I started this painting about one month ago and I tried to take a photograph of it at the end of each painting session to track it's progress. In a big painting like this I use photographs to help me transfer the arrangement to the canvas. I do this by taking a photo at the eye level I want for the painting and printing the photo out on transparency film. Then I use an overhead projector to project the image onto the canvas. More often than not I change the dimensions of the canvas at this stage to suit the image. Once I've traced the image up onto the canvas, the next step is to go over the drawing and make some adjustments. Even though I'm starting from a projected image, I don't really want it to look that way. I want the horizontals and verticals to be true. I want to eliminate any arcs or distortions that the lens creates, and I want the man made objects to be symmetrical. I don't like to make any changes to the composition once I'm painting so these first drawing steps are important to me. I don't use the photographs any more after the drawing stage unless the fruit is too far gone at a later point and I need them to finish.
Once I sense that the drawing is in order it's time to paint. I start by blocking in the color, usually the background first because it's such a large white area, and once it's in it will help me see the value and color of the smaller shapes in the set-up better. So here I'm taking my best shot at what I want the background color and value to be. It always looks too dark to me at this point, but once the rest of the white is gone it will be too light. In this first pass I like to make the paint as opaque as I can without building up any texture.
So this was day one. It took me a few hours to paint around all those edges. I don't want to loose the drawing at this point.
Day 2: I'm continuing to block in, trying to find a decent color and value for the objects as I go, while knowing they will need many adjustments later. Already the background appears a lot lighter.
Day 3: First pass finished. Everything is blocked in. This is when the painting process gets interesting, because for me the exciting thing is fine tuning the value and color relationships.