For “Arigató” I used a limited palette of blues, greens, and reds, with some Raw Sienna. I always use Titanium White and Payne’s Gray in all my paintings.
After several layers of sanded gesso to smooth the textured canvas, I started with the background. I love pushing around paint with brushes and sponges. I splattered, poured, wiped, and sanded until the background worked for the composition. The backgrounds in my paintings are often the abstract art supporting, contrasting with, and reinforcing the realism in my artwork.
Once the background was perfectly flat and smooth, I could work on my composition without being hampered by bulges or lumps on the surface. I used diluted clear gesso (what a great invention by Winsor & Newton!) to cover the surface, to achieve tooth for my next layers of paint and to fixate the background. I don’t want any brush marks to show.
Elements in trompe l’oeil paintings are always depicted life-size. In this piece I focused on textures: The hand-painted bamboo chopsticks, the porcelain holder, the shiny metal and enamel of the fish pendant. I wanted each different element to clearly show its specific surface.
Once I drew the basic lines of my composition onto the canvas, I could start layering paint in very thin, transparent coats. I always work with very tiny amounts of acrylic, because it dries so quickly. And I mix it with plenty of Gloss Medium and a little bit of water to obtain a thin, smooth glaze-like consistency. I always work in layers, often up to as many as 30, to obtain a deep multi-layered look with intense color. I let the paint dry well between layers, moving on to other elements in the painting.
Once the painting was to my satisfaction, I painted the highlights in pure Titanium White, to make the reflections pop. The highlights often need several layers of pure white paint straight from the tube—they are the finishing touch and the most fun to do because they make the surfaces come to life. Then I let my painting dry for a few days, signed it, and then gave it two coats of Matte Varnish.