My Painting Methods in 2014


During the first year I decided I would be a professional artist, I had to do a lot of exploring. Deciding on my painting style, what about a painting would make it uniquely my own – how would I stand out, in other words. It is during that year of discovery that I have come up with some painting methods that I use with regularity, to make these works of art an “Amy Tanathorn original”.

1. Using opposite or complimentary colors in an underpainting

I like seeing small bits of color popping and peeking out from underneath the top layer of paint. It gives the image depth and provides visual interest. Here is an example.


Underpainting for Freesia Falling

In this process photo, I painted the flower a golden yellow and the background a fuchsia color. The finished piece, however, has the colors switched.


Snapshot of the finished piece.

In this particular painting, I made the stem a brownish red color with the finished stem a green. I ususally like to use red for leaves and stems as the underpainting. It gives such a nice rich color!

2. Background underpainting abstract

Another method I like to use to give a background more complexity and visual interest is to make an abstract painting right on the canvas and let it dry before drawing in the general shapes. Sometimes it works beautifully, and sometimes you don’t even see the underlying abstraction.

One painting where that worked really nicely is my lotus painting, “My Sanctuary”.

lotus painting

Look through the top layer and see the colors beneath in the background.


With a painting knife, I laid on different colors, but I had drawn the lotus already. I like how you can see these colors come through the creamy beige background color. I am now doing this for my current painting; here is a process shot:


I intend to put a light colored background over the knife work, much the same way as the lotus piece. I’m looking to create the same effect.

3. Textured shapes

During my first year, I had looked at other artists to see what they used to make their paintings uniquely theirs. I was really drawn toward more whimsical shapes incorporated into paintings, and thought I would give it a try too. But I love more than the shapes. I love texture. Most artists looked like they were just playing with shapes and the colors, but I wanted more.

In my shapes, I use a heavy gel medium that holds the peaks of paint. Now, when I make a swirl within the circle of heavy gel I just applied, the swirl with stay. Here is an example from my painting, Namaste Lalitha Devi:


The swirls within the circles hold their shape, and I layer paint in them.

I like layering different colors within these textured shapes after they’ve dried, creating even more visual interest – lots of colors PLUS texture!

Within my textured circles or squares, I sometimes embed origami papers. Here are examples from Namaste with Joy and the purple Lily of the Valley details:

  Namaste Hands with Joy detail 1 Lily-of-the-Valley-Detail2

I also like creating texture with tea bag papers. They not only give you beautiful stained splotches and streaks, but the paper itself bends and creases as you apply it to the surface and it looks just so cool. This photo shows a close up of tea papers I used as rectangles, then painted color over them to create wonderful texture on the entire top half of the painting:


You might be able to see, in this close-up detail shot, the little bits of actual tea that stuck to the inside of the bag, creating some bumpy texture. You might also see some of the tea stains. Layering these bags over each other also gives depth that I like.

4. Create texture right on the canvas

The last of the painting methods I outline today is that when I prep my canvases, I first apply one more layer of gesso on them. I prefer that as little of the weave from the canvas cloth is exposed. When that is dry, I had first used modeling paste. Then I learned that I need more flexibility from the modeling paste and that I need to mix it with my gel medium to add flexibility. I use gel medium to give my paint more of a transparent quality, to adhere origami and tea papers, and to bulk up my paint, make more go further.

So I scoop out half modeling paste and half gel medium and mix it together, then using a spreading knife, much like what bakers use to spread frosting on a cake, I spread it all over my canvas, sometimes skittering my knife across the top lightly to create some texture. I also have this little knife used to cut wavy shaped carrots, and I drag that down the canvas sometimes. In this photo you can see all the texture I’ve created beneath the paint. Sometimes the glazes pool up in the crevices and create really cool looking effects. I strive to create this effect on the edges of the thicker canvas.


Opposite and complimentary color underpainting, abstract style underpaintng, textured shapes and canvas are four areas of my creative artwork that distinguishes my paintings from others. In the next I will go into my actual subject matter!


2 Responses to My Painting Methods in 2014

  1. Cathy September 17, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

    I really resonate with your work! Great explanation and thank you for sharing! I love texture in my paintings as well. I’m trying to achieve that same textured look in watercolors right now. Finding our unique “signature” style is an interesting process. You’ve done fantastic!!

    • Amy Tanathorn September 22, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

      I happen to also love your unique signature style, too, Cathy. Your work is beautiful! Thank you for your kind comments. 🙂

Leave a Reply