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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 04:29 AM.
June 23rd, 2008 #2Registered User
- Join Date
- Mar 2008
- Thanked 9 Times in 9 Posts
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 01:09 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
June 23rd, 2008 #14
June 23rd, 2008 #15
Daniel: I've been painting a lot more lately since I built myself a little portable sketch box. It sits right on my desktop where I can paint without having to go to the large easel. I really like this setup and now have brought a guerilla cigar box for plein air painting. If I like it, I might invest in an EasyL pochade box. And don't worry about hijacking the thread we are all here to learn.
pancho: I have used the tonal rough since I first started a year and a half ago but stopped for about half a year to play with soft pastels. I just started back up with oils about a few weeks ago, I was using glazes but I get too impatient and begin to add another layer of wash before the previous layer was dry enough and ended up ruining it.
Its good to know I'm not going about it completely wrong but I do agreee, my paintings at this point does look "washy" and too many hard edges. And also have the tendency to outline eyes which I seem to have a difficult time correcting.
thanks for taking the time to comment and offer your words of wisdom
Flake: thanks yep that double portrait would be them
I have considered working bigger but I get too impatience and have the tendency to loose interest if it takes too long so right now these small ones works out cuz I can pretty much finish them in one session. Oils are great and clean up isn't too bad, but when there isn't enough room for an easel, setting it up and breaking it down can be quite a pain
the features of the face to some extent doesn't matter if seen from a distant but does matter when it is close enough to see them in detail. But the over-all structure is important regardless if it is from a distant or not. (my personal opinion)
And don't know if I thank you before when you helped me with skin tones when I first started with acrylics, It was about a year and a half ago. Don't know if you remember me or not, but my original name was OldNoobie
Last edited by Lee W; June 23rd, 2008 at 10:46 PM.
June 23rd, 2008 #16
Anyway, old farts in the house, carry on.
I really should do a micro update on my dusty old sketchbook now that attachments are working great.
Last edited by Flake; June 24th, 2008 at 10:20 AM.
June 23rd, 2008 #17
Oh yeah, I definitely agree on the "big picture" thing, that's how you can pick out someone you haven't seen for ten years by scanning a crowd, if you want the likeness though, I'd maintain it's the eyes, nose though..Get the nose and eyes right and it will look right.
That nose is contributing a lot to those abstracted shadow patterns that allowed you to recognise the face in the first place, facial planes are pretty standard, it's the variable features that allow us to recognise people..
June 25th, 2008 #18
All human beings are unique. They all have their own specific shapes that are consistent throughout their body. To get a spot on likeness in a portrait it is important to recognize the large reoccurring divisions in the body and the head is an excellent indicator for the smaller forms. Its shape resonates throughout the rest.
Lee W , I think you are off to a good start. I would advise you to work from life though. Working from photo's imo is not a good way to practice drawing and painting. So much information is lost and/or distorted through this medium compared to the immense visual sensation we have with our own eyes on all levels.. form, value, color,.. you name it. Your drawing and the general establishment of value can still come up a lot and your color use is very disorganized. Setting up a simple still life or drawing from sculpture or casts is a good way to practise drawing and creating a sense of light through proper value structure. Practise your color with a simple set up and do lots of landscape studies.
"There is no such thing as 'accurate drawing'. There is beautiful
drawing, and ugly, and nothing else." JAD Ingres, Ecrits sur l'art
June 25th, 2008 #19
Thanks Tom Right now, my most difficult huddle is mixing colors to match what I see. I realize working from life is more beneficial and will be exploring that aspect soon.
Something I started working on and trying to take my time working on it, spent about 1.5 to 2 hours so far I think. Anyhow, going to take a break and work on it later or tomorrow. Any crits or comments will be appreciated.
Last edited by Lee W; June 25th, 2008 at 08:22 PM.
June 23rd, 2008 #20
June 23rd, 2008 #21
Will do in the morning but I had a very unproductive month.
Last edited by Flake; June 24th, 2008 at 10:20 AM.
June 24th, 2008 #22
June 25th, 2008 #23
That's got to be Ms. Goo.
I really like that, you're loosening up,and in a good way.
Last edited by Flake; June 25th, 2008 at 12:33 AM.
June 25th, 2008 #24
Thanks Flake however, not Ms. Goo ... a member called Charshie and the ref I used can be found here: http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...postcount=7306
June 26th, 2008 #25
Good stuff happening, as far as I can tell, but I'm just beginning with the oilz myself and have no idea what I'm doing.
The problem with everyone's advice on "working from life" is the availability of people willing to sit for you if you are inclined to do portraits. Fruit, grainfields or the corner of my studio don't really do it for me for some reason. A hah...a mirror....( Dear narcisism...)
Keep up the good fight.
June 26th, 2008 #26
Lee, a great exercise I can recommend for color, was something I came across in Richard Schmids book Alla Prima, color charts. I don't know if you have the book handy or not, but the basic gist of the exercise is you take your palette of oils, do a chart for each color, and intermix each color together each chart. So, for instance, you have your Yellow Ochre chart, mix Yellow Ochre with the other colors with Yellow Ochre predominating in each mixture, then for each mix do 5 values down starting with the pure mixture to just off white. It's an amazing exercise, it'll really open your eyes to what's possible with your palette. It's something I just recently finished over the last couple weeks after years of putting it off, and I frankly feel like an idiot for doing so honestly.
June 26th, 2008 #27
Santon: thanks yah, I'm not much into landscape or still life either. I think I only done 3 or 4 still lifes and maybe a handful of landscapes, but none with oil except 2 landscape (which came out terrible)
Blackhawk: thanks for the tip
Didn't work on the WIP today .. but did this one , 7.5 x 10 on board, approximately 1 hour.
June 26th, 2008 #28
I like the colors you're using...
Do you just mix your colors and slap 'em on? Or what? It can't be that simple...can it?
June 27th, 2008 #29
June 27th, 2008 #30