Put your brush down – this painting is finished… and you’re done! But not so fast; even once the creative work is complete there are many other task between finishing the work and getting ready to show.

This week I have had to draw a line and stop working on certain paintings which can be frustrating if I feel I have just got into my groove as Madonna might say. But work must be ready for Reading Contemporary Art Fair at the end of April… what? But that’s ages away… Maybe, but there is the small matter of school holidays in between, so I have to be organised, as there is a lot to do in between finishing the work and being ready to show:

6 things to do after a painting is finished

Selecting what is complete & what needs framing

So the first task is choosing what to show. Some pieces have remained in the studio because they don’t feel ‘right’ yet. It’s tempting to put it all out, and in the first years I did just that; showed just what I had. But now I’m trying to be more selective and show what is ready, not just what is done. Some paintings don’t make it. You may love it, but if I don’t feel happy showing it, then it won’t go out!

I have some large drawings on paper that may be the beginning of a new direction, but I haven’t had enough time yet to explore them thoroughly or to create a body of work so that I can be selective. That’s OK – it can be helpful to have something ongoing to return to after a break.

Not everything needs a frame – large canvases I tend to leave unframed so the choice is up to the buyer, but smaller works people like to have ready to hang straightaway.

painting edgesFinished details

Once I’ve decided which paintings I want to show, I paint the edges of the wooden panels. These will be mainly hidden in the shadow gap of the framing style I choose, but a coloured edge gives more depth, even if it is only glimpsed. Next they are sprayed with a satin varnish which keeps the pigments in water based mediums and some of the drawing material sealed.

Photograph finished pieces

Once the varnish is dry I must photograph the work properly before it goes anywhere. That’s a step forward – in previous times I have been so last minute before a show that I never get a chance to take photographs. I believe this is known as ‘getting a system’ and it’s something I’m trying hard to get better at. Somehow though, it’s still always pretty close to deadline….

Finding names

There is always a funny discussion with my framer which goes like this:
HIM: Do we have any names yet?
ME: What, for all ten paintings? Er, no, not yet.
HIM: OK what shall I write?
ME: Put them down as Stormy-Grey-Series, or Cut-Away-Blue-Landscapes or, the best so far, …The-Golf-Course-One
HIM: OK (funny look)

It makes my invoices look quite amusing, but sometimes means I have a bit of decoding to do when I look back through my accounts! I keep a notebook of ideas for names as I’m working, it’s hard to be objective and after a while everything begins to sound the same or ridiculous but I prefer to give names than numbers or ‘Untitled’ as it’s another part of the personality of the painting.

yellow plant formsThat must be all finished, once they are framed?

Not yet… Once the framed paintings are collected I would like to take another set of photographs; of the framed work in situ or close up details. Then these all need checking in Adobe Lightroom, colour adjusting and saving in different sizes before they are ready for the website or just for my own records.

Get your paperwork in order

All work should be catalogued. I currently use a spreadsheet for this but it’s getting fairly unwiedly so I’m thinking of investing in Artwork Archive – any reviews or pointers please let me know!  I must measure and take note of dimensions (unframed and framed) and record date finished, sale price, buyer etc.

Then to create labels for the reverse of each piece and for the display. Ordering packing materials so they can be transported safely, hanging… and finally they will be ready to show!

It’s taken me a while to get to this stage – I would love to know what your system is if you are an artist. Or if you are a collector hopefully this is interesting to see how much more goes into getting artwork ready for you.

Followers on my mailing list get first access to new work so I now have another step in the process before a show: set up special access so they get to see the final works first… I’m working on that right now!

March postcard

I always feel slightly bereft when suddenly the studio is emptier again. OK I have two large canvases still on the go, but today I have also painted another in the Pocket Landscape series that started last spring. So that’s the final thing – much like falling off a horse – pick yourself up and get going again straightaway!

This will be the giveaway gift for one person on my email list selected at random this weekend. So that’s two good reasons to join below if you enjoy my work. No spam, not many emails, just a chance for some real art in your mailbox for as long you stay and occasional art inspiration in your email. You can unsubscribe any time you like x

A question I seem to have come across a lot recently is how to develop your style as an artist – both as questions from others and as I think about my own art work. I have a slight issue with the word ‘style’ when it comes to creating art of any description: it seems too formulaic to me. Emulating the style of other artists can be a great way to learn and to understand, but there seems to be rather to much of it about… maybe that’s the downside of art on this wonderful wide open web… (Save the rant for another day)

Instead I prefer to think about developing your approach.

If you begin a painting with a fixed idea of how the end result will look, that feels to me rather like painting by numbers. Each painting is an exploration that leads to an end result. It becomes a visual representation of the looking and thought that has gone into it along the way.

When I first started painting again, I used oil paints as I felt they would give me time to think.
I had an idea that painting had to be pure paint in order to count as a ‘proper’ painting. These days I’m a lot looser in my interpretation. This is partly as a result of learning different ways to start a painting (acrylic underpainting is fine, even if you are following up with oils) and discovering many artists use charcoal or other materials to mark up their composition. This can be fixed, or painted over and allowed to blend with the upper layers of paint, or left uncovered so that flashes of the drawing are revealed.

Oil paints lend themselves to easier colour blending, but the slow process, while contemplative, didn’t really suit the way I wished to explore, and I found waiting days for layers to dry was frustrating. With oils I felt I had to plan ahead according to a system and I wanted a freer, more reactive way of painting.

early stages small panelsSwitching to acrylic allowed me to create in a different way and over time I have found ways to incorporate different dry drawing materials too – I find the contrast between marks keeps things lively and keeps me on my toes! As each layer dries I can react to what is on the surface and this builds a more complex image as sections are revealed or hidden away with further layers.

Sections of the painting will go through many stages. When I’m beginning a painting I may  consider where the main areas of light and dark will be but often I work exactly opposite and start by laying down random marks just to get some energy onto the painting surface; something to work from. For this I can use charcoal, but this can get grey and muddy pretty quickly so I prefer to use light washes of acrylic and use water based Neocolour sticks which will run and bleed. Having this element of … chaos is too strong… unpredictability has become an essential part of building up the character of a painting. Even if it becomes obscured, the history of it is there.

grey marksNext I bring more colour to the party and there can sometimes be a phase where it looks too garish. Usually at this point I feel I’ve lost the plot, let go of the reins and it has become a bit of a mess. Time to take a break…

I have always enjoyed using the scrafitto technique where you draw or mark through the wet paint.  It gives a beautiful contrast – a sharp line against the softer mixing of the paint colours. Depending on what is underneath you can have a surprising change in colour or a subtler texture. This is one of the reasons why I prefer to work on wood, especially for smaller pieces – it gives a precision that you can’t get on canvas where the texture of the material can interrupt the smooth flow of the mark you are making.

I like a surprise when I’m painting and it’s nice to have a little surprise as a viewer too; a reward for getting closer.

Showing texture detail on painting by Alice Sheridan

At some point it needs bringing into shape. Without any control it really can just become chaos. It’s that mix between the loose energy and some kind of structure that I find exciting but this stage is about bringing some unity back.

Things I’m thinking about? Areas of busy-ness and areas of calm, what draws your attention, is there something a little unusual to catch your interest, is it too obvious or is there some intrigue about how it has been made or what you are looking at?

I’m not developing my style, I’m developing my approach: the style comes about almost as a side result.

Style is something that evolves from what you bring to your work; the colours you select, your subject matter perhaps. Most of all I think it comes from how you develop your process. It’s more than technique which can be taught, it’s way of doing something that’s personal to you. It may be the way your hand moves as you draw or how you decide what to include and what you leave out. Often it’s out of your own control – you just do things the way you do them!

That’s your job as an artist: Discover your own unique.

This is a fascinating subject for many people. If you are an artist, please share how your own style developed – and how much direct influence you had over it.  You can add to the discussion in the comments below:

This is the week that spring has sprung! Walking on Monday morning the sunshine was welcome on my face and it made realise just how long it had been since I had felt that warm glow – and how GOOD it felt!

Funny, how sometimes we don’t know what we are missing until we get reminded about it.

Kandinsky quote colour influence soul

I headed off on Monday (an extra leap year day!) to see an exhibition at the Mall Galleries. The exhibitions there are admittedly not the most cutting edge, but they are usually open submission shows from various art societies with different judges on the selection panel so they offer a broad range of current work, on a sensible scale that you may actually want in your home.

Yellow tape marks and gridThe current exhibition was for The Pastel Society. I may have been a bit abrupt and dismissed pastels as grannyish. Pastel vases flowers? No thanks! But recently I have found that I’ve been using them more in drawings and sketchbooks  in combination with other materials (more next week…) so I wanted so see what was going on in pastel land. I spotted maybe three artists whose work I particularly enjoyed, but three is enough to prompt some new ideas and wake me up to the possibilities. My mistake about pastels. Love making mistakes like this!



IMG_7031As I walked afterwards through London in the sunshine (always a treat!) I was just wandering towards an art supply shop and taking a few photos of things that caught my eye; these taped yellow markings on the windows of a construction site – warnings? Stars, in a row, but all different….





IMG_7047Later in the week I joined an Instagram challenge following a word prompt each day and on Thursday it was “yellow” . Noticing; that’s what it’s all about; once I knew I was on the look out for yellow I saw it everywhere… my image for that day was the soft yellow against the white stripe of brickwork. Sun over a built horizon? Random additions to a man made structure…

I even recognised that yellow had been with me all week, in the images I had captured previously. Making these visual links, and seeing how they surface, often a while later, is one of the great joys of making art.

Looking at art makes you see things in a new way. So here is my yellow story of the week: sunshine, abstract shapes, small flashes of colour in my urban environment, and highlights of yellow and blue in the current early stages of work on the easel. Watch out for the sunshine – it makes you feel great!!

On the easel Alice Sheridan

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