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Artistic Process

Are you curious about what goes into creating an oil painting?

Scroll down to take a look over my shoulder. You'll see some of the stages I went through as I created this oil painting:

 

It starts with the materials . . .

My paintings are usually on linen, which I cut to size and then mount on a birch panel. Linen is a very traditional surface for oil paintings and has been used by artists for centuries.

I use only artist-quality paint. Artist-quality oil paint is a mixture of pigment that is ground and then mixed with oil. The pigments that I use are mainly natural earth colours or natural minerals, and these are bound in either linseed oil or walnut oil. Both linseed and walnut oil dry to create a hard film that is very durable.

Then the sketch . . .

The initial drawing is a light sketch to get everything in the right place. The photo here shows a sketch in oil paint that is ready to move to the next stage: colour mixing!

Colour mixing . . .

I really enjoy mixing colour and like to spend the time finding just the right combination of pigments to get the results that I want. My palette is usually made up of the primary colours, plus white and a few earth tones; from these 6 or 8 colours, I mix every shade that I need.

Every colour that ends up on the canvas is very specific: it has to be the perfect tonal value (meaning its degree of darkness or lightness); it has to be the correct hue (the colour itself), and the correct temperature (warm or cool). In the photo below, you can see the blobs of paint on my palette, and the colours that I was creating from them. These mixtures were for a painting of a creamy, pale Golden Retriever.

Start painting: the block-in . . .

Using a traditional approach, I start blocking in my painting. I begin with the darkest colours first, and then move towards the light. I paint in big blocks of colour and try not to get caught up in details at this stage---which takes some self-discipline! Here is what the beginning of the block-in looks like:

 

Refining . . .

Once the colour is all blocked it, it’s time to start refining the painting. Here is a progress shots as I refine the painting.

 

The finishing touches . . .

The smallest details, such as the light in the eyes, are added last.