Pop! Goes The Easel exhibition by Kerwin Blackburn at the Crypt Gallery, Norwich | Music pop art paintings and prints

My Creative Process & Painting Technique

Discover My Artistic Inspiration and Painting & Creative Process

“Pop Culture In A Chaotic Jackson Pollock Style” – BBC

In addition to my About Me page and My Story, which introduce myself as the artist behind By Kerwin, I take you through my artistic inspiration below, along with the steps I follow to create my colourful, hand-painted artworks.

Introduction to my ‘By Kerwin’ style of painting

My unique and colourful ‘By Kerwin’ acrylic portrait paintings are a fusion of two iconic art movements: Pop Art and Action Painting. My acrylic-on-canvas portraits are a vibrant celebration of pop culture and music, inspired by the visionary works of Pop Artists – such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein – and the dynamic energy of Jackson Pollock.

Each of my paintings is an exciting blend of bold lines, explosive patterns, and vibrant colours; offering a fresh perspective on familiar and important icons from global pop culture. Read on as I explore the steps behind my one-of-a-kind creative process, sharing the essence of my unique painting style. Watch my exciting painting promo video below to get a flavour of my unique style and process!

Explore my full range of pop art paintings – and shop prints – in my online shop. Fast worldwide delivery, instant energy for your walls and satisfaction guaranteed.

The Inspiration Behind My Paintings

Combining Two Contrasting Art Movements: Action Painting & Pop Art

The initial starting inspiration for my unique style of paintings was Jackson Pollock’s ‘Action Painting technique, in which he threw, poured and dripped his paint onto his canvas – rather than painting with brushstrokes. I first discovered this technique, and Jackson Pollock, through The Stone Roses’ album cover while a student in Manchester, UK in 2012.

The Stone Roses album cover record sleeve | Photo By Kerwin
The Stone Roses album cover inspired my By Kerwin style of painting

Figuring that action painting on its own is a widely, and easily, imitated style, I sought a way to put my own twist on this. In 2019 I had the lightbulb moment to combine the frenetic energy of action painting with the bold portrait approach of pop art. By restricting my action painting to only certain areas of the canvas – such as within the outlines of a face – this would put a unique and revolutionary twist on Pollock’s abstract approach.

The result is that I seamlessly integrate Pollock’s free-flowing technique with elements of pop art portraiture to create a striking and unique combination. I capture the essence of my pop culture subjects with vibrant colours and graphic compositions, reminiscent of the bold, iconic works of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

Did You Know?

Pop Art originated in the 1950s and 1960s in direct response to the ‘Abstract Expressionism’ art movement, which included Action Painting. Pop artists felt alienated – even angered – by the elitism and abstract concepts dominating the art world just before they kickstarted the easy-to-understand and accessible pop art movement.

Learn more about how Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism oppose each other in my insightful blog post. You can also discover how Pop Art rebelled against the conventional art world here.

By Kerwin music themed pop art paintings and prints in a chaotic Jackson Pollock style landscape montage
By Kerwin pop art music icon paintings

The Materials and Tools Used in My Paintings

My paintings are all created using high-quality acrylic paints, which are applied onto high-quality stretched canvas. I use good-quality pencils and a rubber for the initial drawing part, along with a set square and calculator to aid my precision. I’ll then use paintbrushes to block-paint the piece. I paint on a table, not with an easel. I later use ‘Frog Tape’ to mask off the background ready for the action painting.

I mix my different shades of acrylic paint in cups ready for throwing and splattering, mixing these with water and mediums to thin these and get the right consistency. Acrylic paint is perfect for what I want to achieve in my paintings – acrylic provides vibrant colours and good coverage, is water-based so can be easily thinned with water, and is relatively cost-effective.

I throw my paint with a hardened brush (similar to the tools used by Jackson Pollock), onto my canvas which is laid on the floor of my garage or a dustsheet-covered bathroom.

Once the painting is completed, I varnish my finished pieces with a couple of coats of spray gloss varnish. Lastly, I frame the finished canvas painting in a wooden canvas ‘floater’ frame, ready for presentation and display.

Below I break down the various steps to take my ideas from conception to finished paintings.

By Kerwin paintbrushes - what tools did Jackson Pollock paint with?

The 9 Steps to Create My By Kerwin Pop Art Acrylic Action Paintings

Step 1: Choosing My Painting Subject and Iconic Imagery

First of all, I need to select which global music or pop culture icon to paint. I’ll explore different personalities that would be a good addition to my collection of By Kerwin paintings, and also search for an iconic vector image or photo to work from and turn into the pop art portrait outline.

I like to paint a diverse range of individuals, comprising different eras and music genres, and also different types of iconic poses. I’ll get a loose idea of what colour would suit them, as well as complement my existing paintings to ensure I have a variety of colour schemes across my range.

Step 2: Sketching and Composition

Initially, once I have identified and finalised the iconic image to base my painting on in Adobe PhotoShop, I’ll draw the outlines of my portraits in pencil using a grid drawing technique to achieve the desired accuracy. This is perhaps the most important step in some ways – it will determine the overall quality of quality and likeness of the finished painting. Watch my grid drawing tutorial video below.

Step 3: Block-Painting

Once the drawing is complete and I’m satisfied with the precision of the details, I’ll rub the gridlines out. I’ll then begin block-painting the different areas of my painting in solid colours, beginning with white – this is the first time the portrait comes to life and allows for any corrections to be made (these are rarely required!). The section that will be ‘action painted’ over is painted in the chosen base colour.

Step 4: Masking

Once I’ve painted the main background and foreground colours, the first stage of the painting is complete. The next step is the action painting stage. I use ‘Frog Tape’ masking tape to cover off the sections I want left clear; tearing individual pieces off to go around all of the details. This is the most arduous part of the painting process by far, taking many hours.

Step 5: Mixing Acrylics and Action Painting

Once the background has been taped off, I can then begin with the Jackson Pollock-inspired action painting stage. I play around with colours in Adobe Illustrator to identify some approximate shades that would work well together, and a rough order to layer these in.

I’ll mix different acrylic paints (photos above) to achieve the right colours and opacity, mixing these with water and thinning mediums to achieve the right paint-throwing consistency. I’ll also test the colours first to ensure the shades balance together, as acrylic paint dries darker than wet.

I lay the canvas down, suspended just off the floor, in my garage or a bathroom protected by dust sheets. I’ll throw the paint using an old hardened paintbrush, letting each layer dry before the next to prevent the colours running into one another. Each of my portrait action paintings contains around seven or eight different splattered layers of paint – with the larger pieces sometimes containing over twelve. This step usually takes two or three days per piece.

Step 6: Reveal

By far the most satisfying part of the creative process is peeling the tape off once all the splattered layers are dry to reveal the action-painted result (below).

Step 7: Painting the Final Colours and Signing

The final step is to paint the background colour and any other contour lines in their final shades. I need to wait until after the action-painted part is done to choose these final hues, as the various splattered layers of paint will determine the overall colour effect of the piece. I’ll then add my signature by painting my name.

Step 8: Photography and Post-Production for Prints

Once the painting is complete, I’ll set this on an easel in my photography studio and capture the high-resolution photos required to turn this into the digital version. This involves post-production in PhotoShop to produce the flat and vibrant image that can be reproduced as prints.

By Kerwin painting process photo studio Jay-Z
Photographing my Jay-Z painting in my studio ready to turn into prints

Step 9: Varnishing and Framing

Once photography is done, I’ll lightly varnish the painting with two layers of spray gloss varnish. I’ll then frame the painting in a wooden canvas ‘floater’ frame, ready for display. Usually black, these frames perfectly help bring out the colours within the painting and make these pop, while adding a professional appearance to wow visitors to my exhibitions.

Once the physical painting is completed, I then begin the online marketing work to get my painting onto my website and available as prints in my online shop. I’ll then promote the piece on my social media channels as well as on my blog!

By Kerwin home art studio in Norfolk, England | Pop art music-inspired paintings banner
Some of my framed acrylic paintings in my home art studio in Norfolk, England

View my full range of By Kerwin pop art-inspired, action painting-infused icon portraits in my online shop – where you can purchase prints of your favourite(s)!

Visit my dedicated blog section for my insights into How I Built My Art Business, By Kerwin. You can also learn more about the Pop Art movement in this blog section.

My full range of Jackson Pollock-inspired acrylic paintings can be viewed at www.bykerwin.com – the originals and prints of these are available to purchase, with worldwide delivery. You can follow my art progress on Instagram and Facebook.

By Kerwin pop art music paintings at The Other Art Fair London panoramic landscape photo
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