Capturing a feeling of a subject begins with you and having some level of empathy for that subject. Oil painting tutorial 1 teaches you to takes to render something filled with emotion as opposed to copying or replicating a scene. You are often taught about technical aspects of painting like brush control or color mixing, but these are the means and not the end. A work of art to be individual, must communicate feeling for the subject.
Before starting to paint, ask yourself what draws you to your subject matter. Don’t be so quick to begin a painting without having a clear vision in mind. Maybe it’s the atmospheric effect of light and dark; the beauty of the model or maybe the juxtaposition of various colors. Once a clear idea is evident, your task as an artist is to communicate that vision on your canvas in as little strokes as possible. Everything else is less important. As you work, paint from your heart guided by those same emotions throughout. The point of this oil painting tutorial is to teach you that every stroke should accentuate your feelings and not degrade them.
Oil painting with feelings is not easy. The challenge is to be in a dreamlike state while at the same time being fully present. Once you’ve communicated what you felt, stop at once. Nothing will destroy a great oil painting as quickly as overworking it can.
A foundation of any strong work of art has to be a strong and pleasing composition. Whatever the subject matter you chose to paint, values are to be considered before you commence. The challenge is to eliminate the clutter of a scene and only view it with a perceptual eye in terms of black and white. Oil painting tutorial 2 teaches you to try to find an arrangement of shapes that look the most pleasing and harmonious. Far eastern art historians judged this achievement as having a strong “notan” structure. Compositions designed according to notan principals communicate both on a conscious and subconscious level. Turn of the 20th century American Art historian Arthur Wesley Dow, developed a whole teaching system based on notan philosophy. In it, Dow preached creating line compositions, pleasing positive and negative shapes and that notan scheme should underlie every color composition.
A key to achieving a pleasing arrangement of tonal masses is to keep it simple and not use the light and dark in equal measure. You’ll find that if the underlying notan structure is strong, then the painting built upon it will be strong and pleasing-regardless of the subject matter or the details.
Creating an oil painting with a crowded composition leaves the viewer confused, leaving no rest for the eyes. In this oil painting tutorial we will focus on establishing from the beginning what areas of your painting will be simplified with only one or two colors. This way, you will allow the work to breathe and accentuate the other more important sections.
When dealing with clutter of a work of art, brush work takes centre stage. A lot of working and reworking oil paintings will unavoidably create unwanted values or paint build up. Sometimes it is more powerful to lay down a single color and not paint over it. These large empty areas of a painting play an integral role in guiding the eye and lends to strong compositional development.
Color is the quality of visual sensation. An oil painting is nothing more than a mosaic of color arranged to make a whole. However, color is only beautiful when it attains meaning. It has to have its rightful place on the canvas.
There has been myriad of books written on various color principals, covering all aspects from color origins to how eye perceives color. In theory, all of the colors of nature are mixable with the three primaries in an infinite variety of proportions. While I do not recommend this as it is complex and time consuming, it is a great exercise in mixing color variances. By doing these “baby steps” exercise, you’ll start to understand how to achieve visual refinement through color pigments.
Your oil painting has to have its own individuality of color. You have to establish a color range from the beginning that is pleasing to you and that you subsequently must adhere to. A key to having your oil painting look fresh and not muddy is in keeping your brushes and palettes clean. Try to pre-mix colors on your palette, as what’s on there will invariably find its way on to your canvas. Lastly, try to place each stroke with a purpose, only going back and forth once or twice with your brush. This way you will be reloading your brush with new color and be forced to re-evaluate each stroke.
Superb handling of soft, hard or disappearing edges is what characterizes many of the masterpiece paintings we know and is usually the most common characteristic lacking with new painters. “Think of your edges as exquisite subtleties, as the means to transmit romance, as ways to make your dabs of paint whisper, or shout, and reach nuances beyond the range of color.” Richard Schmid Alla Prima-Everything I know about painting. This great quote from Richard Schmid's book sums up nicely the point of this oil painting tutorial.
When you apply colors one beside the other, you automatically generate an edge between them. This process repeats itself numerous times in the course of oil pointing. It is a natural inclination to make all of your edges hard, but this seldomly occurs in nature. Truth is that most edges are soft to a varying degree. Therefore, try to paint your subjects keeping most of your edges soft and only reserve the hardest edges for your focal point. This will create impact by drawing the viewer’s eye to that sharp edge.
The number one way to determine the edges of your subject matter is to compare it against other edges. You may find it useful to squint when doing this exercise, as doing so will eliminate a lot of the details which can hamper your evaluation. If in doubt make your edge soft.
Oil painting is not an exact science. I have tried laying out some fundamental principals as they were taught to me by some truly gifted teachers. It is up to you to utilize them as you see best. Only you will know what really captivates you and is worthy of exploring on a canvas.
Five points of interest mentioned in this short guide are not meant to be all encompassing principals of art, but they are some of the more common ones people stumble with. To truly become great at art, other concepts need to be mastered, most important of which is drawing. I did not cover it here as it is widely publicized and importance of which mentioned in many books.
When approaching a new pointing, keep the oil painting tutorial principals of this guide in mind. They are simple to understand but hard to implement. Perhaps in the beginning, try to focus on one idea at a time, like painting a compositionally sound work or playing with interesting edges. Then as you progress combine these ideas in every oil painting and you are sure to be successful.
In his book “The Art Spirit”, a famed American painter and teacher Robert Henri, urges artists to know thyself first and then be an influential and powerful voice who notices adventure in mundane everyday life. I wish you many compelling ideas and happy painting. God Bless.