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Gawker Artists


December 2007

How to Paint
the Figure

The key to good painting is good drawing. First get a complete drawing. Measure carefully. Erase a lot and get everything right. The important thing is to find all the edges and positions. Shading's not necessary. That will be done with the paint.

The surface is Gessoed masonite.

Cover the drawing with a coat of Linquin or anything that will dry clear and preserve the drawing. Let it dry so you can rest your hand on the surface.

I like Liquin because it has all the elements of Linseed Oil but dries much quicker. All the paints here are mixed with Liquin. The choice of medium is an aesthetic choice each artist can make for his or herself.

Here I apply a thin wash of Burnt Sienna (BS), Burnt Umber(BU) and Payne's Gray(PG) to the floor. The wall bets a thicker coat of Titanium White(TW), with a touch of Yellow Ochre(TO) and PG.

Traditionally darker colors are applied thin and lighter colors thicker. This isn't a hard and fast rule but is usually the case.

A couple more glazes of BS, BU and PG on the floor and more TW and PG on the wall. The paint can be applied pretty quick and sloppy at this point.

A good wood illusion can be an be created just by painting the dark grain patterns over a lighter shade of brown. It's always different. Just study any wood grain. It has a logic that's easily picked up.

Notice that the shadow of the pillow and figure are already there. I'll put several more glazes on the shadow as I continue the painting. PG, BU and BS when I've got them on my pallet. Eventually I'll go over the inside edge with a tiny amount of Ivory Black(IB).

Another layer of TW, PG and YO on the wall. Then I do the underpainting for the pillow.

Next comes the more refinement on the pillow.

With the background largely finished I can start on the figure. The best way to paint the figure is in a series of oil glazes. The underpainting should be almost a complete tonal study in TW and PG.

Next a do a glaze of Viridian Hue(VH) over the entire figure. Shadows on the figure in sunlight always contain VH, PG or both, often mixed with BS to keep them from becoming too overwhelming.

Next I work on the portrait with every color I've used so far and Cadmium Yellow(CY) and Rose Madder(RM).

Now I go over the entire figure with a mixture of TW, RM, BS, YO and a little PG.

The entire figure gets a thin glaze of BS to unify it. This is applied with a lager brush without any shading.

I can come back into the wet glaze with the same mixture of TW, RM, BS, YO and a little PG I used before to map out the highlights.

Now I go over the edges with PG, VH, BS and a little BU.

I refine the Shadows with the same colors I used to find the edges before. I have two pallets. PG, VH, BS and a little BU for the shadows and TW, RM, BS, YO and a little PG for the highlight. I blend back and forth.

I also lighten the entire wall in the background making the figure look darker.

Here's the final painting. Click on it for a larger view.