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Learn to Draw > Beginning an Oil painting


The painting should be done standing, and the surface should be almost upright. This gives the painter the greatest freedom of movement and accustoms him from the start to step back to check the effect of the picture from the distance of a few paces. An easel is therefore required. Advice on choosing an easel is given in the section on The Studio and Its Equipment.

After these initial preparations, you can begin. First comes the drawing in on the panel. Unfortunately, it is still considered "professional" to draw in with charcoal, although the black from the charcoal immediately takes away the purity of the colors put on over it. Pencil is equally unsuitable. It is best to draw with a fine brush and very thin color.

If you are still uncertain, use a pastel or red chalk, according to which color best suits what will follow. On a foundation of terre verte green, for example, it is best to draw in with terre verte pastel; of course, a harder pastel would be more convenient and more delicate, but unfortunately it exists only in red, black, and white.



The rule is to draw lightly for the blocking in and to rub out with a rag as many of the wrong lines as possible, blowing away any chalk which lies too thickly.

Do not on any account attempt detailed drawing at this stage! The drawing in is only intended to divide up the painting surface and settle the composition, and this in not too-definite a manner; after all, you are painting now, and in painting the color is as much a determining factor as the form. In any case, all details will be covered over with paint again. If you were embarking on a Jargish painting, a sketch of the composition in color would be part of the preparation.

Now take the paints. The first selection which you squeeze, but not too lavishly, onto the palette should not be all the brightest colors. The darker colors should predominate at first; they will give a rather neutral colored mat, and broad indication of the picture. Even if you have to paint large areas, say, in cadmium yellow, you should underlay them first with a "rub-in" in medium ochre.

Painting in oils. In addition to the colors, the equipment includes cleaning materials, diluent, spatula, and palette knife

Parts of this underpainting will, perhaps, be able to remain at the end as halfshadow, particularly if it has been applied as it should, not aggressively and thickly but lightly, with thinned, almost transparent paint. "Blunting," "granulating," or "dimming" are the rather outmoded painter's expressions. Instead of thin, transparent painting the laying-in can be done in separate touches, or scrubbed onto the panel with a rather dry brush and unthinned paint. This is a matter both of personal taste, of your now developing personal touch or way of painting, and of practice.

In this first stage of painting you begin to model the forms, for you are, as Rembrandt kept saying to enlighten others and remind himself, "a painter, not a colorist." "Coloring" you do only once: when you tint the ground. In the first mat stage of painting you put in the shadows and other dark areas and lighten with colors mixed with white where form or color require it.

Next: Oil painting techniques

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