I don’t want to bog you down too much in the technical aspects of creating a painting, but it is important to understand the level of skill involved, as well as material investments. All artists work differently, of course, so I can only speak to my own process.
If you’re a fine artist with a specific technique, please feel free to share your process in the comments.
For all intents and purposes, you can assume that I am describing my work in oils, unless I indicate otherwise. Although I work in a variety of media, oil is my preference and current focus.
The rooster commission (pictured above) that I am currently working on was started with an imprimatura technique. The information linked is much more involved than I am using in this painting, but is a great reference for understanding the technique and the impact it has on the quality of a painting.
My client wanted a more stylized, illustrated image for his painting, so I am cutting out many of the steps described in order to create a more graphic image in the French country style.
This book has been in my collection since I was a student at SCAD. It is my go-to book for art technique reference. For those of you who don’t know me, I have had this book for 25+ years. I recommend it to other artists all the time.
In the past, I have used acrylic paints for my paintings because of time restraints, so I do not have a portrait example in this style. However, I recently completed a chicken in the style described above that will give you an idea how the imprimatura layer effects the subsequent layers of paint.
For instance, all of the details in the feathers were captured in the imprimatura through shading. A thin layer of white was applied on top of the dried imprimatura and highlights were built up on top, creating the volume of the bird and layering of the feathers. The shadows are all the imprimatura layer showing through the subsequent layers of paints.
I am currently researching grisaille techniques for portraiture. I will write more about that process as I incorporate it into my work. As you can see from the description in the link provided, grisaille is a similar, but much more involved process for underpainting.
For now, here are some artists whose work I admire who are proficient in the technique.
Do you have a favorite artist working in classical oil techniques?
Feel free to share their links in the comments.
In a future post, I will share the importance of making color studies of your palette for oil paintings. I enjoy keeping mine in an art journal for easy reference and as part of my interview process with commission clients.