How to Match Colours With Oil Paints (Video)

Something I’ve been planning to do for a long time now, is to put together a short online course covering the basics of getting started with oil painting.

This is something I wish I’d had access to when I was starting out, so I figure other people might find it useful too.

I’m making pretty slow progress, but I have drafted a few lessons, and started to plan a few videos.

I’ve also recorded one video, and thought it might be useful to share it here first and get some feedback. Continue reading

Art School

5 Painting Rules You Should Break

When learning to paint, whether you’re self-taught or attending art school or other classes, you’ll inevitably come across techniques or theories that are presented to you as rules you must follow.

Some of these ‘rules’ are actually pretty useful, and if you stick to them you won’t go far wrong.

But there are exceptions to every rule, and it’s important to know when to break them. Continue reading

Paint like a millionaire

When I first started painting (with acrylics back then), I was very stingy with my paint. I would squeeze out just a small blob of the colours I was going to use, and then try to make that stretch as far as possible.

I don’t think it was really related to the cost of paints (I was living in China at the time, where the price of paint was not prohibitive), but more that I just didn’t like the idea of waste (I still don’t!)

So I would spread my paint very thinly, almost glazing or scumbling all the colours on top of each other. The result was ok, but there wasn’t any brushwork to speak of. You couldn’t see my brushstrokes, so the image almost looked like it was printed onto the canvas.

Continue reading

Armona by Dan Johnson

Tips on painting from photos

I touched on this briefly in a recent post, but I wanted to share some practical tips that you can use when painting from a photo, to keep your painting from looking flat and lifeless. So, in no particular order:

  • Simplify everything.
  • Don’t paint everything. Play with cropping the photo in different ways to find a pleasing composition.
  • Reposition elements in the scene to make a more pleasing and balanced composition.
  • Experiment with the rule of thirds.
  • Have a clearly defined focal point, or centre of interest, which the viewer’s eye should be guided towards.
  • Keep your edges sharper in the focal point, and softer outside of it (in general).
  • Emphasise the sense of atmospheric perspective in a landscape by making objects lighter in value and less saturated the further away they are.
  • Add more colour to your shadows than you can see in the photo (but not too much).
  • If you take a photo to use as reference, make notes about the colours you see while you’re there, so you can inlcude them in your painting later.
  • Simplify everything.
  • Use HDR mode on your camera to capture a greater range of hues and values.
  • Don’t have any sharp edges leading your eye out of the painting.
  • Avoid uniform, repeated patterns (except on manmade objects), even if they appear that way in the photo, you can create a more pleasing effect by making them irregular.
  • Consider greying down a bright blue sky to keep the attention on the focal point.
  • Merge shadow shapes together if they are a similar value.
  • Don’t worry about matching the the exact colours, but do try to get the value and temperature relationships right.
  • Don’t paint all the detail you see in the photo, instead try to paint it as if you were looking only at the focal point in real life, so everything else would be slightly out of focus.
  • Simplify everything 🙂

That’s all I can think of for now. Please feel free to share your own tips in the comments.

More recent paintings

I’m pleased to say I’m still keeping up a decent amount of painting, and also starting to feel more confident with oils. I’m getting more comfortable with mixing colours correctly and getting better at keeping my brush strokes nice and loose.

Tip of the day: You don’t really need to buy black paint, and you can get a much richer black by mixing it from other colours. You need two dark colours that are complements of each other. None of the paintings below contain any ‘black’ pigment. The black of the gorilla’s fur is a mixture of Ultramarine Blue Deep and Burnt Umber (brown), in roughly equal parts. (Brown is really a dark orange, and orange is the complement of blue). To make a warmer black you can use more brown, and to make a cooler black you can use more blue. You can also get a different kind of black by mixing Viridian (green) and Alizarin Crimson (red). Experiment with different black mixtures and you’ll never want to use your Ivory Black pigment again!

Here are some sketches from the last few weeks. All oil on textured paper. Click the images for a closer look.