It’s been a while since I’ve shared a blog post! I’ve been pretty busy the past months prepping for projects, my showing at the NY Empire State Tattoo Expo this past July (blog on that coming soon), and upcoming events for the fall. To celebrate the new blog post I’m doing a giveaway on Instagram (@kristenmargiotta). If you want to receive a free Limited Edition Giclee print of my painting Homecoming, play along by hopping over to my IG page, share the Homecoming Blog / Giveaway post, and don’t forget to tag me #kristenmargiotta so I can find your post! I’ll pick two winners on Tuesday 9/12/17.

One of my recent oil paintings, “Homecoming”, made its debut in NY this past July, and I thought I would show the process behind it. Generally, most of my work is completed in a similar manner, but varies somewhat because every painting presents different and/or new challenges.

The hardest part for me is getting started on an idea and letting go so the idea can work itself out. It’s usually swimming around there somewhere, and the challenge is trying to find it. It’s work, but all artists work differently. I am very picky about my ideas, and don’t feel the need to create a finished painting of every idea I come up with, but rather, the special ones. I am known for working with reds in my paintings, and I wanted to create a new series that really captured this, where the majority of the painting was completed using reds. I’ve spoken with different artists and have even read that many dislike the use of red and find it difficult to work with. I think this might be because they want to keep the reds, red, and cool it down with white, which creates pinks (tints of red). It’s just a thought. I don’t know if I find it difficult, or just challenging. Red is one of my favorite colors, and I find it’s rich and striking to use in painting.

(Process shot above: I tend to photograph myself with my work. I want to reinforce that the human hand is behind these paintings, they just don’t magically paint themselves! Especially in the digital age where everything is so immediate anymore, it’s important to reinforce the energy and effort that goes into something that really take times to develop. So much energy, thought, physical work, and prep time go into creating a painting, or any area of the visual arts. You can find progress shots and updates on my social media pages too, more so on my Instagram page: @kristenmargiotta )

This was a large painting, 18” x 24”. I tend not to work very large. It needs to have a purpose if doing so for me to work on a large scale. I prefer smaller pieces because of their intimacy. They tend to draw people in, and close, and I like that kind of effect. Even when I’m teaching, or painting/drawing with a group of artists, I prefer we are all close together.

One thing you won’t see in the blog is the preparation of my surface. That in itself is time consuming. I currently paint on Ampersand Hardboard, priming with 3 coats of PVA Size, followed by multiple coats of white Gesso (currently Winsor and Newton White Gesso, other times Oil Ground-but that stuff is so smelly and toxic!).

I begin with concept sketches. You can see my sketchbook and overlays below. Really rough initial sketches begin as a way to get the idea out. I did about 15+ overlays for this idea, and also some loose painting sketches in color.




I paint using oils, and I always begin the actual painting by mixing up a very precise value scale. These colors are just a starting point and will change and alter throughout the process.



Detail of the drapery in the background. Look at those reds!!! You can see how shiny the oil paint is which I just love. For this painting, I was using M. Graham’s walnut oil as my medium. Sometimes I use Winsor and Newton’s Liquin, sometimes Walnut oil. Walnut oil yields a stronger sheen which I LOVE. But it also has it’s cons, as does Liquin. So my choice depends on the painting, and the time frame for which it’s to be completed.


Detail of painted chandelier.


Now one rule I generally adhere to when painting is background to foreground. BUT I broke this rule on this painting. I stress this rule to my students as well for drawing and painting, for various reasons, but like I said, each painting presents a different set of challenges. I wanted to paint the drapery that frames the majority of the painting first, where usually I would have painted the wall, and shadow in the back, then Cherry and the floor, then finally the drapery. But I did the reverse. Why? I just felt like it 🙂

Also, you’ll see, no underpainting for this painting. Sometimes I utilize an underpainting, other times not.

Something I stress in my own work, and to my students, is the importance of life observation and using references. I try to work from life as much as possible. The eye sees so much more than a camera lens, so for that reason, I tend to set up items by my easel that I am painting or referencing in the painting. I also work from photo references, but from life as much as I can. Below you’ll see lush red fabric, beads, and reflective items.

Studio shot.




Cherry in progress. I always paint the eyes first and work from the inside out.




Detail shot of Creeper Shadow in the background.



My palette towards the end of the painting. Look at all of those colors! They come from a very limited palette. I tend to work with a cool/warm version of the primaries with a few other colors from the tube. I do work with a wide range of reds though and tend to organize my palette by hue. The more organized that I can be throughout the painting process, the less frustration I experience.


Painting is complete and in the frame!



Hope you enjoyed! Feel free to like and share my blog post. I’m always interested in seeing how other artists work so I personally enjoy behind the scenes photos. People are always asking about my process, so from time to time, you’ll see a blog post pop up. If you want to follow me real time, hop over to my facebook KristenMargiottaArtAndIllustration and Instagram: @kristenmargiotta to keep up to date on events, sale specials, and real time posts on my painting process. You’ll see some fun personal stuff too, like trips, museum visits, and my love for music 🙂