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Stages of Oil Painting

It takes me about two months to paint a 24 X 36” oil on canvas. Preparation steps involve sketching to establish the general composition ideas and calculating dimensions. After these steps, I stretch, gesso, and tone the canvas.   This takes several days because of drying time. Next comes a series of drawings on the canvas (with a brush and paint) and establishing color and value relationships with paint. Each stage requires about a week of drying time. I repeat this process many times. I usually have several paintings in various stages of process so that I can continue working when paint needs to dry on a particular painting or section of a painting. I thoroughly enjoy each of these stages. If I find myself with a challenging stage, I put the painting aside and turn to another one for a while. I’ve included a photo of a finished painting, Sow and Pig Islands with Seaweed and Reflection, and a photo of the painting in process.


Sarah Knock, stages of oil painting


How a Cloudy Day Can Be Inspiring

Sister Island, Maquoit Bay, Sarah Knock

Maquoit Bay and Sister Island

Sun Breaking Through Clouds o/c 36 X 30

Sun Breaking Through the Clouds


I’m passionate about Sister Island.  For me, it’s like Monet’s haystacks–inspiring in all kinds of weather and light.  I see it every day from my studio on Maquoit Bay in Freeport and I kayak around it several times a week all summer and fall.  It has a beautiful ledge which is revealed at low tide.  At high tide, the north side has floating rock weed which gently undulates with the waves and current.  The lee side (away from the wind) is silent except for the sound of lobster boats, seagulls and ducks. This side has the best opportunity to see reflections which are the theme of most of my paintings.

The day that inspired my painting began with gun-metal gray sky and water. It was completely uninspiring.  I decided that I would just enjoy paddling without expectations of finding anything I might be interested in painting.  I’m usually interested in sun-dependent vivid colors and patterns based on light and shadow, not the cool, gray values of a cloudy day.

I was fortunate as I approached Sister Island.  The sun broke through the clouds creating some beautiful yellow tones against black patterns in the water reflection and a sky that I couldn’t resist with a warm whitish yellow sun. I grabbed my camera out of the deck bag on my kayak and took several shots before heading back to the studio to sketch some ideas.

The original painting had a much bigger sky which wasn’t working so I cut off the top 6 inches and re-stretched the canvas.  As I share this experience, I’m reminded that there’s always something amazing to experience if I remain open and receptive–sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s profound, but it’s always a gift for the taking. I wish I could maintain this awareness every day.  It’s most likely to occur when I’m kayaking with all senses open.