How Gabriela Gonzalez Dellosso Uses a Preliminary Sketch

There’s a sort of conjuring involved when a person takes ground-up rocks and plants, mixes them with water or oils to make a paste, and then dabs the mixture on a piece of cloth to summon a new reality. When Gabriela Gonzalez Dellosso speaks of painting, she peppers her speech with words like magic and miracles: “The act of painting a scene or even a simple figure convincingly is an amazing thing,” she says. “To do it really well is like magic.”

In this free excerpt from The Artist’s Magazine, Dellosso shares her process of using a sketch to determine a final composition.

A. The Five Senses and the Table of Plenty (sketch; oil, 9x12)

Creating a preliminary color sketch is one of the most useful things I can do to prepare for paintings that combine several compositional elements. In the end, I save time using these small sketches to work out questions or doubts concerning color, composition, value or anything else that could influence the effectiveness of the final painting. Also, having a small model of a larger work is reassuring, and looking at the sketch while I’m working on the finished painting helps me make important alterations—such as a color change.


B. The Five Senses and the Table of Plenty (finished painting; oil, 40x60)

The sketch for The Five Senses and the Table of Plenty (A) helped me determine the focal point—the boy and the woman speaking to him. Because there are many objects and several figures in this piece, I wanted to make sure that I preserved this focal point. With the sketch, I was able to see that making the faces of the two focal figures lighter in value draws attention to them. Also, the boy’s light yellow shirt helps draw the eye. Making the left and right rear figures and objects at the corners of the table cooler and darker makes the boy pop out even more. In the final painting (B), I changed the focal woman’s shirt to bright green, which jumps out more than the purple shirt in the color sketch.

Get your copy of the May 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine to read more about Gabriella Gonzalez Dellosso in the feature article “Riddled With Magic” by BJ Foreman.

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