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

As of the last post on this painting, the dead layer was about half done. A lot of basic work had been completed and there was a good foundation, but still lots of work to do. Some parts of the dead layer were ready for detail work. In other areas, the umber layer was still visible.

The muzzle was one of only two remaining untouched areas and it was the largest, so that’s where I started.

Step 5

Muzzles have always been a challenge. The combination of contours, surface details, and coloration provide a unique set of challenges for every painting. In this case, there are not only folds of skin, skeletal structure, and the soft curves of lips and nostrils to negotiate, but the contrast between gray and pink.

All of this work was completed with small brushes. Small sable rounds and small sable flats. Usually #2 or smaller. I have three sizes of miniature brushes (20/0, 10/0, and 5/0) that I dearly love for this kind of work. For most of the work on the muzzle, I used the same two or three brushes for darks and lights, working from dark to light and back again as necessary without changing brushes.

Quite often, I also use a larger sable round or flat to ‘smooth out’ the brush strokes and create smooth gradations between the values.

Jesse in Oil

I reverted the technique with which I started the dead layer, applying white, then black and blending them together.

I spent quite a bit of time working out the difference between shadowed areas of the pink marking and highlighted areas of gray skin. I had to convert my reference photo to gray scale to confirm what I’d seen in the full color photograph. There isn’t much difference!

The end result was well worth the effort. This painting shows some of the best gradation and value of any I’ve painted recently.

Step 6

I worked on the last area to be painted in grayscale, the off side eye. Work there included painting the positive shape and the background around it. That was necessary to get the right edge quality, but I also needed to reshape the bulk of the eye.

I also corrected the shape of the lower lip. I’d noticed since the last previous painting session that Jesse looked like he was pouting on the canvas. A closer look revealed that I’d painted the lower lip too large and with too much of a reflected light highlight. A few strokes of a 1/4 inch sable flat solved that problem.

Jesse in Oil

When the painting reached this stage, I had a decision to make. Typically, the dead layer is painted in two phases. The initial phase covers the umber layer and lays the groundwork for the details. The second phase brings the dead layer as close to final detail quality as I can make it.

In the case of this painting, so much time passed between the start of the dead layer and the completion of it that I’ve been able to essentially work both phases together.

So do I continue that process and finish the dead layer by working over fresh paint as it dries area by area? Or would it be better to let the entire painting dry a few weeks, then come back to it and finish the dead layer in a more typical Phase 2 process?

In the end, paid-portraits and writing projects determined Jesse’s fate. I decided to finish the dead layer as it is so it could go to the drying room and be off my to-do list for at least six weeks.

Step 7

I finished the dead layer by adding brighter highlights in  the face and a few other areas. I used two small brushes – one round and one flat – and my fingers to add highlights where they were the brightest in the painting.

Jesse in Oil

So I finished the dead layer, then photographed the painting and moved it upstairs. I’ll check it September 18, which will be the six week mark. It may be ready before then, but unless my portrait schedule opens up, I’ll give this painting the full six weeks to dry.

Here are a few detail shots.

Jesse in Oil

Jesse in Oil

Related Posts
Jesse in Oil, Umber Layer
Jesse in Oil, Dead Layer – Round 1