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Female Figure Oil Painting Process

By August 10, 2011May 31st, 2016Portrait Painting Instruction, Portraits

My preparation for this painting consisted of working with a live model for several hours outdoors on location.   I then created a composition from my memory of the event as well as using many photos as reference.

1st Session

I must admit, it’s been a while, and it feels great starting this new work.  This one looks pretty nice for the first session! Im going to give it a couple of days to dry and look forward to the next session. The face is flatly lit in shadow. She’s backlit by the sun in a field. As you can see, I’m keep the paint very thin this early in the painting.


2nd Session

I see glare on the forehead which is coming from the over head light. It’s always challenging getting a good photo of a painting, but it’s not important to get a good photo this early in the game. I mainly repainted her face, hair, arm and hand. The skin tones are going to be warm because we were out in the sun.


3rd Session

I completely repainted the face and hair. Lightened the values in both (although I can barely tell in the photo of the painting….Im surprised). I began adding some different hues in the flesh tones ….greens,yellows,pinks etc… Im trying to keep it loose and leave as much of the canvas showing as long as possible. Looking at this photo I see some edges that I want to soften for sure. I am very pleased how it’s coming along. Correct values come first. I squint down alot and start each session correcting values.


4th Session

Well, I really felt the need to cover the rest of the canvas fairly quickly so I can stand back  and see how it’s coming together.  I think it’s looking very nice but I still have a lot of work to do. I did not want to get browns and greens in my white fabric at this time so I left the edges for later. Im going to let this layer dry and come back on it.


5th & 6th Session

Well, it seems I should be farther along in this painting for the time that I have in to it, but isn’t that how it always is in life and in painting. Just enjoy the process and it will be finished when it is finished and no sooner, but that’s ok. All the hours and work will be rewarded in the end. Like my friend Morgan Weistling says, ” I like to sneak up on my paintings”. He means that he would rather slow down and take his time and thereby avoid costly mistakes. There is a balance to be achieved in painting. We like them to feel spontaneous and fresh, so on one hand we feel the urge to really get into it painting broadly and aggressively, but we have all had experiences where we did this, and got too carried away only to realize later upon a sober examination in the light of day that we dont like what we did and need to make a lot of changes.  Changes can be made easily when the paint layers are do not have much texture, but if we laid the paint on thick and need to make alot of changes it can really hurt the work and create alot of extra hours of work to make corrections. So the moral of the story is to “sneak up on it” and take it easy. If the foundation is laid well, there will be plenty of time in the last sessions to make thick Sargent like creative broad brush strokes, and time to add more saturation or boldness to the work.  I can see Im making progress and getting closer to my desired result!

These Langnickel oil painting brushes, although I love them, are driving me crazy shedding bristles into the paint layers.


7th Session

Decided it needs more green in  foreground and I just laid in a little under painting there. Warmed up the sky a bit, added some detail and texture to the foiliage above, another layer on hand on chest, and simplified hair.


8th – 9th Session

It’s late and I’m tired. I have been making some creative changes to the original scene to improve the image, for example, the foreground had a lot more brown in it. I’m doing my thing on the grass and landscape in general and not tied to the original scene too much. Im just getting creative, abstracting and having some fun building layers and trying to make sure and leave some of the under layers visible. I think it’s adding some depth and interest. I’ve put a lot of work into it but it still feels fresh and not over-worked. I keep the texture very thin until the end so I can repaint areas and retain a fresh feel. When I paint over a thick texture layer it can start feeling over worked quickly, so I save the thick impasto for the end and leave these strokes alone.

Last session: