Step 1: Toning the Canvas
I usually tone my canvas with a sunlight tone—warm gray (ivory black, white and a little orange); after you put shadow in, what’s left is a sunlight tone. Here I began a quick placement sketch and established the highest light somewhere about one-third up and in, on the canvas. Aside from that, as a gesture, this allows me to figure out how to get the eye moving in and out of the canvas.
Step 2: Starting with the Clouds
In this case, since the sky takes up a major portion of the painting, I placed it first. Starting with the shadows of the clouds, I used a mix of cobalt blue, ivory black and white.
Step 3: Mixing in Rocks
After laying in the shadow parts of the ...view middle of the document...
The paint mixture is thin, yet opaque. I dip my brush into the OMS, when I say dip, I mean 2 mm. Just a really tiny amount. I then squeeze the brush tip in some kitchen roll so the brush is damp but not wet.I apply the paint with a scrubbing motion, working between the smaller brush for the details, then swapping to the larger brush for the larger areas.The initial ‘scrub in’ is quite loose, just to get a feel for the tone on the canvas. I then work over it with a larger brush to smooth out the tone. We are trying to keep the tones flat and simple so I work over any thicker areas of paint so the surface is more like a stain, rather than thick paint.
Step 2 – Block in the darkest darks
I now establish the darkest area in the painting, still just using the raw umber. As I know some of these areas are even darker than the raw umber I can feel confidence to work with slightly thick paint. Again, not using too much of the OMS, it should feel like a dry brush effect and the more you ‘scrub’ the further the paint will go.Areas where the tones are very close are kept as one single mass tone. The tendency will be to want to go in and add all the little subtleties and details you are beginning to see.Like chocolate on a diet we have to learn to resist!
Step 3 – Dry brush in the shadow line
Notice how when I am applying the paint to the inner parts of the portrait I’m keeping the edges very soft. This is key when building up a portrait with this method. Hard, sharp edges are tough to cover over when you are working with thin layers of oil paint so try and keep your edges soft in these early stages.
The tendency now will be to try and grab some white and ‘get painting’ but again this is unwise- remember- start slow, so you can finish quick.
Check the drawing on your painting and check your tones are going along the right lines. You can squint your eyes at the subject which is a very effective method of simplifying tonal values.
Now have a look at the edges between the background and the edge of the head, notice how the hair and the ear are blurred. The photograph as been taken to mimic how the human eye sees, so soften the edges.
If we look at Velasquez’s self portrait notice how soft and blurred the edge of the hair next to the face is. They blend into each other so your gaze is focused on his gaze.
Step 4 – Soften the edges
To blend an edge take a dry brush (or a brush with a very little OMS if the paint is beginning to dry and you still need to blend it) and gently brush over the line. I often use sables for this, as the softer hairs enable a smoother blend. The Ivory filberts are slighly softer than a pure hog brush so are still very useful when blending, you just need to use a lighter touch.I...