Photo reference for oil painting, Jesse in Oils
Original Oil Painting
14 x 18 Raymar Canvas Panel

It’s been seven weeks since the dead layer was completed. Seven weeks is the average length of time required for optimum drying between layers.

When the seven weeks ended, I tested the paint film by lightly scraping it with a razor blade. A small amount of paint came off as fine dust, indicating the paint was thoroughly dry and ready for the next phase. Color!

Step 1
The first glaze generally covers all of the horse. As is the case with this painting, it also covers all of the background. I choose the color that is the closest match to the lightest highlights in the subject. Jesse is a medium chestnut, which is to say his coat isn’t flaming chestnut, but he’s not a flaxen chestnut, either. After studying the reference photo and examining the highlight areas, I decided Yellow Ochre was the color most suited to the first glaze.

However, Yellow Ochre is an opaque color. It’s also a bit drier than most other M. Graham Oils, so it’s not as suitable as a glazing color straight out of the tube. I could either add a little Walnut Oil and thin it or I could apply it in a fashion that creates transparent color.

I opted for the latter method and used a large flat sable and my fingers to apply paint and move it around enough to cover all of the panel. Then I used a clean rag to further spread the paint and create a transparent color layer.

When that was finished, I used a small, round sable to apply Titanium White in the brightest highlights, spreading and blending with the same brush and with my fingers to create smooth, stroke-less gradations. I also painted the blaze again, covering the bit of Yellow Ochre that ended up there.

As you can see below, all of the painting was glazed but the blaze and muzzle.

Jesse in Oils, Color Phase, Step 1

Step 2
The painting has been drying for three weeks, so the first thing I did was rub Walnut Oil over all of the panel, then dry it with a rag. I then refolded the rag to get fresh cloth and rubbed Azo Yellow into all of the painting except the blaze and muzzle.

With a fresh rag, I rubbed Transparent Orange Iron Oxide into the middle tones and dark areas of the horse and the lower parts of the background and Manganese Blue into the upper parts of the background. I made gradations between values and colors as smooth as possible, but in areas where I had to use a brush to apply color, such as around the eye, I used a clean, dry and very soft brush to blend the brush strokes out of the paint. The goal is to create a smooth, transparent color layer.

When color was in place, I brushed Titanium White into the highlights in the face and Burnt Umber into the insides of the ears and Step 2 was finished.

Jesse in Oils, Color Phase, Step 2

Step 3
I rubbed Viridian Green over all of the background and into the shadow areas of the horse using a clean, dry cloth. I applied paint and moved it around with a circular motion to create an even color film.

I chose Viridian Green to build on the background, which will be a muted green, and because it’s also a good complement to the coat color of the horse and will tone down the red I used next; Burnt Sienna.

With a different cloth, I rubbed Burnt Sienna into the mid-tones and shadows of the horse, sometimes working around the newly glazed greens, sometimes working into them. I worked around the highlights as much as possible and removed color as necessary once the Burnt Sienna glaze was complete. In some of the brighter highlights such as along the bridge of the nose and over the eye, I applied Titanium White.

Jesse in Oils, Color Phase, Step 3

Then I painted the eye using Ivory Black and the skin around the eye with a mix of Titanium White and Ivory Black, using a #2 sable round. I spent quite a bit of time on this, working wet-into-wet into the glaze to paint as life-like an eye as possible and to shape the lids and the eye itself.

To finish for the day, I brushed Ultramarine Blue and a tiny bit of white into the eye to create reflected light, then dried the brush and brushed out the brush strokes.

The eye isn’t finished. I still need to add lashes and pump up the highlights in the eye and the lids. This work gives the portrait a good deal of life and provides a good starting point for detail work.

Jesse in Oils, Color Phase, Step 3

The painting dried between one and two weeks between each of these steps. That’s the minimum length of time for paint to dry. If the paint isn’t completely dry at each step, previous work is vulnerable to damage when I do new work. Especially if I’m using a cloth to apply paint. It’s well worth the additional time to avoid having to make repairs or redo work.

Related Posts
Jesse in Oil, Umber Layer
Jesse in Oil, Dead Layer, Part 1
Jesse in Oil, Dead Layer, Part 2