Thursday Night Oils Class

Tonight I began first painting, just roughing some skin tones in both light and shadow. This is…extremely tough. Just mixing paint alone is tough, then matching it to the model, then getting the placement right…sheesh. And the whole time trying to keep improving the forms so I don’t lose the drawing. I must be a masochist.

Some great eye training, though. Finally starting (just starting!) to see some more advanced color, it’s pretty awesome the first time you can start to see where shadows cool off or mid-tones warm up. Though I hadn’t intended on focusing on color (or painting) until I had my drawing chops developed, this class is so rewarding (did I mention tough!?).


As usual, the end of the class comes too soon, while I’m in the middle of adjusting various things. The end of the nose, the lips, adjustments all over the place! The instructor was giving me a quick lesson in restructuring the right eye when class ended, so it’s pretty harsh right now. I had already adjusted the values to be a lot better than last week, but she showed me how to tighten it up even further and focus on setting the dimensions of the socket properly. Good stuff, could’ve been there for hours more.

Tuesday Night Drawing

Basically last drawing tonight was the same as last week, since a few people didn’t show due to weather and many needed more practice with values. I welcome the practice with my drawing, for me the values part is just fun times! Maybe a half hour on the drawing and twenty minutes on the values. I think this week is a bit of a regression in that I didn’t get the plethora of lost edges I got last week, but I think the overall drawing is slightly stronger (and yes, that bottle looks wonkier than last week’s wine bottle on purpose!).


18×24 charcoal

Finishing Local Color

Thursday night, oils night! Caught up to where I should’ve been last week, finished blocking in the local color. Also regained a lot of the drawing I lost because I had intended to bring the shadows back in. Took 5 tries to mix the flesh tone again 🙂 Still really digging oils when I can get them working properly, but it’s not an easy medium to work with (is any new medium easy, though?).


I’m most happy that it still looks like the model, even the expression.

3 Value Drawing

Tuesday night, and that means drawing 101! This week we were allowed a shadow value, to build on what we did last week with a single highlight value on charcoal-toned paper (I cheated and used shadows, woops). So this is a bit longer drawing, maybe a half hour after two false starts and helping out my neighbor who is really struggling but a nice character.


After reviewing last week’s drawing, I saw where the teacher was talking in demo about losing lines at the junction of values, so I tried to incorporate that a bit in this one to get a feel for it. Most easily seen in the upper right where the light cloth overhangs the box, no lines, just the light value against the mid-tone of the background. Of course, we’re supposed to do that /next week/ so again I’m one week ahead, heh. But it led to a nice discussion on chiaroscuro and sfumato, both of which I’m interested in.

This is again a toned background, 6b charcoal rubbed out with a chamois. Then 2b charcoal for roughing in objects, 6b for shading and both white and kneaded erasers for highlights.

It’s a bit rough with only 3 values to work with, but I did try to stick more to the instructions this time and didn’t blend anything out…

Pencils? Pencils!

Dig this fancy method to sharpen pencils! A bit tricky to get right, the short one on the bottom broke but my second time I nailed it and it’s the best one. The idea is to have a taper from the painted portion through the wood all the way to the tip. Thus you can use the tip or various widths of the side for lots of flexibility. Cool! Already feels a lot more natural than a ‘normal’ pencil or stick of charcoal.


I used a sharp pocket knife. For the first two I used sandpaper to finish the taper (still has too much shoulder, though). The stubby one I did just with the knife and it came out pretty decent.

Establishing Local Color

So the portrait is looking pretty rough at this stage. One of the reasons I got bogged down last night was trying to keep things neat (mini painting habits!) and the teacher kept telling us that messy is ok at this point, and we should be wiping out a lot of our guide stuff we’ve previously done in the drawing and underpainting stages. Just seems counter-intuitive.


The other reason it was a slow session was mixing from primaries! That was something completely new to me, as was mixing with a palette knife. So first developing the physical skills to actually mix the paint and then come up with accurate mixtures was really difficult. On the other hand, it was very rewarding as I learned a lot about color mixing, even if it was just the very basics. And I didn’t mix up enough of his hoodie’s local color and had to remix that and match it to my previous mix. Pain in the butt, yet still a useful lesson for a couple reasons – 1) mixing to match a previous mix and 2) make enough for the entire application the first time!

I ended up mixing a total of three skin tones, the 1st came out too yellow/dark (kind of an ochre, I guess) and the second too rosy. The upside is that I was able to use these as secondary mixes for variation and the rosy tone became the lips.

Ran out of time to do the shadow tone local color, which really sucks because I wasn’t able to blend it into the lighter skin tones, so that will be a mess next week. 3 hours is not a long time to paint (and get instruction)! Also a lot of the weird look at this stage is that I painted over some of the detail shadow areas because I was going to mix them back in when I did shadows. Which means…I’ll probably have to match that flesh tone again next week…

Working on a toned background

Tues night, drawing night. I forgot to take pics last week of working on negative space, sorry! This week we worked on working on a background we toned with smudged charcoal, using an eraser to generate the light values. I got yelled at for using a little bit of shadow tone this time 🙂 What can I say, values is my wheelhouse and my line work still sucks bad.


About 10-15 mins, Charcoal on newsprint.

Drawing Transfer and Value Blocking

I remembered to take some WIP shots! Not as many as I wanted to, but hopefully enough to get the idea across. Oil painting is a super difficult medium to learn, but for every 50 bad strokes, I’d get a good stroke that’s making me fall in love with painting with oils. It’s so buttery and nice, there’s just a feel as things slide into place that is really cool.

Started the evening transferring the drawing. I covered the back of my drawing with a soft charcoal, then taped it into position on my canvas. I used a knitting needle to trace the outlines of the drawing, I guess burnishing? The charcoal sticks to the canvas as so:


Then I go over those lines with thinned burnt umber to establish the drawing on the canvas, as the charcoal would wipe off. I forgot to clean up the excess charcoal you can see between the lines and my initial white was grey…took me a minute to figure out why!


Then I got into a groove and forgot to take pics. Sorry! First I laid in the shadow blocks with thinned burnt umber. Then I blocked in the lighter areas of the skin with white, though I messed up and thinned it too much (I messed up a LOT but I learned even more, so it’s all good!).


The last step I was able to get into tonight was the final step of the value blocking, where I soften the lines where the values meet up. At the same time, I’m starting to refer back to the model rather than my drawing. I hold three brushes, one clean and dry to soften with; and one each for the brown and white. This is where oils shine, the amount of open time to push and pull and slide things around. You can see where I got caught at the end of the session moving paint around the model’s left eye. I significantly reshaped the eyes and lower lip, as well as the hairline and shadows on the forehead to match the current session.


I was getting a little discouraged as I struggled with the unfamiliar medium in the 3rd pic, but as I got the slightest bit more comfortable and started fixing and tweaking and some areas started to come together, I ended on a definite upbeat note, excited for the next session.

It’s a really nice bunch of students and the instructor is completely amazing. She can give me two or three short pointers that get me through the trouble spots. Some of the other students didn’t believe I’ve never painted in oils, or on canvas, or drawn portraits…until clean up time. I had no idea how to wash the brushes or really anything on how to clean up.