Sets of canvases can be a challenge for overall good design and continuity. Backgrounds help with this challenge, and for this new triptych I’ve decided to use a fun background technique on all of the paintings:  cellophane dobbing. Now, what shall I paint it on?


With experience painting trios (triptych) of 5×7″s and 6×8″s and then 8×8″s – all lots of fun and all very different, I know that getting started with the right background is crucial. (See the story of 4 canvases here.) I have the opportunity to use three 10×10″ gesso boards, so here I go.

What will the color palette be? This time I wanted the background to be more varied and textured, but I didn’t want to use gel medium. And I wanted to go a little darker. I chose a tube of rich chocolate brown and I was ready to get started.


STEP 1:  Chocolate Brown Background

I applied quite a bit of paint and used a bristle brush to spread it around, covering each board edge to edge. Then the fun part: I used the cellophane that the boards were wrapped in to add some texture. I dropped a crumpled piece into the wet paint, then picked it up again. I did that all over the boards until I was happy with the textured look. See what I mean….


@2016 Sally Erickson, Bend, Oregon. All Rights Reserved.

New abstract art board trio began with a textured brown background.

STEP 2:  Add some color.

A nice start. Next some real color! I like red and decided rather than free-form, I’d use a template for a large circle. I outlined several over the three boards, but didn’t fill the shape entirely with red. Here’s how it looked at this stage.


@2016 Sally Erickson, Bend, Oregon. All Rights Reserved.

Bright red circles over the textured brown of this abstract set.

Not very exciting yet. I either need to fill in those circles for some substance to this painting or go with another geometric form.



@2016 Sally Erickson, Bend, Oregon. All Rights Reserved.

Connecting the design on the separate art boards with black.

STEP 3:  Connecting with Black

I decided on black to do the next job of adding a substantial form that connects the three boards. Not too wide, but with some movement. Here’s what I did with the black.




@2016 Sally Erickson, Bend, Oregon. All Rights Reserved.

Filling in the red circles of this abstract painting set.


STEP 4:  Fill in circles.

Next idea: Gotta fill in those circles to make them stand out more. And maybe some other areas of color, too, this time wiping on the color. Here’s how that turned out…




@2016 Sally Erickson, Bend, Oregon. All Rights Reserved.

Smaller circles with peach, highlighted.

STEP 5:  More circles

I’m liking the way it’s going, but it’s not done yet. I want more shapes in those open spaces. But what color?

I decide on peach, add some smaller circles on all three boards. Not quite right, I decide. It’s too bright and makes the whole thing look waaay too busy / messy.



STEP 6:  Calm the peach circles.

My solution is to distract from those peach circles, and take the color down a notch with alternating light and dark washes of paint. This took some experimentation – thickness of wash, wipe off or not – but I was pretty happy with it when I finished. I doubt I would have come up with this technique if I hadn’t been unsatisfied with those peach circles. In any case, here’s the result.

@2016 Sally Erickson, Bend, Oregon. All Rights Reserved.

Dark and light columns overpainting on all three abstract paintings.


LAST STEP: A little copper metallic to set off the shapes. See what you think.


@2016 Sally Erickson, Bend, Oregon. All Rights Reserved.

Final edition of Expedition 15-16-17, abstract triptych on art board.

(These gesso boards are so flat that taking photos with any kind of lighting is difficult. Also, the white wash makes the lighter colored column look like it’s a reflection. I used Photoshop to try to compensate and give you a good idea of the final paintings.)

Here’s another shot.


@2016 Sally Erickson, Bend, Oregon. All Rights Reserved.

Well, that was fun. These are larger sized boards than I’ve done before, and it gave me some challenges I wasn’t expecting. I’m happy with the result. I hope you like it too. More views of the finished paintings here.

Please let me know if you like it or ask a question in the form below.

Next sets in the wings: three 6×8’s and four 12×12″ that I may do in two sets of 2 (diptych).

Thanks for reading and taking a look at my paintings!