Introduction to Oil Painting/1.1

I’m starting with a brand new group of oil painters this Fall. Here’s their first lesson in creating a tonal underpainting for a classical study of a white object. We start the lessons using fairly monochromatic or colorless objects, to better see value and form, against a black background, which shows the contrast better. Notes from class about the first lesson:


To begin, place your white object in a darkened area (like my black box), with a light shining directly onto it. The object should be bathed in about 3/4 light, with a clear cast shadow onto the “floor” of the box.  Then we create a detailed graphite drawing of the form, to scale of what the painting will be (in my case, I’m replicating the 5 x 7″ size.) We are using a compositional “grid” before we actually  start drawing, to see where to place the drawn object along the sweet spots, or intersections of lines and diagonals. Then mix 6 values of gray, using ivory black and titanium white. The lights should be almost white, and the darkest should be almost black:


Then begin sketching out the form with one of the middle values. Here’s mine next to the tonal sketch:


Notice how I have “blocked” in the background and foreground using big, value forms. I’ll then do the same for the little bowl, first applying lights, darks, then middle values:


Once I’ve got everything in there, it’s time to go back and revisit edges, contrasts and general overall accuracy with the “drawing” in the painting.

See you next time, when we apply to the first color pass to the painting. In the meantime, here are some of my students’ grisaille:


4 thoughts on “Introduction to Oil Painting/1.1

  1. Thanks for the lesson info. My photo did not turn out well so I started over with new object, drawing, black box, light, etc. I am not satisfied with the amount of contrast I have gotten so far but will try again this pm. Edy

    1. Hi Edy; Thanks for working so hard on this first part of the painting. Please bring the original black and white underpainting with you to class. We can look at the contrast then.

  2. Dang. Obviously I didn’t make it to your studio… Leaving Wed for Mexico til oct 26th –will try again!

    Wonderful to see you at Maynard’s!!! xo~eva

    Sent from my iPhone


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s