Tips on Oil Painting – One Basic Approach to Creating an Oil Painting

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In this article I will give you an overview of my personal approach to the creation of an oil painting. There are of course many valid approaches to painting and with experience you will develop your own specific approach. But if you are a beginning painter you may want to try and practice the following approach:

* The Drawing Phase – Usually I first execute a regular drawing on the canvas. This drawing can be anything from a few lines to a completely detailed map of all the forms. This may even include indications of where the lights and the darks are and what colors need to be used.

A good drawing tool for an oil painting is charcoal. Of course, the best tool is some neutral mixture of thinned paint and a brush. However, this takes some getting used to. Often, I actually use a graphite pencil and when the drawing is finished I spray the drawing with workable fixative. If you do use graphite you need to draw very light because graphite can bleed through your paint.

The advantage of starting with a drawing is that many important decisions can be made up-front and that everything is in place by the time you finish the drawing. After that, all that is left is painting.

* The Block-in Phase – This is the first painting phase. I use fairly thinned-out paint and a brush that feels a little larger than it should be. Here you focus on the big shapes that you see in your drawing. Do not pay attention to detail. What is important here is that you observe the colors of the shapes correctly and that you maintain the integrity of the drawing.

Usually I start out with the dark shapes. Then I proceed with the bright colored shapes (ie, those that stand out), always making sure the colors stay harmonized. Finally, I put in the more minority colors many of which will be duller and more difficult to judge.

Again, in this phase hold back on painting details. Maintaining the correct geometry of the large shapes, their exact color (hue, intensity, and value), and their correct position within the composition is the task at hand. And do not forget to include the background.

At the end of this phase my canvas is usually completely covered with paint, ie, no white areas are left unpainted. This gives you a good idea of ​​how all the colors look like relative to each other and if they harmonize without the influence of bright white areas.

* The Shaping Phase – Now you can begin to model the large shapes and refine them so they start to resemble the actual objects you are trying to paint. In this phase I use a thicker paint than in the Block-in Phase and also a somewhat smaller brush. Also, I refine the color relationships in terms of hue, intensity, and value as best as I can.

This phase usually requires the most time and effort. Still, do not be tempted to put in fine detail. At the end of this phase you should already have a very good idea of ​​how the end product will look like.

* The Detail Phase – This is the last phase. This is the time to indulge in the details. Details include things like small twigs, pupils and irises for the eyes, small lines and curves, and highlight, in other words, anything that can not be done with a large brush. Some details require thin paint (best done over a dry underground) and others, such as highlights, often require lots of thick paint right out of the tube.

The above guidelines are admittedly not complete in detail but are a good starting point for any beginning oil painter.