The thought process for a painting from start to unfinished

I thought it might be interesting to provide a little insight in my thought process when creating a piece of art. It won’t be so much the technical process. I’ll do that another time.

This one here is the second one in my series of Dutch themed acrylic paintings.

I actually took this photo in July 2014 during a trip to see my family in Holland. I liked the way the bike was leaning and what a typical day-to-day image that is in Holland, yet something you don’t see elsewhere very much. So from the idea for the painting until the moment I actually started on it took almost a year.


I also like the brick work in the photo and it reminds me of The Little Street of Vermeer, but I didn’t think I have the patience to paint that, so I wasn’t going to use that.

If I wasn’t going to use the wall, I probably wouldn’t use the door either.

Bikes in Holland are typically left in bike racks if available or against a wall, and lacking that, a fence or a lamppost. I like that last idea. In small older Dutch town canters the lampposts are often interesting. Not having a photo of one of those I went to the internet.

Now, with using internet photos you have to consider copyright issues and also it’s not fun to me to just copy someone else’s photograph. That’s like me creating a piece of art by copying someone else’s piece of art. However, a lamppost is usually not the featured object of a photograph. It often just happens to be on there. So I looked for a photograph with a lamppost in it where I was pretty sure the photographer didn’t care that the lamppost was in the photo, because it wasn’t the object of the picture. Once I found one, that’s what I used. Even then, I took some of the features of the lamppost I liked and simplified others I didn’t like, so it’s still not the same. For instance, the one in the photo has a square base, whereas mine is round.

To get the proportions right, I pasted the bike over the lamppost photo and changed the size, until the proportions seemed correct.

That image was what I ultimately used to sketch the painting from. I then used both individual pictures for detail painting.

I started with painting the bicycle, then I went on to paint the lamppost. As they were two different paintings I had to make a decision where the light came from.  To give it a background I used the airbrush to spray in the gray in the back, but looking at that I actually liked how it gave it that overcast day feel. In fact, it seemed like it was foggy and probably a wet day, or had just rained. Very typical of most of the year in Holland.

bike in progress

That’s when I felt it needed a rain puddle on the ground…. Oh, the ground, grey sidewalk tiles. So I painted the tiles in. Back to the internet, what does it look like when the pavement is wet, how do puddles form?

I noticed for instance that often puddles on a tiled pavement stay within the boundaries of a tile. It’s more defined in shape than the natural puddles on a dirt road or in a field.

So this is where I’m at now. The puddle is OK, but too blue. The blue reflection would be OK if the sky was blue, but it’s not. I’m not 100% sure about the reflection of the post in the puddle yet either. The wheels need a little work still; a line for a wheel rim is OK for a cartoon, but not for my painting.

And then there’s the question of the background. It could be a foggy day, where you can just make out the shapes of trees and maybe a cow… Or are we at the coast? Should there be a railing and some North Sea in the back? Did the puddle come from a wave? Plenty of options.

It’s all a case of painting, stepping back, taking a break, looking at it again. Adjusting, painting over and doing it again and looking at reference pictures online if you’re not sure. The hardest part is deciding when you’re done.

Bicycle in the fog, 10x20, acrylic on canvas(The final result)