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Stages of Creating a Final Artwork

This month, I am sharing some basic stages in creating an artwork from an idea, to a final piece.

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Stages of an Artwork - From Sketch to Final Piece

Drawing of angelic figure flying.
Departure - Pencil on Cartridge Paper

The Art Making Process - Introduction

For this post, I am going to discuss the various stages one might take when creating an artwork, along with some of the preferred approaches I have taken over the years when working from an initial idea to a final polished artwork. This is an expansive topic that is as varied as there are creatives, but here is my take on the subject.

'The Art Process'

Having worked in several mediums over the years, I have always enjoyed seeing ideas translated from a simple sketch to a process of development, experimentation and finally creation in the chosen medium. If we look at many artists' work, it's easy to find multiple mediums or 'disciplines' being expressed in it. Some popular combinations might be drawing and printmaking, or printmaking and painting. Sometimes you will find a mixture of traditional and digital etc. But very often, seemingly regardless of the medium used to complete a final, you will find sketches and trials used to work toward development and realisation of the final vision.

Painting of angelic figure flying away
Departure - Oil on Canvas

Sketches and Development - What is the Purpose?

Development of a work has many important advantages over simply launching into a 'final' artwork. It's easy to become engrossed in the excitement of getting the 'good' materials out, a nice new canvas or a piece of expensive paper. Why waste time doing preliminary work?

The development of an image has multiple layers to consider. Here's just a few: The actual idea/theme, the size and composition, the tones and colours, the chosen medium, the details, plus numerous other more subtle elements too detailed and speculative to discuss within this context. Doing preliminary works like sketches and colour studies is a proven way to clearly visualise exactly what direction you want to take the idea. By the time you arrive at the final piece, you won't be wasting time moving major parts around or having to adjust entire areas of tone to balance it out.

Angelic figure flying above a pond
Ascension - Charcoal and Chalk on Watercolour Paper
Art Experimentation

Having the freedom to experiment with different compositions, colours and tones with ease is only going to increase your chances of completing a piece that will satisfy your expectations.

My Art 'Process'

I am the first to admit to being a very keen 'experimenter' with ways I can reach completion of a work. You need to experiment and figure out what ideas, scale, medium etc you might like to use at a higher level. But some approaches towards arriving at a final artwork have been more reliable for me than others when I have developed a detailed or large artwork. Below is my basic process.

Angelic figure rising
Ascension - Oil on Canvas

  1. Initial sketch - Colour/Tone studies - Experiments

  2. Detailed sketch sometimes larger than initial sketch - Narrowing down into the idea

  3. Final artwork

Of course this is an extremely simplified explanation of a single process one might undertake. The objective is not primarily to save time, but more to maximise the quality of the time spent. If the artwork is a success, it may be acquired by a collector who will preserve it for possibly hundreds of years, so it's best to make it with the highest possible degree of care you can manage.

Drawing and painting of angelic figure
Forest Spirit - Charcoal on Paper and Oil Paint on Canvas

Below is a more detailed explanation with an excerpt from an educational resource I created a while ago for a publication I wrote with Beck's expert editing skills link. Among many other things, it includes a detailed explanation of the kind of process one might take when deciding on all the above-mentioned elements. The final artwork had surpassed the initial sketches, yet I had a very clear idea on how to launch into such a large image and what was going to go where in the composition.

Lesson showing process of a drawing from sketch to finished piece.

I hope this has provided some insight into some of the thought that might go into the development of an artwork. Please feel free to check out my website and support me by subscribing to the newsletter below.

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