Daily Composition painting of girl on train checking phone messages, acrylic on board, 220x274mm, by David Smith 2016

Daily Composition painting, Girl on train, January 2016

This is an example of a Daily Composition painting, in actual paint, as opposed to a more usual pen or pencil sketch. I used to commute daily to the centre of London and this image had stuck in my mind from the week before. It is of a girl all wrapped up for the January cold and absorbed in checking her messages. At this point the train was passing through Bermondsey on the elevated approach to London Bridge Station. The tracks are very wide here and raised well above ground level so the background is all in the distance. My view here is towards the Thames, so looking north.

Early stage, thinking…

Early stage view of a painting still in progress, the subject is a girl on a train absorbed in checking her phone messages.

Here is an early stage view of the same picture. The final state is at the bottom of the post. Unfortunately this is the only view I have of the painting still in progress. I remember having to do a little bit of thinking about the background. The buildings would have been far enough away that they would have been pretty clear in a photograph. However painting them clearly distracted from the main subject and also made it appear as if the train wasn’t moving…

Taking photos as I work gives me a helpful perspective afterwards as to how a picture progressed into its final state. But documenting of thing can be a distraction from actual doing of thing. So I still don’t take as many Early Stage pictures of real paintings as I would like.

The best thing about painting with Procreate on the iPad is that I can just save a video of the entire process!

When you realise you’ve made a terrible mistake…

Sometimes I have a Homer Simpson ‘D’oh!’ moment and realise I have made a terrible mistake by painting over something. These ‘D’oh’ moments are often accompanied by an instinctive reaching for the ‘undo’ button. Then I get that sinking feeling where I remember that of course there is no ‘undo’ button with real paint!

Practical stuff

The painting itself is acrylic on board. This board is called MDF in Ireland and Britain. It’s a kind of fibreboard and may be called masonite in the US. I love the surface texture it gives to thin layers of paint. Think of it as really thick paper. It doesn’t bend but you can effectively cut it using a knife! If it is more than a quarter of an inch thick you are better off involving a saw. You can clean up rough edges using a knife or a plane for surfacing wood.

I don’t paint on very thin MDF, say, less than a quarter of an inch thick. It is very light stuff and I am a little bit clumsy. The slightest tap can knock your painting onto your palette or your clothes or your floor. I feel more secure when things have a little weight to them. It’s one less thing to have to keep in mind as you work and one less potential distraction.

I sealed the board with clear acrylic rather than opaque gesso as I wanted the background colour and texture of the board to show through. The board itself acted as a unifying background layer, to use a Photoshop analogy. I also washed it with some, er, either sienna or umber, burnt or raw, as the board itself is relatively light in colour. I can’t remember which but I think it may have been umber. This mysterious raw/burnt sienna/umber is also what I used to make the grey for the shadows and the opaque paint.

Final state…

Painting of girl on train checking phone messages, acrylic on board.

Here is the final state of the daily composition painting. It measures 22×27.4cm in size, so it is not large.

The composition was clear in my mind so I made no underdrawing and drew straight on with ink and a brush. The initial shadow colour is a mixed blue-grey. The opaque colour over it is the same blend but with varying proportions and Titanium White added. My original intent was to add washes of colour but in the end I kept it grey because, well, it was January.


This final stage is available on on my Fine Art America page for prints or for printing on custom things like mugs, phone covers etc.


One response to “Daily Composition painting, Girl on train, January 2016”

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