Oil Painting 101

I am forever indebted to world-renowned photographer George Krause for the incredible show he has brought to Bellas Artes in San Miguel de Allende: The Sfumato Nudes of San Miguel. Not only are these beautiful nudes a well-done expression of the vulnerability, charm and strength that exists among all ages and shapes, but is is also an INCREDIBLE opportunity to sketch and paint the nude form!

I have taken every extra minute I have had the last week to camp out with my art materials in the show. I’d like to take the opportunity of this excellent show to go step-by-step through the same process we go through in oil painting classes.

Step 1: Highlights
Begin on a tinted canvas. It does not matter particularly what shade the canvas is painted, only that it is not excessively light or dark. We aim for a mid-tone, so that the highlights (the bright whites and lighter tones) and lowlights (your dark darks) will pop out strongly from the mid tone that you begin with. This helps paintings move along quickly. Also, working with a mid-tone influences the subsequent colors layered above them. A warm red such as I have begun with below, will lend it’s warmth to the final painting, even if we cover every centimeter of red with paint.

George Kruass

Here you can see how I have searched for the lightest tones, and painted only the white areas with white paint above the red mid-tone. I have note drawn a single line, but by searching for areas and shapes of white, the “lines” of the figure seem to appear.

nude in oils

Step 2: Midtones

The Next step is to add a middling-shade (not the same color as the background) in areas that are not the nigh test, nor the darkest. I begin by simply dotting these in generally the correct areas, knowing that oil lends itself to easy blending later on. I am also working with Liquin, a fast-drying medium that does not change the color after drying. The consistency is slightly creamier using Liquin, and it does not blend quite as seamlessly as pure oils and linseed oil, but this is a factor that many artists enjoy. Try it yourself to see if it suits your fancy!

nude oil 2

Step 3: Blend

At this point I have still not added a single dark shade to the painting, but you can still see how the flesh tone has mostly been captured, if not the accuracy that will come when the darkest darks are added. It always amazes me just how much value (or shading, the difference between the darks and lights) makes a 2D drawing or sketch look completely realistic. And yet, by simply using a dry brush and swirling it over the dabbed general spots of color, a more realistic effect is achieved.

Blended Nude

This entire process took about an hour and a half. Stay tuned to see how the next couple of hours go! Want to try your hand at oil painting in San Miguel de Allende? Sign up for classes here!

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