|The Mamaroneck River, oil on canvas, by Carol L. Douglas|
My teaching year ends at the beginning of June, when I start my summer wanderings. So I was conflicted when V— contacted me about lessons. She is a well-known lithographer and designer. Normally I’d jump at the chance to have her join us, but there’s so little time left in the year. Still, we have time to lay out the basics.
Let’s start with my mantras. These are the things I say so frequently they might even be true.
Slow to Fast
The quality most appreciated in modern painting is assurance. If you take the time to map out your painting in advance, you will avoid a lot of tentative or corrected brush strokes.
That means doing your measuring, erasing, and composition in the drawing phase.
|Draw, baby, draw...|
Dark to Light
In oils, it’s difficult to paint darks over white. However, this rule is appropriate for all media except watercolor.* If you mass in darks first, you can see the value structure. This gives you a pretty good idea whether the painting will work.
|A grisaille by any other name. It is still a great way to start an oil painting. This one, by me.|
*In watercolor, you start with light washes. The lights are where you omit paint. It’s important for watercolorists to make a value sketch before they start.
Thin to Thick
Your bottom layers should be lean. Your top layers should be thick and creamy. It doesn’t matter if you want your painting to be clinically hyperrealistic or clotted impasto. This is the only way to paint without cracking or obvious pentimenti. That is a beautiful word to describe an ugly problem: visible reminders of how many times you’ve changed your mind.
|Eventually you get to impasto, but it's a treat you work up to.|