I sometimes start a painting from ‘nothing’, making a network of lines and areas of colour. The level of control can vary, but usually less control leads to a greater chance of a stimulating and unexpected starting point. It can help to close my eyes at this stage.
In fact, these ‘random’ marks are no less random than the forms that present themselves to us in the real world. At a certain stage, there is always a desire to tease out and make concrete forms which may or may not relate to recognisable features of the everyday world. Relationships across the picture plane and in depth suggest themselves, and ideally, colour and formal relationships will develop together.
The forms I see may relate to previous paintings and drawings, or to something I have seen in my everyday life. Sometimes the forms and overall image appear too easily and must be discarded.
At times, there may appear to be no way of taking the painting forward, and turning it sideways or upside down, working on another painting, or just leaving it alone for a day or so can help. If I feel I'm moving in the right direction, each successive move becomes more assured.
There comes a stage when progress slows, and each subsequent step requires greater deliberation. This is often a signal that the painting may be finished, or nearly so. ‘Finished’ meaning that work on it has ceased, rather than a particular goal has been reached. There is always a danger of continuing past this point and losing whatever it is that was gained.
Ideally, one ends up with a painting that is nothing like the original concept. It should convince me and the viewer that it has a right to occupy a place in the world. And if I'm lucky, I might come up with a suitable title.