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Thread: My oil journey
June 22nd, 2008 #1
My oil journey
Recently I have gotten back into oils and brought equipment for plein aire, however, whether or not I make it out the door with the stuff is another matter I thought I would start a thread here to show my struggles with oils and hopefully, I will receive some words of advice.
These are some oil sketches I did recently, all from image refs and under 2 hours with most within a hour. The first three are 5 x 7, the third one is 8 x 12, the fifth one is 8 x 10, and the last two are 9 x 12
Last edited by Lee W; September 26th, 2008 at 03:29 AM.
June 23rd, 2008 #2Registered User
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Struggles? I don't know oils, never worked with them, but it all looks good to me.
June 23rd, 2008 #3
June 23rd, 2008 #4
thanks Shinnoki and drd
Today's little rough oil sketch, 8.5 x 11. First attempt having multiple people in the same portrait. Image ref taken from the lounge forum It's really hard to get even a slight resemblance at this size.
June 23rd, 2008 #5
June 23rd, 2008 #6
June 23rd, 2008 #7
Thanks drd I kind of stumbled onto the method I am using now and probably not a good way to paint. It start with a quick tonal rough with burnt umber thinned with turpenoid. Once that is dried, I block in the shadows using a wash of ultramarine blue and washes of local colors in the other areas. From there, colors mixed with a little medium are added to the still wet washes making adjustments as needed. This way I don't have to worry about the thick over thin rule and it can be finished usually in one session.
EDIT: while it is possible to finish in one session, I usually don't finish it at all
Last edited by Lee W; June 23rd, 2008 at 12:09 PM.
June 23rd, 2008 #8
I think my process is sort of comparable to yours, minus the tonal rough; I just try and scrub on some local colour to build off. While this is useful for still lives and stuff I don't know how well it would work with figures or faces.
June 23rd, 2008 #9
Hi Lee, good start here, how long have you been at it?
Beginning with a "tonal rough" or imprimatura, is a very sound approach, a vast number of painters, past and present have used this method. Basically it serves as a nice guideline for the drawing (which can be as resolved as you want it to be) and often for values as well.
Scrubbing approximate local color on top of that is what the French academics referred to as the frottis (scrub-in), and is also a sound step, because it gives you a better context in which to assess the final color values of the painting, and in some cases it can show through in parts where it looks correct without overpainting. Working in solid color over a frottis can yield very beautiful effects.
The point of these steps is to dealt with particular problems of the painting before reaching the final surface stage, so you can proceed with greater authority. So if you've already tackled the drawing, values and approximate colors to some extent, it is easier to make the final decisions.
Also (this one's for you too Daniel) painting a portrait and a still life is, in its technical aspect at least, fundamentally the same process. You are still analyzing drawing (and planes), values, color, edges. In terms likeness, it doesn't matter if the painted head is 2 feet or 2 inches, the process is the same, you make it look like the person by finding the overall structure and relationships between the parts. Noses and eyes don't make the likeness, they're the frosting of the cake in a way, you can have them a little off and still have a great resemblance, because of the larger structure. Remember that you can recognize someone if they're 100 feet away or in a tiny yearbook picture, even if you cant see the features.
Regarding your work Lee, I would say scrap the ultramarine step, I've heard of some Spanish painters doing that, but it's showing up too much in your final paintings, and you can wash in shadows with the same burnt umber anyway.
I would recommend working more solidly on top of your washes, and try to work on longer paintings as well, at the moment some of the paintings look "washy" for lack of a better term, and lack the strength that you could get by using thicker paint. Try softening your edges as well, the majority of them are rather hard right now. Lastly, start working from life, if you bought that plein air kit, use it! It will provide much better training for judging color/value relationships than photographs.
Hope this helps,
June 23rd, 2008 #10
I'm starting to understand more about the paint as I'm doing more paintings, but sometimes, as with the eyes on a portrait, I simply can't manipulate the paint as well in such small folds and such small areas as the eye and the lips. I'm fine big and general, like with the nose moreso (I have a nose study in oils in my sketchbook, coincidentally), but when I get to those details it doesn't work.
I'll keep trying to figure it out.
June 23rd, 2008 #11
I understand, I used to run into that problem a lot, although lately it seems to be going away a bit. That is largely an issue of painting dexterity, you just need to give your hand some time to catch up to your eye. You can also try a mahlstick to steady your hand. Another thing that is very useful that my Vilppu taught me was to practice your stroke in the air, that is, try the correct motion slightly above the painting or drawing, then when you've got it, strike! Your muscle memory will do the rest, I've read Sargent did something similar at times.
That nose looks good, but both you and Lee have a tendency to outline eyes. You have to consider that the eyes are spheres, thus the eye lids are on turning planes. It's very effective to paint eyelids in 3 planes, 2 sides and a front, to get you thinking more structurally. Don't worry about lines right now.
PS. if you're using a flat brush, using the side helps too
June 23rd, 2008 #12
June 23rd, 2008 #13
Cool Lee, I like #3 and #7 best. The double portrait would be our Glorious Leader and Empress Hook, yes?
It's really hard to get even a slight resemblance at this size.
Working small has the advantage of not having to step back but if you're new a bit more scale might give you room to work.
I'm currently trying a teeny painting and I simply do not have the hand control for it just yet, back to A3 minimum tomorrow I think.
I suppose it depends on what you're aiming for though. If it's tightly rendered classical academic painting, a lot of those are six to twelve foot high..
Good to see you giving oils another crack, oils are great if a bit messy to clean up after, get into a routine and it's not bad.
I also agree with pretty much everything Pancho wrote, except this
This is why the nose job was the most popular plastic surgery*, it's the single most important non mobile feature you can change that will significantly alter a face.
* I imagine it's boobs by now