When I got back into painting recently, I bought a bunch of supplies. Although I had a lot back in the day, that was over 10 years ago and only very old brushes have survived. I bought several sizes of pre-stretched canvases (I never want to stretch my own again. I did that enough at the start of art school.) but found myself a little intimidated by the vast white expanses. Where to start? I like to paint abstract, but what look was I going for? Contrary to some people's belief, painting abstract art is hard. Finding balance and depth is tricky when you are painting areas of color, not specific things.
Enter the painting study. I revisited my love of Bristol board, and cut one large piece down into about four 5.5" x 7" pieces, and masked off the edges with blue tape. I'm a sucker for a nice tidy border on paper paintings! Gessoed all of them, and once the gesso was dry, I was ready to begin.
What I loved about painting these small studies was the ability to experiment without feeling like I had too much of an investment in the outcome. Finding one's voice after years of not painting is difficult; finding one's voice in any new medium is a journey. These small studies have helped me see connections. I experimented with texturing with gesso and other grounds, layering color, and painting with a palette knife. All of these ideas I can now take and apply to a larger canvas, feeling a little more secure of my way. I say a little because my paintings always take on lives of their own-- I just try to keep up!