Often, I am asked to explain my process of painting. At my last art show, a collector
mentioned that she had fallen in love with a pair of hummingbirds frequenting her
backyard and she commissioned me to paint those for her. This project I thought would
be ideal to explain my approach to painting.
A painting goes through several phases, I have summarized them below and have provided some
explanation and photographs at each stage. As you may appreciate, a painting as small as this takes
several weeks to complete
1) Reference photos: I was provided with a few sample photographs of the hummingbirds. The collector
needed a small painting which would hang in a spot she had in mind.
2) Theme/ Narrative/ Name: The painting has to do with a pair of birds, probably a male and female, I
imagine love blossoming between the birds. I decided to paint a scene depicting the love between the
birds and the surrounding, in a heart shaped composition. I called the painting "Fern's Hummers"
3) Format: Love meant a heart shaped motif, which, therefore required a square format of canvas to paint
on. Also since the size had to be small, I decided to use a 10 in X10in. gallery canvas with painting carried
on to the sides which would not require a frame.
4) Research: My research on hummingbirds showed two varieties of hummingbirds frequent Alberta. Of
these, the ruby throated being more colourful was my choice for the painting. The male being more
colourful than the female became the star of the piece.o
5) Sketches: A few sketches and thumbnails are done to work out the composition, values (darks & lights)
and placement of the subjects. I decided to place the male on bottom right “sweet spot” longingly staring at
the female. The female on the top left is deciding between a mate and the nectar from the flowers. The
composition of the piece is roughly heart shaped
6) Staining: The white canvas is stained with the appropriate light colours to “shine through” and create a
mood. In this case I decided on a early morning scene with a pale yellow glow of the sun in the left upper
corner, shining through some morning haze. The glow then changes to peach and then light blue of the
7) Drawing: A quick drawing on the canvas to place the subjects.
8) Underpainting: This is the ugly stage of the painting where there is no detail just the content.
9) Painting the sides: The sides are painted for a finished look. This then does not require a frame.
10) Painting the details: The Painting comes to life once the details are added on in several successive
11) Critique: Since one has been involved with the painting for so long, it is easy to get jaded. The
painting is put away for a couple of days. A fresh look including inverting the painting, looking at its image
in the mirror may reveal some minor problems which may need correction. Often I take the painting to the
art club to be professionally critiqued. Here it is being critiqued at the Edmonton Art Club.
12) Isolation coat: Once all is set to go. An isolation coat is applied to isolate the painting from the
varnish which will be applied after the isolation coat has dried, about 48 hours.
13) Varnish: Varnish with UV coating is applied in two coats, letting the first coat dry before applying the
second. This protects the painting for several decades from dust, dirt and fading from the UV rays.
14) Presentation: The best part for the last. To watch the reaction of the collector when they see the
painting for the first time. In my enthusiasm, I often forget to record this step on the camera.