Art Lesson 41, Part 6
Discover how to Oil Paint a Female Body
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How to Oil Paint a Female Body
We are going to paint the main part of the painting – the figure. As you remember, we started with a Brown Sketch. After that, we painted the face in Grisaille.
After the surface has completely dried, we proceed with working on details and painting in colors. We start with the Underpainting of the headband. The pure Titanium White is used for this purpose.
We also prepare a very light, but a bit warm, mix of Titanium White and Yellow Ochre. There is no need in adding any Medium here, as we are going to cover the surface in a dense opaque layer of paint.
Have you ever seen how solid and sometimes thick the layer of paint can be in the Old Masters paintings? Such layers were achieved by building up the painting surface, layer over layer. To get this effect, we apply multiple layers of paint which creates the sense of materiality.
Here is the good tip for oil painting: light areas can be painted more texturally and thickly than midtones and shadows.
The first session is over. We can leave the canvas aside to dry.
When the surface of the painting is dry, we can proceed with the Underpainting. We use the same mix of Titanium White and Yellow Ochre, that we used in our previous session. While we apply the paint, we also correct the shape of our facial features, if required. As a result, we have increased the thickness of the lighted areas; midtones also have become thicker, however not as thick as the lighted areas. All this will help create the appearance of volume – the thicker paint is applied, the closer it seems to the viewer. The thinner the coat of paint is, the further it seems.
While the white Underpainting is still wet, we take Venetian Red and emphasize the facial features more pronouncedly.
In shades, we intermix Venetian Red with the underlying white paint.
While our artwork is in its initial stage, we can do all necessary adjustments and changes. This is exactly what we are doing now. We amend an ear to make the portrait more anatomically correct.
Don’t be afraid of repainting passages. The artwork is living its own life while it’s being painted. It is not necessary to depend on outlines, accurately filling in voids between them. You are not painting by numbers or copying a photograph.
When the surface is well dried, we continue with the painting. We are outlining the figure sketchily. Then we mix the same Titanium White with Yellow Ochre as we did for the Underpainting portrait. This is not the final amendment, so we won’t concentrate on it for too long.
We continue with the hairstyle. For this, we mix Titanium White with Yellow Ochre without any Medium at this point. We spread the paint thinly.
Because of the contrast between light and dark colors – the mix looks whitish on a dark palette, as well as on the dark background of the canvas. When the light mix is applied next to the white skin Underpainting, it appears to be more yellow.
At the same time, we add very hot color nuances into the shadows. Burnt Sienna, thinned with Stand Linseed Oil, works well here. We apply this thinned paint over the wet, yellowish layer. The paint intermixes very nicely and we are able to achieve soft transitions from one color to another.
As our painting progresses, certain things that can be improved become apparent. For example, the neck. I have decided to make this allegorical figure more monumental.
The same mix of Titanium White with Yellow Ochre is used for the amendments. We also build up extra coats on the face Underpainting. Now we put the painting aside to dry.
By now, the canvas surface is dry and we can continue with our painting. Once again, a simple mix of Titanium White with Yellow Ochre is prepared and will be used for the next step in painting the hairstyle.
Depicting hair allows you a great opportunity to play with the paint. We can experiment with layers of various thicknesses – we can do impasto passages or we can apply the paint thinly, spreading it in a way that we create almost transparent layers.
We can use both smooth transitions between tones as well as bold loose impasto strokes.
Brushstrokes can be bold and loose as well as more precise and delicate.
Together with the hair, we cover a hairband, using the same semi-opaque mix of paint.
And again, the Burnt Sienna thinned with Stand Oil is used to add hot color nuances in the shadows.
While the paint is wet, it’s very easy to correct the form, as we are doing right now. With a rigid hog brush, we remove the excess paint. You can do so with a clean brush or instead, a brush can be dipped into the dark-blue mix that was used for painting the sky.
More impasto highlights can be added over wavy hair. For this, more paint is loaded onto the brush and is applied carefully over the surface. A stiff brush might leave visible rough brushstrokes. This will add an additional variety of texture and an interesting pictorial effect.
You can experiment with different hairstyles. Try different silhouettes, and details. You can do this by using your imagination or you can refer to various visual materials. Of course, such reference materials can be re-interpreted and adjusted to fit your creative task.
You can experiment directly on the canvas or make preliminary sketches first to help you decide on a solution. Now we put the painting aside to dry.
When the artwork’s surface is completely dry, we can continue the painting.
The design of composition can be adjusted to better fit our vision of what the finished painting should look like. To do so, it is better to scrape off a thick layer of paint, so the texture of old layers will not be visible under your new design. It is important to achieve a more or less even surface without any visible relief.
Once our paint layers are evened out, we can sketch the new design with the thinned Venetian Red and Burnt Sienna mix.
Next, we prepare our usual mix of Titanium White with Yellow Ochre. No Medium is added at this stage, as we intend to overpaint the previous design with a new layer of dense and opaque paint.
Shades are painted with the Venetian Red and Burnt Sienna mix. Lighter areas are done with the Titanium White with Yellow Ochre mix that in highlights is applied in thicker coats.
After the surface becomes dry, we continue to increase the thickness and opacity of the layers.