Step 2 – From finished drawing to starting a painting

At this point, the conceptual work is mostly finished, and it’s time to figure out how to take all of the ideas that went into the relatively simple compositional drawing and make them work effectively in the much more complex form of a realistic painting.  Some of this process is just busy work. For example, I need to get the drawing, in this case 20 x 12 inches in graphite on nice heavy drawing paper, onto a 40 x 24 inch aluminum composite panel primed and prepared for oil paint. My current preferred method for accomplishing this is via an oil transfer. I’ve detailed the process HERE, but in summary, I take the to-scale-drawing to a copy shop and blow it up to full size on a huge copy machine. Then I coat the back of the full-sized copy with a very thin layer of oil paint. Something that will dry quickly and is a weak enough pigment that it won’t bleed through the final painting. In this case, Burnt Sienna.  Then I secure the oil-coated copy of the drawing over the waiting panel and carefully trace over any lines I want to transfer over. It’s a painstaking and tedious process, but it works surprisingly well.


While the transferred drawing is drying, there is still conceptual work that needs to be done. It’s one thing to lightly sketch in the shapes of a rocket, a few buildings and some geography into a simple line drawing. It’s quite another to paint them convincingly and have them feel like they fit with the elements I’m painting from reference images.  I decided to take advantage of my recent faux-plein-air ‘Rocketscape’ painting experience and do a quick 8×6 inch color study of the foreground trees and grass with the new background.  I based the colors, values atmospheric effects, etc. on those present in the reference photos, and came up with this:


Not only am I really happy with the little painting, but as proof of concept for the larger painting, it gives me a lot of confidence going forward.  Now I have a much better idea of how to approach painting the background, and, as a bonus, I have already worked out my palette.  This is something other artists do all the time, and now I feel a little silly for not adopting the practice earlier.