Jessica Loving. Lambent. 48″ x 48″, mixed media on canvas.

Step-By-Step Painting Process with Jessica Loving

Jessica Loving. Lambent. 48″ x 48″, mixed media on canvas.

Jessica Loving's work is rich with texture and saturated colors. The large canvases are layer-heavy compositions with immense depth and atmosphere. Learn more about Jessica's process and see step-by-step how she builds a composition while weaving in complex and shifting colors, light-reactive glazes, and sculpted textures.

Step 1: Dirty Brushes and Plenty of Atmosphere

The first step, after having a nicely gessoed surface with plenty of tooth, is to create the underpainting. This layer, or several layers, will peek out through windows and will greatly inform the way the color is captured and felt within the final composition. The underpainting may remain completely concealed, but the temperature of the hue will greatly influence the layers to come.

"I often will mix a few colors up to create something that is not consistent. I may even work with dirty brushes or water at this stage (for this one, I added some smudgy gray to the water to add a bit of shadowing), as it will add unique elements to the first layer. If the color is purely uniform, it won’t have the atmosphere that I seek to build from the very get-go."

Jessica's underpainting features a bright canary yellow—one with warmth and heat to it.

"I love using this specific color for the underpainting as it adds the sought-after luminosity and dialed-in saturation that I seek in all of my work...and it lends itself well to nearly all of the colorful compositions I work with. You might see the underpainting in little moments or it might seem to be perfectly concealed; either way, it will undoubtedly influence the way the final work is viewed."

Once everything has fully dried, she uses a soft pink oil stick to add a loose, gestural line that explores the surface and adds a bit of movement. This line will be revisited at nearly every stage of construction.

Step 2: Layers of Color (Added and Removed)

After building up a solid underpainting, Jessica explores the overall palette.

"For this one, I decided to use a soft lilac and a bit of a deeper purple too. So much of this is intuitive; I don’t have a plan for a painting but rather allow the quality of light, surrounding environment, general mood, music, mindset, and a million other things to drive the state of where a painting is going to go. This painting is being painted outside, which is my absolute favorite place to create. Not only is the light hard to beat, but the way the shadows dapple the surface offers a fun way to play with highlights and shadows that’s purely organic."

Jessica loosely applies layers of lilac and deeper purple. She allows drips to form and flow on her near-vertical surface.

"Gravity is always my collaborator; pulling and playing with layers as they are applied to the surface."

While the pigment is still wet, she takes a cloth to remove extra paint, making room for more of the citron color to peek through in drips and windows. At this stage, she is working with additive and subtractive methods—creating an interplay to happen between layers of pigment.

"Removing elements is as important as adding."

Step 3: Glazing and Layer Construction Continued

At this stage, several layers of glazing have been added. Gossamer-weight layers are applied to add a delicate shift in color and soft traces of line.

"I used a pigment that is similar to the original lilac, but has a touch more pink. I was searching for something that was a bit more saturated and rosy to play up the palette a bit. I also covered some additional windows of yellow to conceal a bit more of that canary that was peeking out at the previous stage."

To minimize the pull of the watery layers, she worked on the ground.

"I didn’t want drips and flows to be so evident at this stage of glazing. Since this stage is really light, I work on the ground with a canvas. If it were any heavier, it would need to be done vertically (or on a panel) so as not to disrupt the integrity of the surface."

Step 4: Bringing Movement Through (Adding Droplets and Mini-Pours to the Foreground)

This next stage is focused on bringing the canary color to the forefront. A series of mini-pours and droplets are added to the surface. Much like previous steps, part of this process is subtractive.

"I often will pour more watery pigment onto the surface than I expect to want and will pull up the layer at various stages of drying. This adds a bit of movement to the surface."

Jessica introduces light-reactive additives to the paint to help the surface interact more with changing light. Again, this stage is done on the ground to ensure that nothing drips or moves. She also adds another series of gestural lines with a yellow oil stick. This is done vertically and mimics the movement from that early series of layers.

Step 5: More Focus on Layering

Jessica adds even more yellow using a thicker application. She also uses a bit of a muddy gold-hued pigment to add some shadows to the layering. This stage is about adding plenty of pigment to really build up the surface. She applies the paint in small patterned strokes creating much more interplay between the layers and a dappled effect.

"I also started mixing in some rich gold paint to help the yellow feel more luminescent. Again, I really love when the layers subtly dance with the surrounding light. Adding reflective pigments and embedding these throughout the layering helps with just that."

This stage takes more time and patience. Jessica works in phases letting the painting fully dry before adding more.

"I don’t want the layers of dappling to become muddy, so it’s important to allow for a bit of spaciousness between applications."

Step 6: And More, Still

While the canvas stands vertically, she adds glazes of metallic pigments to really play up the light in the composition. These pigments are thinly applied over the entire surface.

"Since the golden glaze is really thin, I apply it to the purple areas too."

By layering these pigments, more complexity is added to the coloring as well as a global sense of light reflection.

Step 7: Texture and Reflection (Building the top Layers)

Throughout the entire process, Jessica will often flip the panel to ensure that the piece works in all directions.

"All of my work can be hung any which way, so it is important that each stage shifts the orientation a bit."

At this stage, Jessica starts adding glass beads to the surface as a source for light to reflect off of and to create a more incandescent look. She adds a dense layer of glass encased in thick polymer to the surface before leaving it out to dry over the course of a few days. She uses the same type of brushstroke/application patterning.

"I want this to meld well within its background and mimic some of the movement found elsewhere in the piece."

Step 8: Definition and Line

Using a deep, oversized aubergine-hued oil stick, Jessica adds a deeper shade to the surface with heavy-weight, gestural loops. The pigments from the oil stick are captured within the peaks and troughs because of the beaded surface.

"It gives it an irregular, globby application (which I love). While subtle, I like the addition of a bit of darkness and deep pigment dancing along the knobby surface. It’s subtle, but adds a bit of contrast and weaves much of the composition together."

Step 9: High-gloss Varnish and Crushed Stone

At this stage, Jessica heavily coats the surface with a high-gloss varnish. While it’s wet, she dusts the surface with lightly-colored crushed stone granules that will embed in the varnish layer. This adds a fine grain to the top layer, furthering the overall texture and atmosphere of the painting.

"I love the crystalline quality that these bring forth, in contrast to the really glossy varnish that is applied. There’s some cool interplay that takes place on the very top of the surface."

Jessica Loving's painting titled "Lambent"

Jessica Loving. Lambent. 48″ x 48″, mixed media on canvas.

The Finished Painting

Lambent. 48″ x 48″, mixed media on canvas.

Learn More

Local artists are integral to the DAM, and some of our most inspirational collaborators are found in the local community. The DAM has many opportunities and programs to work with local artists in our community, including Untitled: Creative Fusions, the Creative-in-Residence program, and demonstrations in the interactive Studio.