I paint in a direct, or “alla prima” style, meaning I lay down layer after layer of wet paint directly onto the canvas, finishing each passage as I go, though sometimes it’s necessary to work on the same painting over several sessions. My work has always been described as having a “painterly” style and I love the challenge of describing things with as few brush strokes as possible, leaving said brush strokes visible. In other words, I do very little blending to describe three-dimensional forms, preferring to mix different colors to accomplish the optical illusion of those transitions. I usually do a few preparatory sketches in my sketchbook to work out my composition before approaching the canvas. I do very little preparation of the canvas itself except for toning it with a thin wash of some transparent pigment, usually a mixture of burnt sienna and ultramarine blue. I may draw some basic forms onto the canvas with a thicker wash before laying in the paint.
People who are unfamiliar with painting are usually surprised to learn that with very few exceptions, I seldom keep a black paint on my palette. Even in a piece like “Kept Waiting” I use pthalo green and alizarin crimson to get the darks in the model’s hair and shorts. There always seems to be a bit of debate amongst artists and art teachers about what the “best” way to create the darkest darks is, and I’ve concluded the best way is whatever a particular painter prefers after a bit of expermentation. An exception to this is when I use the Zorn palette (Ivory Black, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red Light, and Titanium White) as a limited palette for beginners in my portrait painting workshops. O Coração de Maria and Turn Out are examples of paintings done with the Zorn palette. You can read more about the Zorn palette here.