I always start my paintings by creating a photograph or series of photographs. I see these as my sketches.
I have painted a portrait of myself each fall since becoming a full-time painter.
And, I have a photo shoot or drawing session with myself every six-months.
Having portraits made that explore your personal meaning, on a regular basis, is something I recommend to everyone. Even if you can't afford to have the collaboration of a professional artist on a commission, use your smartphone or point-and-shoot on a timer to take images of yourself, expressing where you are in life.
I've learned a lot about who I want to be, by asking and answering questions about what I think of myself through images.
My process is the same on self-portraits as it is with other subjects.
AN EXAMPLE OF MY CURRENT ACRYLIC PORTRAIT PROCESS: "GENDER", 2014 (BELOW)
For some reason that I can't entirely explain with words, this is what I had in mind for my 2014 self-portrait: I wanted something between a mug shot of Jesse James and an ornate victorian art nouveau illustration. This is what came of that idea, and my process for working a painting.
#1: the Photograph, edited.
Edited with Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter.
I always start my portrait paintings by printing a little 4x6 photograph. I develop the digital file using Photoshop and Corel Painter, then make a little print in my studio in Raleigh, NC on fine art Hahnemühle paper.
#2: Painting on a 4x6 Print of the photograph
Pens. Acrylic Ink. Gouache.
Then, I paint into the little photograph to make a little painting. I use a unique combination of acrylic ink mixed with gouache, Copic pens, with contour brushes, blown air, and my fingers. I also use a lot of texture: marble dust, sand, seashells, and lately, beer brewing ingredients. These little paintings fit in the palm of your hand, and are hard to put down once you're holding it.
#3: Painting on a large Canvas Print of the little painting
A final, varnished original work. Often framed or mounted and ready to hang.
Then, I photograph the little painting, edit the photo and print an enlarged version onto canvas. I paint on this new canvas more, using similar techniques to the ones I used on the smaller image, but with larger strokes and often deeper textures. This is the final painting, when it finishes this stage.
#4: Final painting installed/displayed
The final painting is installed in it's new home, ready for decades of viewing.
The canvas will then be either be framed or stretched and ready to hang/display. This particular painting hangs on the mantelpiece of my studio, with the little painting in the box beside it, so that I can illustrate my process all hands-on in the studio.