Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Oil painting demonstration - Stage 1

If you want to see the final painting before the end of this demonstration, please go my previous entry on the Relaxing at Mevagissey Oil Painting.

Reference Photograph

Mevagissey is a small village in Cornwall with a nice harbour full of fishing boats. I took many photographs as I did not have time to paint or sketch. Above is the reference photograph I used.


I started this studio painting by making a small watercolour. Painting a watercolour of the subject helped to put some distance between the reference photograph and the final painting. Working in small format made easier to solve compositional problems and to have a feel for the direction of the painting. It is also interesting to see how watercolour and oil lead to different interpretations of the same material.

Stage 1 of the oil painting: Drawing

The canvas has been prepared with a tinted gesso. The canvas I used was already primed, but I prefer to have a medium value background so that lighter marks stand out when blocking in. I mixed some acrylic paint with white gesso: one part vermillion, one part yellow ochre and a touch of ultramarine. For this painting, I wanted a warm background as I knew the cool colours would be prominent.

I traced the two diagonals on the canvas to make sure that the boats were centered. I then traced a grid onto the canvas using a pale chalk pencil. For the drawing I use sanguine or sepia pencils rather than graphite pencils (that tend to make light colours dirty). These pencils are big enough to prevent you from dwelling into details. The colour is warm and disappears under the paint without smudging the colours.

Continue the demonstration to Stage 2.

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