My sister’s visiting from Toronto so I decided to spend some quality time oil painting with her. She’s never used oils before, and I’m always keen to get people to try it since I’m a huge fan of the medium myself.
While she was doing her own splendid thing, I in turn decided to try something a little different. I’ve been consistently unhappy with how much I tend to overwork my pieces, and so decided to design a rougher project – basically leave some blank canvas, since I love seeing the raw material from underneath.
I also decided to do a close crop. I remember my art teacher in Cheongju recommend us try an unusual framing when we paint – usually one wherein the subject breaks out of said frame. This increases the tension and interest of the piece. At the time, I chose a pair of scissors and enjoyed the effect very much.
This time, I decided to zoom into a portrait and do only an eye and nose. I crossed my fingers this would create the tension and interest he spoke of.
So, in five steps, this is the creation of my painting.
Step #1: Blocking Out the Space
As always, the first and most important step is in determining your proportions and carving out the space you’re going to work with. Getting this done in the beginning is good to make sure mistakes aren’t made later where stuff suddenly doesn’t align or is hideously off centre. Plus you can just keep going over and over and over with oils: they are completely opaque and therefore corrections are easy.
Step #2: Blocking Out Colour Zones
Here I worked with blocky, bold colours. Most were fully mixed without much tonal variance, but that’s okay. You want it simple in the beginning so you can layer after. It’s much easier to add details on a clean palette rather than a chaotic one.
Step #3: Working In Details
Now to fill in the rest of the spaces I want to use which includes the eye as well as pulling colour into the blank areas of the canvas. In this case, I wanted to keep a rough minimalist impressionism, so I kept a good deal of the canvas blank, only adding a bit at a time.
Step #4: Working In the Details
Once most everything is in place, it’s time to focus on the details. The tones, values, shapes. In particular I focused on the nose, which although I wanted to keep understated, still needed to hold its own in the piece. The same with the colour detail in the iris.
Step #5: Finishing Up
The trickiest part of minimalism is knowing when to stop. But this time around, I think I met my goal with flying colours. I’m really happy with how it turned out. Rather than overwork it and fill out the image to the edges of the canvas, I think I stopped at exactly the right place – at least for my taste.
As ever, I’m happy to hear what you think!