Artistic Keys to the Kingdom: Flexibility and Discipline

How to Paint In Your Own Way

It’s always inspiring to hear artists describe their process in their own words, and I can just get out of the way (lol!). Steve Henderson is an artist many of us at Artist Daily have admired for his uplifting paintings, business acumen, and artistic generosity. Here’s a conversation we had a while back that I wanted to share so that his words of wisdom can inspire you anew like they did me! Enjoy!

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Summer Breeze by Steve Henderson, oil on canvas, 24 x 24.
Summer Breeze by Steve Henderson, oil on canvas, 24 x 24.


Artist Daily: Tell me about your process. Are there rules you adhere to for how to paint certain things or just the opposite?

Steve Henderson: Although I do follow fairly strict procedures, I permit myself the freedom to give new approaches a try. If they work for me, I adopt them; if they don’t, I toss them. Different paintings require an appropriate approach. For some paintings, I take the time to study their design structure through preliminary sketches and studies. Other times I decide how to paint differently. I enjoy jumping right in and applying the paint alla prima, allowing each stroke of oil on canvas to mold the image into being.

One thing that always holds true is that I ask myself many questions before I even begin the painting process. Questions such as, Why am I painting this? What does this image mean to me? What more can I do with it?

AD: How do you view experimentation in painting?

SH: Absolutely positively. Artists should have a spirit of experimentation at every level, style, medium, and subject matter. An abstract painter can benefit from the discipline and draftsmanship of representation, and the representational painter can benefit from learning how to paint with the looseness, compositional possibilities and imagination of the abstractionist.

AD: Where does illustration fit into your fine art oil painting practice?

SH: Working in the illustration field for 20 years kept me flexible and disciplined: flexible in that I illustrated everything from medical illustrations showing blocked arteries and hip replacements to cartoons of angry germs and tired office workers, and disciplined in that I had to meet deadlines and please art directors.

Shore Leave by Steve Henderson, oil on canvas, 16 x 20.
Shore Leave by Steve Henderson, oil on canvas, 16 x 20.

AD: How and where do you sell your work? What has worked for you?

SH: Direct sales through my website, representation through fine art galleries, and indirect sales through workshops and classes. Stay flexible and eclectic in your approach. Offer items in various sizes, formats, and price ranges to expand your body of interested buyers, and keep in touch with your collectors through direct and indirect contact about your latest work and activity.

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As Steve says, staying eclectic and flexible keeps artists thinking while shedding light on how to paint on your own terms and with processes that are tried and true. Two resource DVDs–Mastering Composition with Ian Roberts and Richard Robinson’s Painting Workshops: 4 Still Life Projects from Life–will give you that same kind of flexible, adaptable foundation for painting, and they are exactly what we need to progress in our art but from the convenience of our own homes and studios. Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

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