Tip 1. Painting contours

Anthony O'Keefe Uncategorized 0 Comments

Rather than starting off with “my pallet is..” I thought I’d jump right into the deep end and share how I get the effect of contours. In my paintings that would normally be muscles and features.

Unless I’m playing around I do not use a lot of paint on my canvases, instead I build up very thin layers letting each dry before painting the next. This is very time consuming but the effect can be stunning due to the range of tone, colour, vibrancy in each square cm.

Lets assume you have a wash of turpentine and basic light colour on the canvas to depict your subject and we want to start painting. I mix a range of colours and tones on my pallet that I think I’ll need and in what I think is a logical order. I also have a small container of oil and clean white spirit to wash the brushes. Now we can begin.

As with watercolour I start with the lightest colours first and apply the paint in a light scrubbing fashion using the top 1/4 of the brush. I do not like brush strokes as I find it produces hard edges. I much prefer to work the paint into the canvas in a circular fashion and quite lightly, seems more natural to me. I’ll work the colour over the whole subject where that colour/tone is required but overlap into a joining areas a great deal. Different colour/tone combinations can be used over the whole painting but keep to the lightest for now. I then let the painting dry for up to a week.

The pallet needs to be remixed, which has the advantage of producing slightly different colours each time that add to the texture and interest. I would then load my brush with the next darkest/brightest colour and apply that by scrubbing and overlapping the lighter areas and overlapping the next darkest area. Let dry and repeat until you are happy with the result.

If as you progress the shape of the muscle is not quite right it is easy to change as the adjacent colours/tones are very close. Just reapply with the correct colour in the shape you want, when that’s dry reapply the darker if required. I rework quite a lot in this way, it has a great advantage of producing a rich and natural variation of colours next to each other. Always wait for the layer to dry before applying the next otherwise you’ll loose the richness and vibrancy. I’ve thrown paintings away because I was impatient and ended up with patches of dull paint!

The paint is applied straight from the tube or even up to two days old. I tend to use one or two brushes for a session cleaning between colour changes and then dipping in the oil and wiping the oil off with a rag.

Good luck and keep persevering.

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