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by FAS grad Christina Cooper

by FAS grad Pam Rice

by FAS grad Robert Heindel

by FAS grad Charles Reid

by FAS instructor Dolph LeMoult

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Oil Painting Checklist

The drawing: Some artists like to draw directly on their canvas with a brush using paint that has been thinned with turpentine. Other people prefer to draw with pencil or charcoal. In this case it is wise to work lightly and dust off any excess black. It is also advisable to spray the drawing with fixative so that the black from the pencil or charcoal will not “dirty “the paint.

“Dark to light”: Working this way you can establish the general values and arrangement of lights and darks in the picture. You can then paint with more assurance, for you can judge how light or dark you want areas to be in relation to one another.

In the first step, you should merely put in the larger dark areas—not the little details such as twigs or leaves in a landscape, for instance. Restudy the step-by-step demonstrations in oil painting in your textbooks and you‘ll see how various objects and areas are gradually “built up” with thicker paint to create the proper values and textures. Note how the early steps are often covered up or “reshaped” by later steps.

Painting over “soft” paint: As a rule, it is not necessary for a layer of paint to dry before painting over it. If you start by working with thin paint you can, by proper application, paint one layer over another using thicker paint as you go along. With practice you will soon learn the proper “touch” that is needed to place a brushstroke cleanly on top of paint that is still soft. You may find at times that it is best to move to another area in the picture in order to allow a color to dry a bit more.

Brushstrokes: There is no need to “hide” all of your brushstrokes. It is natural for them to show. They can add interest, strength and character to your painting. Examine reproductions of paintings in your textbooks and you will see how much interest brushstrokes can add to a picture. Most beginners try to get their tones too smooth. As you learn to judge your value and color relations properly, you will see that this is not necessary.

“Fat over lean:” This is a sound procedure for painting in oils. It means that you use enough turpentine with the first paint you put on the canvas to make it rather thin. Then, as you continue, you use thicker paint mixed with regular painting medium. When you start to paint you can pour a small amount of medium into a palette cup or you can use the tip of your painting knife or your brush to pick up a few drops to add to the paint that you’re mixing on your palette.

Scumbling: The term “scumbling” can be confusing for its meaning has changed somewhat over the years. Perhaps this definition will help you understand it better. Scumbling—a semi-transparent application of light paint over dark under-painting. Also used generally to denote the application of tones or colors in a light scrubbing motion. This merely means that you are rubbing paint off the side of your brush over other paint that is already on your painting surface. An irregular effect is obtained which creates an interesting texture in an area. Sometimes this effect is used to denote specific materials such as stones, dirt, etc. At other times, it merely adds interest to an area that would otherwise look flat and dull.

Detail: There are two important things to remember:
1—Don’t be concerned with detail until you have established the large masses of your picture in terms of value, color and design.
2—When developing detail in your picture, don’t overdo it. Remember that brushstrokes can “suggest” detail. It isn’t necessary to put in every leaf, blade of grass, strand of hair, etc.

Lines: Fine lines can be painted with a small pointed brush or the corner of a chisel-shaped brush. The edge of the palette knife can also be used. In this case it is best to spread a fairly thin mixture of paint on your palette. Then dip the edge of your knife into this mixture and touch the edge of the knife to the canvas, moving it slightly to release the paint.

Brushes: Some artists use many brushes and others only one or two. Naturally, the more brushes you use the less frequently you’ll have to wipe your brush in order to work with a new color. Some artists use a certain group of brushes for warm, light colors; others for cool, light colors; and still others for dark, warm colors, etc. For a 16 x 20 inch painting you can do very well with an assortment such as Sable Bright #9, Bristle Round #6, Bristle Bright #5 and Bristle Flat #9.

Oil stains: It is natural for oil stains or rings to show on painting paper. This will not be a problem when you are doing a picture that covers the entire surface. Also, you won’t have this difficulty when you’re working on canvas.

Blacks: Although black and gray can be mixed with other colors, it is best for the beginner to avoid this. You’ll learn more and get more “life” in your painting by adding the complementary color to reduce the intensity of a color. The effect of black can be achieved by mixing dark complementary colors such as ultramarine blue and burnt sienna or alizarin crimson and viridian.