My Process

My process



My goal when I paint is to be able to reproduce reality as closely as possible through the colors and proportions but also make sure there is movement and texture when the subject demands it. I don’t want to sacrifice movement and liveliness for photorealism but I want to get colors right and transmit the impression of the scene.

When I started to paint regularly again in September 2020, I started out by following tutorials on youtube about how to paint waves. One of the tutorials was based on a photograph. I later found this photograph with a quick search and thought it might have been helpful tohave this photo handy while painting this image. I talked to a younger sister of mine who studied visual arts and she explained to me how it’s good to base art of photography when you want to study a particular subject. That way you can integrate movement, proportions, perspective, tones, colors and really learn. She also mentioned how important it is to prepare a piece. Her teachers were asking for sketches, drawings, colour mixes, a rough draft before they gave them a go ahead to peint the actual final piece. 

Even though I haven’t studied arts in college or at a higher level, I respect the process that goes into doing things right. I went on line to look for some stock images that I would like to paint. I got about 30 or something. Many waves but also flowers, landscapes, animals, sunsets. I then started to paint some of them on canvas boards that I had bought several years before. Some of those boards also came from an old lady’s family whose father was an artist. The lady probably took some painting lessons and had those boards left doing nothing so the family gave them to me.

I started with something I thought would be relatively easy.

A sunset sky with a moon crescent and a tiny star. 

I opened the image in photoshop, put a grid to get an idea of where the elements were placed an how the gradient colors were layed out. I sketched it on paper. I also turned it black and white to help me understand the darkness level of each section, or tones. I then used the eyedrop tool to sample the grays and figure out how dark each section was. I turned it back to color mode and sampled the colors also. I do the computer steps in my car by the beach.

moon first draft martinas colors


I then went back home and started mixing colours. I painted over my sketch to study the colors. I work with acrylics because they dry quickly which makes it easier to work with when you don’t have a separate studio to leave paintings to dry for weeks. But they have the tricky characteristic of getting darker as they dry. It takes a bit of the pop away. I like my art to look lively and when it gets even 1% or 2% darker it can bring down the mood. 


So doing a draft with colors is a very good way to get around that and get proper mixes of colors that you can correct once you see them dry. So I was able to see where the colors weren’t to my taste and fix that for the final piece.

I followed a similar process for a painting I called In the Tube  which is the inside of a rolling wave. For that one I wanted to paint with the palette knife to take advantage of the subject that was more about movement and had an abstract feel to it. My sister also gave me a tip about paintig the background with a color that is dominant in the picture. I started doing that.

first draft in the tube

turquoise paint palette in the tube draft martinas colors painting process



I worked on a purple flower and I realized I needed to go deeper learning more about the structur of the petals so I made a couple of extra sketches to get into the details of the shapes, lights, shadows. When I got to the final painting, I decided to use brushes and try to be more realistic in my style.

purple flower original photo

purple flower sketchespurple flower paintingpurple flower final painting



I should probably mention that up until last year, I was doing mostly watercolor and that working with the white paper background and the transparency and layering of the colors is very different from getting every single hue right from the get go and understanding how they play together. I’m still figuring it out but getting better and better. 


So for this purple flower, I saw how a warmer pink shows the reflection of the light on another petal’s shadow whereas a colder pink is needed in a lit part of the petal.

sunset at whytecliff photo in photoshop

I worked on a sunset that I had photographed in the Vancouver area. I had to make 2 painted drafts because I didn’t get the colors right the first time. The second time they were much better so I went ahead to paint the final piece. When I got to the clouds in the sky, I had to paint a light blue sky with layers of very thin yellow, pink and blue clouds. For those, I used a fan brush to be able to get a very light touch. I was quite pleased with the end result. 

sunset at whytecliff original photo

sunset at whytcliff first draft

sunset at whytecliff 2nd draft

background gray and difference between dry and wet paint

after first session on final painting

after final session

sunset at whytecliff final painting


Each time I paint something new, there are highs and lows. There are times where I feel that I really got this and there are times where I feel I have to work very hard to understand what’s going on and achieve the result I want. However, more often than not, I end up very pleased with the en result and amazed at the result I was able to achieve. It almost always feels like my latest painting is the best painting I ever made. 

yellow wave inspiration

yellow wave painting


In January 2021, I wanted to work on a painting I had started and there was a blackout. Instead of painting on my kitchen table with electric light, I made myself a space close to the window. When I saw how the end result turned out as a result of working with natural light, I knew I had to create myself a proper space next to that window. Since then, I always paint with natural light because the colors, the gradients are softer, more realistic. 

orange flower inspiration

orange flower final painting



The last few paintings I did, I didnt make a proper painted draft and I have been struggling with some colors. I have included another step in my process though. I have a color by number app on my phone to which I can upload pictures. I have been studying colors that way and I can’t wait to see the result with my paintings.


The app makes it quite practical to keep working on an image in a setting where I couldn’t be drawing or working with paints.

color by number app screenshot


Another last thing. I work with photography. But I look at the photograph on my computer. Thats because the computer renders a much wider array of colours that any print could. It has to do with RGB and CMYK color space.