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.
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.
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 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.
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:
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.
Best. Brushes. Ever.
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.
Straedtler Mars Technico Lead Holder
Straedtler Mars Carbon Leads - H, H2 and H4
Staedtler Mars Lead Pointer
Tombow Mono Zero eraser
Bamboo kabob skewer for sight-size measurements