03 March 2009

Oil Painting 101

At the Watts Atelier, students are encouraged to develop drawing skills before painting, which is why I spent my first year working with graphite and charcoal. In this first term of my second year, I’m taking my first oil painting class, taught by Meadow Gist. I’m focused on tonal black-and-white studies, and some warm-cool studies. Next term I’ll move on to full color. Mostly, I’m learning the basics…how to use the tools, how to move the paint around, how to clean up…I'm painting on canvas-covered board with boar bristle brushes and Gamlin paints. The instructor sets up an elaborate still life and I choose a vignette to paint. I take 2-3 hours in class to complete each painting, with instructor help where needed.

For paintings 1 and 2, I muddled my way through, just trying to end up with something recognizable. I started feeling more confidence with paintings 3 and 4. The fifth is a warm-cool study, using burnt sienna, ultramarine blue and titanium white. I’ll continue with warm-cool studies through the end of this term to explore the role color temperature plays in the illusion of form. For more on this approach, I refer you to Paul Foxton, who examines the limited warm-cool palette in great detail in his blog, Learning to See.

I’m looking forward to joining the ranks of competent painters. With just this small exposure, I begin to understand why so many lifetimes have been devoted to mastering this art.

Painting 1. Garlic and onion, 11x9

Painting 2. Two peaches, 9x11

Painting 3. Silver service with strawberries, 11X9

Painting 4. Copper pitcher with daisies, 11X9

Painting 5. Ceramic sugar bowl, 9x11


  1. Hello Candace, I read your blog randomly and I could see some great work, I also paint from time to time to step vedere.Mi like to have you among my readers.

  2. Hi Candace, They are great, I love black and white paintings. We should all make black and white tonal studies before adding color. Great job.

  3. Gianlucio, Thanks for your kind comments. It's great to be in touch with fellow artists from such exotic locations. I will be happy to visit your site and see what you're up to. Regards.

  4. Joan, Thanks very much for your visit. The value paintings really assist the transition to color. I plan to underpaint as a standard step when I finally get going. Some people just dive right in, others prefer a more measured approach. I'm the latter. I also visited your blog, and love your use of colors. I'll be visiting often. Regards.