Wednesday, 26 January 2011

What is the Best Technique for Painting Detail in Oils?

Embarking upon a painting featuring lots of elements regarding textures, patterns and colour shifts may overwhelm the artist wishing to try something challenging. Striations on seashells, embroidery on curtains or layers within red cabbage may cause visual overload where the artist does not know where to begin. What is the simplest technique for painting detail without compromising the quality of the finished artwork?

Problems with Painting Detail

Applying Detail in Oils
Rachel Shirley
The idea of embarking upon a painting with lots of detail is often appealing. The reward of completing an exacting work of art that catches the eye and entices the viewer to take a closer look may cause the artist to go in with both feet with such a project. However, once faced with the reality of emulating a multitude of patterns and textures, the artist may experience the wind go out of the creative sails. The following may cause an unsatisfactory painting with detail.

Trying to complete the painting in one go and with increased haste towards the end due to fatigue. This will be reflected in wobbly lines, patchy colour mixes and uneven paint layers.

Spending too much energy on preparing the project, collating visual resources, completing an accurate and detailed drawing, and setting up the workstation. When the time actually comes to paint, the artist may become lacklustre and run out of steam. An uncompleted painting is the likely result.

Using inferior art materials for exacting processes, such as cheap brushes and pigments with poor tinting strength will create difficulties for the artist and an unsatisfactory painting of detail.

How to Paint Detail

The artist must think realistically about how the project is to be completed. The following tips may help.

Accept that a large detailed painting will never be completed in one day. Plan what to do first and how much per session. Be realistic about how much time the painting will take. This will keep the painting manageable.

Create small goals. If the painting features several objects, complete one object per day. Alternatively, if two or three objects contain similar hues, such as maroon striations in a red cabbage and textures on a beetroot skin, complete those objects containing that particular hue together.

Begin the painting session with the most challenging detail when feeling most up to it. The easier parts can be completed at the end of the session.

Take regular breaks from the painting. Time easily slips away whilst engrossed in painting each layer of an onion. Don’t push too hard. Beware of discomfort when sitting too long. Move about periodically.

Try not to think about the whole painting whilst painting a small aspect of it. Relegate all other objects as invisible. Imagine the painting is in fact several paintings in one. This will make the artist feel that the painting is moving forward.

Essential Art Materials for Detailed Painting

The artist must never guesswork detail, or the painting may fail to convince. For this reason, excellent visual resources and good lighting are vital. This means photographs of a high resolution or subject matter that is up to standard. Good lighting conditions may comprise a north-facing skylight, or adjacent window. Painting in dull lighting may give the artist a false impression of the painting’s quality until viewed under bright conditions.

Excellent quality fine sable brushes are vital. Kolinsky sables provide fine points, softness and springiness. When it comes to sharp detail, rounds sizes 0, 1, 3 and 6 will suit most purposes. A selection of filberts or fans will create smooth blends.

Art Techniques for Painting Detail

DK Art School: An Introduction to Art Techniques (DK Art School)Oil painting in glazes enables the artist to work over the painting in layers to achieve an ever higher and sharper-detailed finish. This entails the application of the paint in thin translucent layers, most often thinned with linseed oil. Each artist will have personal preference, but the following describes how I typically complete a detailed painting:

Apply an imprimatura of an earth colour, usually thinned burnt sienna or burnt umber acrylic paint. This will kill the overpowering white layer of the canvas.

Sketch the composition on top with a fine chalk pencil. Detail is not essential as the drawing will be concealed by the overlying paint.

Select an object in the painting; in this example, an onion. Apply the base colour thinly, which might be cream or beige Express shifts in tone and brush away unwanted marks. Apply the detail with slightly thicker paint. The onion layers can be suggested by applying thinned paint via a rigger or thin sable. Even out unwanted brush marks, accepting the object will not be perfect at this stage.

Allow to dry. In the meantime, the artist may embark upon another object if feeling up to it. Return to the onion another day once touch-dry, applying a second glaze. This glaze can be used to modify or improve upon the lower layer. Sharpen up detail and smooth out unwanted brush marks. The artist may notice the object appears sharper, more intense and closer to the desired effect. A third layer can be applied if desired, although only select areas may need attention.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I disagree about the sables--there's no need to involve animals in a day when excellent synthetic brushes exist which mimic the finest of hair brushes.