PROCESS

For most paintings I use the classical academic approach, a painting method taught in the French Fine Art Academies of the 19th century. A multi-step process, each painting begins with the establishment of an accurate drawing which forms the foundation on which the painting is built.

It's said that good paintings begin with good drawings. Thumbnail sketches and value studies to establish the composition of the painting are the first step. After a composition is settled on, a detailed graphite or charcoal rendering is made. Such a drawing can easily take 30–40 hours so, when time is short, an accurate cartoon that captures the subject's contour lines, shadow shapes and their terminators suffices. Small scale experimental color studies are also made during this stage of the process which allow the artist to explore and problem solve. Once the color studies are done, the drawing is checked (and re-checked) for accuracy and then transfered to the painting surface. 

 Behold, the underpainting.

Behold, the underpainting.

UNDERPAINTNG

After transferring the drawing to panel or canvas, it's time for the underpainting or 'ebauche,' a thin wash of pigment that's loosely roughed in with big brushes. The underpainting provides a guide for the layers to come. Umber paints are commonly used for the underpainting because of their quick drying properties.

 First pass in progress.

First pass in progress.

FIRST PASS

The first pass is also know as the color block-in stage. It's the stage where the entire painting surface gets covered with pure, opaque paint. In addition to covering the surface with paint, accurate color mixing and color placement using the largest brush possible for the task is a primary goal. Drawing corrections, refinements and adjustments are also made at this stage. Some artists begin with the darks, proceed to the lights and then move on to the mid-tones, adjusting and compressing or expanding the value range as needed. Other painters work from background to foreground. I tend to use both approaches – dark to light for portraits and the background to foreground progression for landscapes. 

 The second pass – the painter's dessert course.

The second pass – the painter's dessert course.

SECOND PASS

The second pass is when the real fun begins. Colors and details are refined, modeling (also called 'turning') of the form perfected, foreground objects added, glazing, scumbling and impasto effects are employed and joy abounds. There may be a number of 'second passes' depending on the complexity of the painting.

While it varies depending on the size and complexity of the painting, this process can take several months from start to finish. 

 

ALLA PRIMA

When making studies I'll opt for the faster, looser, alla prima (Italian, meaning at first attempt) painting method. Done in one sitting, the paint is applied to the canvas “wet into wet” instead of layer upon layer. Here's an example:

 

 

MATERIALS

Oil Paint & Mediums:
Natural Pigments by Rublev
Equivalent to organic, grass-fed, non-GMO, heirloom comestibles, this high-quality, filler-free, pure pigment paint is wonderful to work with. 

Gamblin

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Brushes:

Rosemary & Co

Best. Brushes. Ever. 

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Painting Substrate:
Aluminum Panels
I get mine from the nice folks at Glaerser Signs in BVT

A major conservation and archival benefit of painting on aluminum panel is that it is almost completely unaffected by changes in humidity and temperature. Rigid and lightweight, aluminum is far less subject to the ravages of time and humidity that cause wood and canvas painting surfaces to warp and deteriorate thereby compromising the integrity and longevity of the painting. Another great benefit from the artist's perspective is that it can quickly and easily be cut to any size. 
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Drawing:

Straedtler Mars Technico Lead Holder  
Straedtler Mars Carbon Leads - H, H2 and H4
Staedtler Mars Lead Pointer
Kneaded eraser
Tombow Mono Zero eraser
Bamboo kabob skewer for sight-size measurements
Patience

 An example of a Barque* plate drawing in progress. Roughly 15–20 hours down and another 15–20 hours to go...   * Charles Barge wrote 'Cours de dessin,' a classical drawing course, with   Jean-Léon Gérôme between 1866–1871. Comprised of a progression of 197 lithographs, the course guides students from simple to increasingly complex studies of plaster casts, great master drawings and, finally, to drawing live models. Republished not long ago as  The Charles Bargue Drawing Course  it is still used by many  modern academies and ateliers   as a part of their teaching curriculum. 

An example of a Barque* plate drawing in progress. Roughly 15–20 hours down and another 15–20 hours to go...

* Charles Barge wrote 'Cours de dessin,' a classical drawing course, with Jean-Léon Gérôme between 1866–1871. Comprised of a progression of 197 lithographs, the course guides students from simple to increasingly complex studies of plaster casts, great master drawings and, finally, to drawing live models. Republished not long ago as The Charles Bargue Drawing Course it is still used by many modern academies and ateliers  as a part of their teaching curriculum.