How to develop a painting: from initial idea to finished piece

In this post, I will share my process of developing a painting from start to finish. Here, I will talk about the development of my oil painting, “My Life as An ER Physician during COVID.” This painting was entered into the Portrait Society of America’s Self-Portrait Contest, where it placed 25 out of 406 entries.

In another post, How to Keep a Sketchbook I had explained my process of keeping an Image journal, a collection of images that I find in magazines, old books and flyers, that I often refer to for inspiration. I love good composition and story and tend to choose images that have both.


Once I imagined the narrative I wanted to convey in a painting, I look through my journals and choose ones that resonate with me. Here, I collected these two images.

I sketched out a few thumbnails to work on the composition in my sketchbook. Once I am happy with a particular sketch, I try to set up the image for reference. Here, I asked my daughter to pose for me. I choose colors that I think will go together. In the past, I have done this process in my sketchbook. Lately, I have been using my iPAD Pro because it is much quicker.



Then, I expand on the image and add some details and do a full color study.


Finally, I paint the final painting. When I look at other artists’ work, I like to read about the thoughts of what went behind a particular painting. It helps me appreciate what the painter is trying to convey. I write a few words describing the painting so that the viewer will understand what each painting is about.

My Year as an ER Physician During Covid

My Year as an ER Physician During Covid, 2021, oil on canvas, 18 x 24″.

This image depicts a collective feeling of health care professionals during the pandemic. Notice the stack of books that represent the 12+ grueling years she has spent studying the science of disease. She exhaustingly rests against this stack while her expertise is challenged by rampant misinformation and quackery. Although she has never waivered in her desire to save lives, notice that her stethoscope slowly drops to the ground she contemplates giving up the practice of medicine.

Learn more about the piece here NARRATIVE MEDICINE ARTWORK

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