Drawing and Painting and Painting and Drawing

March 01, 2018

Waiting in the Wings is a miniature oil painting by Debra Keirce

As an artist who plans to learn and grow until I can no longer lift my brushes, my process evolves. Yet one of the questions I am most often asked, is “What process do you use to paint your miniature pieces?”

 So this is a peek at the way I paint today. The truth is, whether I am painting in miniature or in larger sizes, whether I am painting in acrylic or oil, I use the same methods.

Painting is just like storytelling. I create a script that invites the viewer in. They begin to interact, putting their own spin on my tale, creating something entirely new and personal to them. The experience moves from just seeing to feeling. This is my definition of art, and here is how I do it.


Before I start the painting, I need a plot concept. What is the story? Who is the star? Who are the co-stars? Supporting actors? Where does the story take place?

Let’s follow an example so I can show you exactly what I mean with this metaphor. Here is a story I painted in miniature about guns. It’s about the decisions we make in life, which triggers we pull, and the consequences. The main character is the trigger on the lower gun. The co-stars are the guns themselves, and the supporting actors are the shadows. The story takes place on a 2.5”x4” primed illustration board, in acrylic paint.


Drawing by Debra KeirceI sit close to the easel and create the outline for my story. In pencil, graphite or paint, I draw major shapes, but no details yet. I think about where the chapters start and stop as I mark the height and width. I plan how the story will unfold as I consider placement and proportions.  As I choose the setting, I lay in the ground. This is the color that will provide a measure against the values (lightness and darkness) of the paints I use.


Shadows and shapes by Debra KeirceIn this step, I sit back away from the easel and squint. I hold my brush toward the end of its handle. My workhorse brush is a #6 round.

This is where the story begins to literally take shape, with shapes as the main ideas in each paragraph.


Paint Focus by Debra KeirceHere I continue by painting the star. Who’s first on stage? The trigger of course. I begin to develop the character. I want my most intense detail, color and star qualities to shine on this trigger. I paint some of the background and area around the focus, because stars only appear to shine if their surroundings allow them to.


Paint Local Colors by Debra KeirceNext, I continue to paint the local colors. These are the colors you think of when you see an object. The guns are grey and brown. Here is where I begin to develop the supporting characters. When painting, the personality of color is depicted with hue, intensity and value.  Hard and soft edges, and the way I transition from one color to the next will give form and dimension to my characters. I start to suggest these.


Details by Debra KeirceNow I go back to drawing. I sit close to the easel and work under a lighted magnifier. I hold my brush close to the tip, in a drawing stance. My workhorse brush is a #2 liner, but I’m also using exacto blades and embossing tools to sculpt the paint. I am thinking in three dimensions as I draw the details. I’m writing the script with the details, and I want my story to take on three dimensions and come alive.


Editing by Debra KeirceTypically, I will do this step after waiting a day, so I come with a fresh eye.



I sit back away from the easel and move close as needed. I hold my brush toward the end of the handle to paint, or close to the brush to draw, as needed. My workhorse brush is a #6 round, but I will pull in other tools as needed. I use close range binoculars and a hand mirror to see the painting in a new light.

This is where I throw away any reference photos, cover the still life set up, and just let the painting speak to me. I listen. There is a conversation taking place. I am editing.  On occasion, I will make major changes, and circle back to earlier steps. Click Debra Keirce to see more of her art at Seaside Art Gallery. 

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