Working on an oil painting – the progression

When I start a oil painting, I usually have a pretty good idea of the subject. I paint from something I am looking at outdoors or a photo of a place I have been or a combo – start a painting outdoors, photograph the scene and then finish the painting in the studio.

Here are the usual steps I take in creating a painting:

  1. Great Idea!
  2. Sketch it (plein air/real life or photo for inspiration and “checking”) until the composition and value and interest are just so.
  3. Sketch it on the canvas with soft pencil or charcoal
  4. Value painting with acrylic paints (I usually mix up all the leftover paint on my palette from a past piece and save that in an airtight container just for the purpose of value paintings).
  5. Progress to the painting, usually like this – sky, furthest to closest objects, detail work.
  6. Let it sit a day or two, photographing it and reversing the image on the computer to see how it ‘works’
  7. Fix anything that drives me crazy. And try not to overwork the painting.
  8. Let it dry while looking at it for a few weeks or so.
  9. Varnish the finished painting.

Here is one in progress now. Its of a twisted juniper tree that my friend took images of.

#1 One of the preliminarily sketches of the twisted juniper tree.

#1 One of the preliminarily sketches of the twisted juniper tree.

#2 Sketch on the canvas of the twisted juniper tree. Note how it has been revised from the sketch, the far away hills are lowered.

#2 Sketch on the canvas of the twisted juniper tree. Note how it has been revised from the sketch, the far away hills are lowered.

#3 Value underpainting of the twisted juniper tree. It always looks so dramatic to me, sometimes I want to stop right at this step. The sky is in reverse value, I just like it like that most of the time.

#3 Value under painting of the twisted juniper tree. It always looks so dramatic to me, sometimes I want to stop right at this step. The sky is in reverse value, I just like it like that most of the time.

#4 Beginning the painting of the twisted juniper: The sky and far hills are in. Some work on the mid ground is progressing.

#4 Beginning the painting of the twisted juniper: The sky and far hills are in. Some work on the mid ground is progressing.

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