Above are the types of brushes, mediums and oil paints that would suit this type of highly figurative painting style. In the illustration I have included student colours. These really are not ideal for this commission but may suit the pocket of most poor starving art students. Ideally you should never scrimp on materials especially paints.The more expensive a colour the more pigment or actual colour it contains. This will make your work look and feel so much more professional and finished.
Oil paints are thinned and diluted with certain mixtures that can give your colours more flow and allow them to mix and blend better. This is known as adding medium. I use two mediums, one for cleaning paint off the brushes and one for mixing with paints. Try to keep your brushes clean at all times. Wipe excess oil paint off them with a clean rag or paper towels. Dirty paint will transfer to your painting. I use a mixture of; 60-70%Turpentine: 20% Linseed Oil for your paint medium.
There is no hard and fast rule but in this case I would use softer brushes, more sables or Dalons than hogshair. The secret to really fine, realistic painting is not just to use broad smooth brushwork but to “soft dry blend” with a dry soft brush as you go along. This is a real secret and something that took me years to discover on my own. This one thing will transform your painting. Rule 1: AVOID HARD EDGES! Blend areas of paint together as you go along with dry soft brushes (brushes with nothing on them) This is a technique that Leonardo used He gave it the name of sfumato or “smoke-like”. If you want to study this technique take a look at The Mona Lisa with fresh eyes. I defy you to find a hard line. This is also science. Light diffuses hard edges. if you use this technique your work will appear so much more “realistic”.
The rule with areas of colour when starting out is “work broad to narrow”. This means start with large areas of mid-toned colour. For instance, in the case of the flesh tone, mix up a lot of light toned colour on your palette. The flesh tone I use here is made up from the following:
65% Titanium White: 10% Standard Flesh Colour: 10% Yellow Ochre: 5% Alizarin Crimson: 5% Burnt Umber: 5% Dioxazine Purple.
This mixture is not hard and fast but should give any student a good flesh tone. To tint (or lighten) it you add more Titanium. To shade (or darken it) add more Burnt umber But, be careful not to add any white straight with another colour only. What happens is a “chalkiness” can build up in your painting that’s difficult to remove.
I also mix up a “black”. This is: 65% Burnt Umber: 35% French Ultramarine. Experiment with these two percentages until you get the “Black” you are looking for. This can be mixed in with the flesh tone to create a large range of shades from black up through dark brown to dark flesh tones.
But remember, broad to narrow. Look at the original more than half of the painting is a dark black-brown colour. That’s it! that’s half the painting finished. I have trained my eye to look for these large tonal areas. paint these in first with a big brush. Remember Durer? “draw with a needle, paint with a broom” Big brushes to start with and keep blending. Here I am only recreating a pastiche of an original old master. At all times I have a high quality version of the original to hand to study. Even if you have to spend some money for an original high quality print it’s one of the best things you can do to make this copy a success. Can you imagine what it took to create the original?