dozens of workshops from some really amazing clay artists. But with painting, I like finding my own way. I really enjoy just seeing what works and I’m afraid of a teacher telling me I’m doing it all wrong and ‘correct’ my methods and style. So when I describe process, it’s my process.

First I gesso – one coat on a birch panel. When that dries, I start just putting on paint without much thought to what I want the finished painting to be. Layer after layer, reacting to each layer and building the next layer from what I see on each layer.

When I  am happy with the underpainting, I use Stabilo charcoal pencils to draw in my story – the figures, buildings and whatever landscape the underpainting seems to be giving me. At this point I prefer to walk away for awhile and come back with fresh eyes. The charcoal pencil is fully removable, so I can change my mind and quite often I do.

Below is a series of photos of a painting I started this week. It’s in no way complete. During this phase, I fall in and out of love with the painting many times. In fact as I continue to paint, I know I’m finished when I finally like it again. This painting’s working title is ‘The Town’s Minstrels.’

At first the charcoal drawings. These are all on one 24×24 birch panel – just little snippets of the beginnings of a painting.

WIP first drawings WIP first drawings WIP first drawings


Then I start to add color:

WIP first colorWIP first color


How do you work? Too bad we don’t all live closer together and could meet once a month to talk about our working styles, our favorite paints, artists, books . . . .

“The only thing that makes one an artist is making art. And that requires the precise opposite of hanging out; a deeply lonely unglamorous task of tolerating oneself long enough to push something out.” -David Rakoff


About Judy Shreve

Blogging for me is like keeping a journal which I have done in various forms since I can remember. But what's great about this format is it offers an opportunity to explore all the things that interest me as an artist with others. Blogging seems to strengthen that sense of being part of both something personal and something universal. It takes the journaling idea and expands it through visitor's comments creating a valuable dialog that connects us to each other no matter where we live. I enjoy responding to each comment and warmly welcome your visits. email: judyshreve at mac dot com
This entry was posted in acrylics, art books, drawing, folk art, painting. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Process

  1. lynne says:

    love this judy! all of it! the drawings and the snippet with color. magic… and i absolutely agree with the last quote.

    since i’m painting mostly with watercolors now, i’m not doing any layering. i’m trying to find a way to express what i feel without layers. so far i’m a little stumped. ; )


    • Judy Shreve says:

      Thank you Lynne. I like that quote too – a reminder that you just have to do the work.

      I’ve not ever been successful using watercolors – but you can’t layer after the color has dried? — I guess you would use less water? I should ‘force’ myself out of my comfort zone and try another medium. It’s a great way to learn new things. I love your watercolor paintings.

      • lynne says:

        judy, you can layer with watercolors, but it’s not the same, because obviously they’re transparent. of course if i used gouache that wouldn’t be the case. it’s just not the same as with acrylics because you have to be careful about lifting the layer below. what i’m experimenting with is painting in a way that’s immediately soulful and playful. right out of the gate.

  2. Annie says:

    Judy, I too am in the camp of self taught painters. I think though it may take longer it makes your work authentic and yours. In Taos there are many painters that teach painting and their students all paint like the teacher. It is so wrong on so many levels :-).
    I have been painting since I was 8 and my work has grown and changed many times, but it is always me.
    My process is one of layers too, I start with venetian plaster usually on board, then I sand and apply graphite, wiping most of it away, then I use oil paint again wiping most of it away, I do many layers like this until I am ready to apply the collage materials then I plaster again and sand and sand and will do layers like this until I feel done, most times I will then do some drawing on the piece, sometimes the drawing gets plastered over, sometimes not, I always finish with a layer of cold wax which I love, it makes everything pop.
    Have a fun painting weekend.

  3. bridgette says:

    loved seeing your process. It’s always interesting to see how people tackle the blank canvas. We have a similar starting process. Also interesting is my same experience with painting – I always jump at the chance of taking ceramic class and sewing classes, but when it comes to painting, well I generally have always gone my own way. Although about a year ago I did take a life painting class which I loved. It was nice to switch gears and just paint what was in front of me rather than what is in my heart/head. So much easier! haha!
    Great quote at the end

    • Judy Shreve says:

      Hi Bridgette! I remember when you took your ‘still-life’ painting class. I think I could take a class if it was very different from what I ordinarily do. I love that quote too – takes all the glamour right out of ‘being-an-artist.’ lol

  4. Great post Judy. It’s a real treat to get to see how other artists work. I work in a similar way some of the time. Sometimes I draw the whole idea out onto the surface and then start painting. My favorite way to paint is to layer and then look for figures and shapes to reveal themselves.

    I love that you are protective of your painting.

    That last quote…perfection. xo

    • Judy Shreve says:

      I also enjoy seeing how others work. You are so good at sketching and keeping your ideas organized. I love when I read about one of your pieces that was based on a sketch or photo you took a couple of years ago. I don’t even remember my ideas from last week – ha! I need to start sketching . . . thanks for the inspiration.

  5. Pingback: Continuing Process | Mountain House Studios

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