When I set out to write my novel about Judith Leyster, I knew I would have to learn how she and other artists in early and mid-17th century Holland made their paintings. What material did she paint on? How did she make her paints, and where did they come from? Did she sketch out her paintings first? With the help of a few great books and one very generous Leyster expert, I was able to construct a studio and a process for Judith.
In my novel, she uses live models, props, and copy books to develop her paintings. Judith might sketch out a few scenes on her erasable tafelet, but she mostly paints as she goes, adjusting layer by layer.
Was that how she really painted? We don't know. But the National Gallery of Art has an exhibit about drawing and painters' artistic processes.
Take a look at the National Gallery of Art's online demonstration of the underdrawings. And if you can, head over to the exhibit. I'll see you there!