Monday, December 7, 2009

painting process & art basel miami

I've promised to some that I would explain my painting process in details but have neglected to do so. My deepest apologies. Hopefully this post will atone for my estranged commitment.

Painting with acrylics (preferably Golden or Liquitex) can achieve an array of impressions because of its versatility. Personally, my acrylics are heavily diluted in which values are achieved through thin glazes. I treat it as if it were watercolor. Reasons why I prefer acrylics is because of its permanence and opacity. Watercolor has a tendency to fade when subjected to further glazing. When noodling out the details, I use color pencils (I'm partial to Prismacolor brands). Most of my paintings are executed on Rives BFK - the back side with the linen-like texture. I've experienced on a variety of papers including Stonehenge, watercolor, illustration board, canvas, and I'd recommend doing the same to find a surface most suitable for your own painting demeanor.

When starting a painting, I tone the paper with a mid-value sepia. Once it's dry, the sketch is transferred via light table. To make sure the sketch doesn't smear I use Sureguard to fix it. Remember that fixative is insanely hazardous - may cause cancer, deformed babies, a third appendage, so on. Usually, I'll hold my breath as I spray then sprint to the next yard over to avoid the leftover fumes, or you can buy a secured face mask ... I'm too cheap to purchase one. Also note that you should only spray sparingly because thick coats of Sureguard will repel water-based media.

Once it's dry, flat washes are laid to clarify the general forms. After the basic shapes are overlaid, I'll start adding in value with more glazes. The color pencils are applied when I'm noodling out fine details. If you've ever worked with Rives BFK you'll notice that it tends to soften when subjected to water. When this happens, I'll fix it again to give the paper some surface teeth. This process is repeated, alternating from acrylics to color pencils, until I'm satisfied with the outcome. It's a tedious process but can beget tremendous subtlety.

Oh, and I just got back from Art Basel which was a riveting galore of contemporary innovation. Recap below.

(Aqua Art Reception)

(mural by Antistrot and its spectators)

(sharing wall space)


  1. Did you go check out Kent William's pieces while you were there?

  2. This entry was VERY helpful to me! I'm bookmarking it for later! Thanks!

  3. Lovely pictures! but none of your work? sad!
    Also, thank you for posting this =) the questions I had were mostly about different things, of them being about whether you scan and photograph your work, and a bit about THAT process.
    The other had to do more with the field of illustration, etc. Those questions I will email (:


  4. Super cool Tran! What's the word on moving out to CA? If you have any more shows around here I'd love to come stop by.

  5. Neil: No, I didn't. The fairs were huge and I probably only saw half of the exhibitions. Sadly.

    Girl...: Awesome to hear!

    JB: I just posted a photo with my work alongside the rest. Send them over :-).

    Colleen: I didn't realize you were based in CA! It'd be snazzy to be familiar with someone once I make the move. Unfortunately, it'll be a while before I can come up with the finances. You should check out the group charity event coming up in Jan at Thinkspace. A lot of well-known artists are partaking in it. Do keep up your art/blog! Always looking forward.

  6. Tran, Do you wet stretch your Rives paper before you do anything so it doesn't buckle later? I notice you don't tape it to a board; just tape the borders, correct? Thank you for sharing. Really like your work.

  7. i don't remember the one in front of Dave, but it is way awesome

  8. I really appreciate you sharing your process, It's like revealing your ace card or something. I tried to apply your method but, evidently I did not do it right. How do you achieve such detail? My pencil colour tip seem to fail every time... The tip can't seem to stay sharp... Any tips?