Josephine Code --- VII Code

by Michael Camb

VII CODE is an unfinished portrait of Queen Josephine by Pulis (1784 -1813), David’s student. It always draws our eyes not only by its wonderful painting skill but also by its secret to keep color stay true for ever and the foggy story behind it.

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Harmonization of Colours

by Vjatcheslav Palatchev
(Jaroslavl, Russia)

photo and oil painting

photo and oil painting "In the morning" 40x60cm

The choice of colours in the painting depends on the goal a painter has in mind. In every movement of painting, colours play the most important role in expression of feelings, changes of time during the day or to emphasize particular details.

While painting, I’m always trying as much as possible to realize colours as they are in nature.

Painting in the open air or from photo is a good practice, but there are some major points without relying on which it’s very difficult to understand how to pass natural colours on to the picture.

First of all, our feelings and perception depend on a lot of causes. Before painting I imagine the whole process and consequence of using colours. In nature we can see all as a unity and while painting we create little by little what we see and it changes our perception.

In nature or in the picture, colours in one part are influenced by the colours of the other parts and often we just can’t feel this influence, because we are used to seeing landscapes as a unity. But we have to paint in parts, adding brush strokes little by little and our perception of colours can change during the work. While painting background I estimate saturation and hues counting on colours which I’ll use for the foreground.

For example, on the picture above, it might seem that I made the background too dark, because the foreground was just white canvas then. From my experience I knew that I would paint foreground with strong shadows and very bright colours, and as a result, the background would, as I call this, step back and there would be aerial perspective. Such estimation depends on experience in painting. I never copy colours from a photo. To succeed, one must feel colours and not imitate.

Electric light also changes our perception of colours, shadows, etc. I would compare this with daylight while painting. It helps to understand the interdependence of colours. Comparing different lights I see ever more connections between colours.

On the palette I arrange paints according to their tones. As a rule, I use 17-20 colors right next to each other according to their tones. When I mix paints I compare derived colours with colours on the canvas. Consequently, when I’m applying brush strokes, the paints on the brush mix with the paint on the canvas to create the colours which I want.

While mixing paints on the palette it’s neccessery to keep in mind, that on the canvas a painter works not with paints but with colours. In nature there are a lot of reflections everywhere. Colours change each other under the influence of light and the nearer the objects, the more intensive are reflections. Often I make reflections just using the ability of oil paint to mix while doing brush strokes and rolling a bit with brush. If I have to paint an intense reflection I take some paint with a side of the brush to make the reflection with a single brush stroke avoiding inappropriate mixture.

The most important and the most difficult is to decide where and how intense a reflection must be. For me, work with reflections is always closely related to the harmonization of colours of the whole painting. And this connection helps one understand how to make the picture as a unity.

An object or a landscape which we can see in nature is surrounded with a number of other objects interacting with colours and light. But we can paint only a fragment of our view and this influences our perception of the painting as a unity so that a painter must harmonize colours.

Painting from the photo above I made the horses smaller so I would not overburden the composition. The horses are the main subject of the picture and I had to harmonize colours accordingly. I added the brown path to the left and made pale red reflections on the grass.

Painting the sky and the river I add a bit red paint so that the horses are not so emphasized as on the photo. To harmonize grass on the foreground and a forest on the background I made the forest brighter using more yellow and white. This also helped to show the aerial perspective.

There are a lot of objects interconnected on every picture. Before painting I think about these connections and how all the colors relate to each other.

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by Lekha Praveen
(Bangalore, India)

I attempted this floral abstract painting to get a feel of playing with different colours after having done “The Misty Morning”.

The process that I now follow in creating a painting is:
• I get hold of a reference picture.
• I study the picture and understand the colours involved, brush strokes required and the final effect to be achieved.
• I carry out research through the internet on these aspects.
• I make a preliminary pencil sketch of the subject on paper.
• I practice the strokes on a study canvas and do a trial run with colour.
• Once I complete the painting, I photograph it to study the errors and get it critiqued.
• At the point where I believe the “painting” to be good from the aspect of symmetry, colour application, proportion and being similar to the reference picture, I put in my signature.

It has been quite a journey so far and I take every little step forward knowing that I have a long way to go. It is the companionship and guidance of people like you that make this journey memorable. Thank you Connie.

Connie's Note: Thank you Lehka again for sharing your painting process. I love the bright color contrast and especially the composition. You have an eye for design!

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Landscapes: the quick and simple way to paint oils

by KEH

One of my favorite tricks to oil paintings is to paint on top of a pre-toned surface ideally with acrylic since the drying time is fast. I tone my surface (I like masonite since the cost at the home improvement store is pretty cheap and its such a smooth surface) ONLY after it has been sealed and primed with gesso and then I apply a layer of whatever tone I want the general theme to depict.

For example, with a bright sunny scene I would tone with a brighter color where as with a cloudier or more low key painting I would shoot for a darker tone (maybe mixing complementary colors like blue +orange). Above is a picture I did on pretoned masonite this one had a darker undertone made from orange and a pastel blue:

Another great tip I've learned from experience is to use a cheap house painters brush (ideally 1" bristle brush) for the initial underpainting layers. This way you will have an easier time painting your surface faster since it's a decent sized brush and also the fact that it wasn't an expensive brush makes it easier to let lose and paint!

For more art tips, tricks, and information visit my site:

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Transfer drawing to canvas without using a grid! Best for portrait painters!

by Jeff

I am an oil painter who works mostly from photographs. Since I don't use copal in my mediums and I don't like waiting for them to dry, I am always working on several at a time. This requires me to have several drawings on canvas ready to go when I need them!

I have found that when transferring drawings onto canvas, working with the grid method is nice, though never exact, and sometimes even the slightest mistake can change the look I'm going for, especially when doing portraits! One of the greatest things I discovered was that I could actually transfer my drawings onto canvas without using a grid, or projector!

The method I discovered is to take my drawing (once finished!) and re-draw very bold charcoal or pencil strokes on the lines surrounding the face, hair, eyes, nose, etc. The most important ones I'll need to see!

Next, I take my drawing, and tape it tight and secure to the back-side of my canvas, even if it has been primed! With a light shining behind the canvas, I am able to see the boldest strokes through the canvas well enough to use a pencil to trace my drawing onto it without using a grid!

If I haven't taped the drawing tight enough, I may need to use my hand in places to press it (very carefully!) against the backside so as to see the drawing better. Once the drawing has been traced to the front, I can take my drawing off the back and use it to see where I need to paint my shadows etc.! In this way, I have no grid lines to erase, and I know that my drawing has turned out exact and perfectly just the way I put in on the paper! Also, there is no time wasted in making the grid lines, erasing mistakes, looking back at the drawing time and time again to see if I got it right. It's just a trace. Simple as that! Then on to painting! Whala'!

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Oil Painting Medium

by Gary Shollenberger
(Landsdale, PA , USA)

I've developed a painting medium that I thought I'd pass on to others. I mix water-mixable linseed oil, water-mixable quick dry (alkyd) medium, and water in equal proportions to create a medium that works well to thin paints to a workable state. I prefer mediums from Holbein, but I've also had luck with Lucas Berlin mediums too.

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Modeling with 5 values from the local color

by Sebastian
(Haarlem, Netherlands)


What I have found working well is to choose a local color for a form you want to paint and to use this mixture as a base for making 5 values.

These are shade, dark, neutral light, strong light and highlight. I also keep some of the pure color which I used to mix the local color.

I suspect this is a classic technique and it corresponds to how color changes in and out of the light in nature.

I am curious about comments on this as well as helpful refinements or corrections.

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It's ALL What's Underneath; REFLECTED Above.

by Thomas F, Muller
(Coopersville, MI, U.S.)

My motto:
When emulating God's creation we fail, but still create.

My palette started with a random placement of colours; when I first started painting.
The result was forgetting what was where and unintentionally dipping into a wrong but similar colour, and screwing up what I had already accomplished.

Over time, I saw the sensibility of a colour wheel approach. Always placing the colours in the same general position. The problem that I seemed to have was that, most palettes are the wrong colour, themselves. Thereby, tending to messing up values.
I built my own paint box palette using plexiglass in three layers, separated by thin strips of wood salvaged from the bottom of some old draw shades, and glued with clear "Shoe Glue". The first layer is open on one narrow end, and the clear opening is 9" X 12". (Need to cut plexiglass larger to allow for the wood strips). Into this opening a sheet(s) of "Grey Matters" palette paper is placed giving a middle value on the grey scale. (Also great when you don't want to clean your built palette).

The second sheet is what you paint on. It is glued to the bottom three sides of wood. On top of the second sheet, is a wood coral (thicker than the bottom) on all four sides glued down.
The third sheet is the cover. It is attached with "Gorilla Tape" and acts as a hinge on entire one long side. I also added a "Velcro" closure (glued) on the opposite side. Covering keeps the paints workable for days.

Grey Scale is placed on the bottom.

Colours used VARY as to subjects being painted.

The Right side paint is placed Yellow Light, Cad. Yellow, Couple of Reds (vary), and several Blues (vary),bottom to top.

The top side has secondary colours, Usually, Cd.Orange, Some Greens, Usually Chrome Oxide Green, Sap Green.(vary), violet(s). and any pearly greys made by mixing colours used or messed up are mixed and put in the right corner for possible use latter. Colours are done left to right

The right side always has white(s) (vary). Usually, TiO white, Occasionally Zinc White, sometimes a mix like "Permalba". Near the bottom right, in two small areas I usually put magenta, and seldom black(s): Mars,lamp,bone,(vary), and Payne's Grey. Colours are placed top to bottom, on this side.

The bottom side (if needed) might hold Earth colours. I.e.: Y.O.,B.S,R.S,R.U.,B.U., Terra Vert.,etc.(vary).
Placed left to right, light to dark.

Mixing colours, always compare them to the grey value scale in front of you, to what your subject has.
That's my palette.


Generally, outdoor scenery always seems to have the elements of the colour magenta woven into it's makeup, so I tend to block in the scenes with this colour. It may not always seem to show through, but it feels good to me, and yes; it hints through. Likewise, portraits or people always have elements of yellow and blue in their complexion, so it feels good to me to block them in with opaque chromium oxide green. Likewise, the colour may not come through totally, but it is there, reflecting through.

This is my first visit to this site, and I appreciate you for putting valuable informative materials on it for intermediate beginners like myself.
Thank You! I like the few things I've seen.

Hopefully, my material is useful to someone. At any rate, have fun. Keep creating and inventing.

"Tempus edax rerum." ("Time devours all things")

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Painting Skies

by George Reimuth
(San Bernadino, California, U.S.A)

I experimented with reeves water mixable oil paints also water mixable linseed oil and medium for the first time. While painting skies, I didn't use a 2 and a half blending brush instead used a no. 1 flat wash brush use-ing smaller criss-cross strokes . The results were better then I expected.

You could see the clouds appearing with each brush stroke. I also use Liquitex acrylics and reeves regular oils I would also like to try the Georgian oils and Faber-Castel pastels .

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A Combination of Oil Painting Techniques

by Vjatcheslav Palatchev
(Yaroslavl, Russia)

Forest in fall, 50x90cm

Forest in fall, 50x90cm

I only use oil paints in my work, although I’m always trying new paints and techniques. I’m also adopting different techniques- alla prima and layering methods. The approach depends on what kind of picture I’m going to paint. As a rule I paint the background of a picture alla prima, and then after that dries, I use layering techniques to paint the small details.

Before I start to paint, I always think through every step and the methods, tools, and paints which I’m going to use. I don't have strict rules; I just try to paint in an intuitive way. I use a variety of oil painting techniques and choose the most suitable methods for each picture. Alla prima technique, in my opinion, is the best for painting background and layering techniques are useful for details: leaves, grass, flowers, etc.

At first, look at a landscape and decide mentally what you are going to paint as background, medium-distance, and foreground. For elaborate paintings, it helps to divide your work into sections.

In all of my landscape paintings, the aerial perspective is very important and it is what makes pictures realistic. But how to paint air? You should carefully choose colours for each feature, intensifying the contrast and colour little by little as you move from background to foreground. Painting the background sets the character of the whole picture and requires a lot of attention from the painter. It seems for a number of people that the most important part of a painting is the foreground. But having painted hundreds of different landscapes I’m sure a background is a framework on which you build the whole painting. While painting the foreground I compare every colour and shadow with those from the background--it requires all my skills and feelings.

For the background I use mixed colours with a great portion being blue and white. While painting the background I always think over and estimate what colours I will use for the foreground. Only in this way the painting can be made as a single whole.

For a foreground I use mixed techniques. That is, alla prima technique is very suitable for putting combination of colours on a canvas with wide synthetic bruches. After drying for a couple of hours I paint small details with very soft and flexible hair brushes which won’t destroy the paint layer made in alla prima (and avoid an inappropriate mixture of paints). But I don’t permit paints to dry completely and using soft hair brushes I make strokes which touch only the top of the underlying layer of paint and in this way I make gradual transition of colours. Then I repeat this method few times to achieve necessary contrast and combinations of colours.

Painting small details in a foreground I begin with dark colours and with small soft brush strokes paint dark parts, for example, of grass or stones. Then I proceed to paint bright details and there are very important points. I always make soft brush strokes top-down or from bright to dark. It helps to create gradual transition of colours even for small details, because when you take light paint with a soft hair brush and make a stoke on the dark ground, paints mix leaving light paint pure at a beginning of the stroke.
Another point of this technique is that I make brush strokes following not only the size and form of a detail, but also making strokes in the same direction in what details are arranged. Practice in this technique can be easily gained while painting and sketching motions of water, waterfalls.

When I’m painting water I just follow its motion with brush strokes. Just imagine your brush is floating and press with the brush where it’s necessary to mix paints of the bottom layer. Brush motions must be soft and steady at the same time.

At the end of paining I think over the composition of colours for the whole picture. Colours must harmonize with each other so I compare colour saturation and emphasize bright or dark parts of the picture.

Painting demands an attention to details and patience. Every brush stroke must serve the only purpose that is to present the picture as a unity so I don’t try to emphasize a single detail too much.

A very important part of the study of painting is to have good observation skills. Pay attention to how colours in nature harmonize and keep that in mind that while painting.

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The Misty Morning

by Lekha Praveen
(Bangalore, India)

I am a novice to painting and have been learning from the internet by watching videos and browsing through instructional websites.

The landscape painting “The Misty Morning” has been done along the lines of instructions provided by Mr. Jack Kolber in his video. This being the first painting attempted by me, I chose to do something simple with a very minimal colour palette.

The objective was to learn the basics of holding a brush and the different strokes that one could create with it. I realized how important it is to have the basics correct, as a strong foundation is the key to success.

My only tip at this point is to have passion for the art and if one can combine it with visual intelligence, technique and determination the road leading to one’s dream would be a pleasant one.

Connie's Note: Lekha, I totally agree with you for the last tip on having determination, learning all the techniques and visual intelligence! Nice work.

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