How do artists think? — An insight into the process of painting an artwork

Kingas Grapes
5 min readJul 19, 2019

In the last two weeks, I visited Hong Kong, Bangkok and Jakarta. This trip has pushed me beyond my comfort zone. One main take away is: as a female artist I have a bigger responsibility to speak up (and be grateful for my freedom to do so) than I realized. Another key learning is that creative people remain a mystery to many.

In Jakarta, I was asked: “How do painters think?”. It’s not easy to reflect on something that you do intuitively. However, I want to answer the question, so I write this article. It is meant to give an insight into the process of artwork creation. I claim that:

Art creation is similar to scientific work. It always starts with a problem that I bothering enough to deal with for a while.

  • In arts, the problem is usually a feeling-provoking situation, a momentum or a message that needs to be questioned. It literally bothers me, either positively or negatively.

It could be anything. The way a child looks at ice cream. A ride on the subway in summer without AC. The freshness of Viennese tap water compared to bottled up water.

  • The first step is to take a mental note of what bothers or touches me, conceptualize it, so I can come back to it later. I tend do do a quick sketch of the situation, subject, feeling or object. Sometimes I also write it down.

The sketch will provoke the same feeling I had when I first lived it.

  • Next, I decide whether the “problem” bothers me enough to work on it more or if I want to dismiss it. If I find it interesting enough, I choose more materials to work with. I usually pick between acrylic or oil paint, pen, marker, pencil, colored pencils, paper, canvas, linoleum or digital art.
  • My favorite brands are Schmincke and Liquitex paint, STAEDTLER pigment liners, Indian ink by Winsor & Newton and Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth colored pencils. The colors I use in every work are Schmincke’s Flesh Color and Royal Blue, and Liquitex’ Cadmium-free Red Medium, Heavy Body Acrylic Titanium White and Heavy Body Acrylic Mars Black.
  • The size of the artwork matters. It determines the cropping and frame I can show and the amount of details that will look good. Also the material on which I work determines what can and cannot be done. Paper behaves differently than canvas. Acrylic paint on paper only works with thin layers of paint otherwise the paper gets wrinkly. Canvas on the other hand has to be stretched and allows long-time reworking before the painting dries.
  • I add color, texture, form. I look at contrasts, shapes, problem areas and where the focus of the eye should go. What’s my highlight? What’s the message?

This acrylic painting, for example, is inspired by a situation between lovers. They are connected in their minds, but one feels that the other is not being their true self. Maybe they play a role or they switch personalities (faces, masks) according to situations. The partner feels betrayed and is left with their head in the clouds and a body dissolved into fragments of pieces.

  • The work needs to tell a story of its own, regardless of the situation that inspired it. A good work of art provokes an emotion in the viewer. I experiment with texture, light and shadow, line thickness and shades of the same color.
  • The reworking, adding to and removing from it, the process of change, stops once the artworks feels “right”. You could ask 10 artists when a painting is finished, and they will probably each give distinctive answers. What feels “finished” is a very personal and subjective matter. The artwork I’m showing to you in the pictures took 6 weeks to complete.
  • When done, the painting needs varnish. I use something like this, Schmincke Mattfirnis with UV protection for acrylic paint.

This is my finished painting called “Gallo Rojo, Gallo Negro (Role issues)”, acrylic paint on canvas, 70 x 100 cm, 2018. It was exhibited at Art Attech (01/02/19) and at Junge Kunst St. Art & Damani (20/10–06/12/2018) in Vienna, Austria. It’s available for purchase here.

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KINGAS GRAPES is Kinga Jakabffy’s (*1988) artist name. She is an autodidact artist born in Austria to Hungarian immigrant parents. Her figurative art paintings and illustrations deal with the process of identity creation in social relationships starting from a point of cultural rootlessness. In collaboration with Stefan Draschan and TBWA she won the award Staatspreis 2018 for the project “People matching artworks” for Belvedere Museum. Kingas Grapes studied and worked in Sevilla and Montreal and now lives and works in Vienna, Austria. Her latest exhibitions were Miniscule 2 at Crosslane Projects in UK, Art Attech, and Junge Kunst in Vienna.