The following is a selection of tutorial videos from my Youtube channel. With most of them I have included additional notes formerly published in my teaching blog DGOilPaintingTechniques.com (no longer active). Note: You can visit my NEW blog at DGPaints.wordpress.com. To find out about my latest tutorial video recently published by Bella Muse Productions please click this LINK.
In this step I am using oil paint slightly thinned with OMS. I am, of course, also adding a bit of Daniel Smith Painting Medium for Oils and Alkyds so that it will be dry the next day when I start the overpainting.
In this stage you will see me get into the real business of painting. I’m really trying to bring all the elements together and bring each region to a complete finish before moving on. In a general way I paint dark to light, blocking in the dark patterns first, followed by middle tones, and finally the lights.
Sometimes it’s important to “key” parts of the painting for value and color before committing too completely to your initial choices. This is done by laying in a spot of dark, a spot of mid-tone, and a spot of light to see how they work together. At times you have to dicker with that a bit until it seems right. At that point you should be able to be fairly confident to load your brush and lay on that paint.
At times you will see me going back over areas that seem finished. Here I will just be refining, pushing paint around, restating certain values/colors, blending, and doing whatever needs doing before moving on. After all, even when you work up a painting in stages like this it’s sometimes difficult to make all the decisions that need to be made here in the overpainting. Looking back at this painting I really think I could have benefited from doing a color study.
Here we have a continuation of the overpainting. You see me demonstrating the all important (at least for me) “oiling out”. You need not oil out the entire surface of the painting, just the area that is finished. In fact, you should avoid oiling out the areas you now plan to paint into because that little bit of oil will thin your paint. Of course there’s no avoiding it completely, but I just want you to be aware of the goal of oiling out — which is simply to bring the dry finished area of your painting back to a fresh state. There is a secondary goal, and that is so your new paint you are about to apply will blend fairly seamlessly into the older work.
Take note that when I am painting the head cloth and hair, I am also painting a bit of the background with them. This is so I can work those edges and make them softer (or harder, whatever the case may be). Later when this is dry I will oil out and paint the background into this area. So, again, we are thinking ahead to help insure our newer work will mesh into our old work. When the painting is complete I don’t want anyone knowing where I started and where I stopped a particular session. It will all look pretty seamless.
In this piece I decided to do a more involved underdrawing in vine charcoal on toned canvas (which I spray-fixed). There are basically three reasons for this. 1.) In a double portrait things get even more tricky needing to have the two faces and bodies in proper proportion to each other. I decided to take a little extra time with the drawing to make sure I wouldn’t encounter any unpleasant surprises later. 2.) I just really enjoy drawing and I found myself getting involved in the process. Normally I fight that feeling because of time restraints, but I gave in this time. 3.) I like to do things a little different from time to time. When it comes to art making I am a firm believer in having a good solid method (that works) to fall back on if and when things go awry. But, as you know, we artists have to mix it up now and then. Granted, I’m not drawing here hanging from a chandelier or anything like it, but it did lead me to get out of my comfort zone, which I will explain next.
What’s so uncomfortable about a locked in underdrawing you say? Well, it caused me to forgo my normal underpainting and put everything I had on the line to properly execute the overpainting without the safety of a basic color scheme laid in. Sure, I could have done an underpainting. In fact, I started to do so. But I found that the underdrawing was sound enough not to need it. Also, there was a sort of “grisaille” in place as well due to my blocking in the essential value pattern with the charcoal (not just the contour, which is my normal method). So I just went after it. I do want to note that I have painted like compositions with like color schemes before. I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary in terms of subject or color. If I would have been, I probably would have laid in an underpainting, or at least done a color study (or two).
In painting this way, it’s even more important to “keep those drawing chops working” (as I’ve said before). And it’s critical to constantly evaluate your relative values and colors. It’s too bad that the quality of video I’m currently using does not really show the color nuances that are present. In the real thing there are differing levels of chroma and neutrality as well as subtle differences in local color; all of which help to give life to the portrait and increase it’s illusion of “presence” or “reality”.
The quality of video I’m currently using does not really show the subtle changes I’m making. From the explanations and watching my brush move around you can kind of get an idea what I’m doing, but I wish it was more evident. Some parts of some paintings require more adjustments. In this particular case there was not a whole lot needed.
Starting the Maple Leaf series. Here we see the underdrawing done in thin oil paint. The first pass is more or less dry brushed. I try to get those marks as accurate as possible but the smudgy lightness of them allows for easy correcting on a second pass. I tend to like my marks a little sketchy and not so crystal clear clean because it allows for easy correction in the underpainting, which is soon to come in a following post.
This process has naturally evolved over time. I guess when I’ve tried to lock everything down from the first in times past I always seem to encounter either something I don’t really like (something misdrawn which I’ve solidified) or else I feel like all that time spent was a waste. Why not just get reasonably accurate and build upon that as I layer up? Of course with this process you need to have an alert state of mind, always ready to correct mistakes as you encounter them. And I am merciless with marks that I have made that I later discover are wrong. They get the axe then and there.
Here we have stage two of my usual process. You don’t have to let the underdrawing dry if you don’t want to. If you are still learning your craft and are worried about ruining your drawing then wait a few days to make sure it’s dry. That way if your underpainting (u/p) goes awry you can wipe it off and your drawing should still be there.
I’m applying the paint fairly thinly, thinning with a little odorless mineral spirits (oms). I am also adding a little Dan Smith medium to help facilitate drying. In this way the u/p will be adequately dry for applying the overpainting on the following day. Note I’m still a little hesitant to really nail it down tight, avoiding hard edges. I just feel more comfortable doing it this way. Even with my more atmospheric approach to the underpainting I can clearly see the contour of forms and the light/shadow patterns. The colors I’m choosing are close to what I’m after in the final image but not necessarily spot on. I’m just setting it up. This is an intermediate stage between blank panel and the finished painting.
The long awaited Maple Leaf 3 video is here. It’s pretty poor quality — I apologize for that. I’m having trouble with my video program. It wasn’t letting me convert this video to a decent quality. Anyway, here it is.
For those of you new to my technique, this is the stage I call the overpainting. You can see there is already a thin underpainting in place. I let the underpainting dry before I begin the overpainting with full bodied paint. I execute the overpainting region to region, finishing as I go.
The finished piece:
Maple Leaf, 8x10, oil/panel