I really don't know what I'm doing

by Paul Burmeister

Here’s another painting in progress, which shows three days’ of underpainting sessions. I have never been able to begin a painting with a clear idea of what the final image ought to look like. Never. I’m not boasting, and I’m not complaining, although often I have felt pressure to begin with the clarity that many artists can and do. (I have the same “approach” to writing.)
I’m not sure where this experience and practice comes from, but I’ve known it since I was a teen. One painting instructor encouraged a responsive and immediate approach. A later painting instructor promoted working with a drawing / design and carefully building layers to a finished work. Somewhere in there I am. I prefer to begin with a foundational concept—symmetry in the example shown below—and I prefer to build the painting out from its beginning center . . . which is not always centered two-dimensionally.

2019 Burmeister cacti pair underpainting