Add sparkle to your oil paintings with these tips
Kruijt uses linseed oil as a medium, which has the advantage of drying in a few days. When you work in layers, it means you don’t have to wait weeks. She uses synthetic brushes; Rounded for detail, flat to block out areas, and a fan brush to soften edges.
Drawing animals is one thing, but what about birds or flowers? Oil painting means you can capture vibrant colors by gradually building up the paint in multiple layers. This technique is perfect for painting sunny roses. was inspired to create this image after seeing a beautiful wren sitting in my garden, its song coming on early in the morning. My roses weren’t in bloom yet, but that magical moment inspired me to design a painting of them.
I always start the painting process by sketching ideas. I place various elements together to create my unique personal designs. I scribble compositions and color choices.
When I have found a basic composition that I like, only then do I start looking for reference materials. Not the opposite. In this way, the designs come from the heart, from a memory or from an inspired idea.
I chose this troglodyte from my own database of photos that I have created over the years. I always compare several birds, to learn their physical differences. Then I went to buy the perfect roses! Before you begin, make sure you have the best oil painting supplies on hand. Everything is ready ? Let’s go…
01. Start drawing
This is when I get excited, as my preliminary sketch is reshaped into a detailed drawing, using an H pencil. I like to keep my pencil drawing visible for as long as possible when I paint in thin layers. I like the “feel” of the sketch lines, so I don’t erase them. I fix this underpainting with a pastel spray, then let it dry for a day. Something missing? Try this list of the best art supplies.
02. Apply the medium tone
Painting bright colors works best on a white surface (you’ll need the best oil painting canvas). Then they become almost iridescent, which can make it difficult to maintain the correct values throughout the array. I always use three values: light, medium and dark. I paint the background first, blocking with a grayish purple of “medium” value, then adding more subtle values.
03. Start introducing bright colors
To work more efficiently, it helps me limit my palette, having the ‘right’ colors ready to go – choose from the best oil paints on the market. I mix three orange color values, three browns and greens. I paint the first coat orange, with a mixture of quinacridone red and lemon yellow. I use a rag to wipe the lighter parts. I don’t use white – it makes bright colors opaque.
04. Add shadows
With dark orange I paint the deepest shadows. To blend a darker orange, I use brown and more quinacridone red. With a clean brush, I lift a few highlight lines and blend the hard edges of the shadows with a clean fan brush. Hard lines or outlines make a subject look flat. To avoid this, think of larger color shapes, then soften the outer edges.
05. Base layer of the troglodyte
Now, using a medium value brown for the wren (a mixture of burnt umber and a touch of ultramarine blue), I repeat the process used on the rose. A little white makes the color more opaque. With a cloth, I erase the reflections, taking care to respect the round shape.
06. Anatomy and shadows
At this point I start painting the shadows under the wing (darkest value) and the feathers on its body. The plumage has tiny stripes on its wings, tail and belly. The darker lines next to its eyes are shadows between the feathers that stand out. Always make the effort to consult many reference images to confirm that you have the correct anatomy. It should dry for a few days.
07. Have fun with highlights
Another great step is to add the highlights! I apply a coat of medium over all the dry paint, before wiping it off again with a dust-free cloth. In the remaining thin layer of medium, I paint the light colors, like white, without diluting. My brush glides over the surface, making beautiful graceful lines. Colors that darken during drying receive an additional touch-up at the end.
08. Juicy Greens
With a flat brush, I paint the medium green of the leaves. Paying attention to the more yellow and blue parts, I follow the direction of the veins. The foil bends here and there, catching more light on round shapes and appearing bluer. I keep thinking forward, to avoid overworking a specific layer. This way the colors stay bright and not dull due to poor mixing.
09. Review your progress
This step feels halfway. Most of the values are present, now I will assess where to go next. It’s nice to paint from one “little hit” to the next. Sometimes I leave out a fun part for next time, so I know exactly where to step in later. I decide to start adding reds, in the rosebuds, shadows and branches.
10. Let’s move on to the second rose
The second rose also started with a medium value orange. I now add the darker tones. I could have done it simultaneously with the other rose, but I decided to let that one dry, to see if the colors darkened. Now I think my medium orange needs more yellow to look warmer.
11. Tender Petals
The rose petals are so delicate that I have to be careful that they don’t look heavy or chunky. With a mixture of almost pink-white, I paint the outer edges. Perfect, now the petals seem to curl! I always want to have more depth between the petals, so I’m adding more shadows between them in the next steps. Again, I have to be patient, because everything has to dry first.
12. Make some changes
Now that my piece is dry again, I start to balance the shadows overall to create the depth I’m looking for. Using a dark brown, I glaze the entire area under the leaves to make it darker, as this will cause the leaves and roses to “bend” from the paint. I wipe the glazing medium off the leaves, so I can start adding their dark veins and blue highlights.
13. It’s time for the details!
Now, using my thinnest brush, I add even more feathers, highlights, and darker tones to the wren. The shadow under the wing on its belly really brings the wren to life. Here I also glaze some darker parts and add the details directly afterwards. The background gets a new thicker layer. By softening the edges between the bird and the background, it “clicks”. The light blue line on its back and a dark touch in the eye make the wren stand out!
14. Define the shape of the petal with shadows
In the next clean middle layer, I add dark red shadows to the roses. The rose petals are really opening up now. I add a glaze of yellow in the middle of the rose and paint the final highlights around the edges of the petals. I check my overall values again by taking a black and white photo. I find that some green leaves need to be a bit lighter so that they fade into the image.
15. Apply final tonal touches
It’s like magic! Now I paint in all areas simultaneously, adding the final highlights and darkening the rods to push them back. I constantly take a step back to assess my progress. Orange and green are almost complementary on the color wheel, which creates a kind of struggle for attention. The balance here is in the size of the roses. They are large enough to stand out and invite you to come and smell them. The troglodyte ends everything with its beautiful song.
This article originally appeared in issue 11 of paint and drawthe magazine offering advice and inspiration to artists around the world. Buy issue 11 here.