WINTER STREAM Project Lesson in Oils by Wilson Bickford
I thought I’d share some insights as to my thought processes and techniques with this painting.
This was created just recently and I took step-by-step photos along the way to highlight certain points. Although this is considered an Oil painting, I did start with some Acrylic gessos for the underpainting; a blue-gray for the snow and black for the stream. The idea is to let the underpainting show through to influence the top layer of Oil Colors.
Photo #1 – The blue and black Acrylics were applied using a disposable foam brush (hardware -store variety). When that was completely dry, I scrubbed a thin coat of LIQUIN Winsor & Newton Oil Color Medium over the entire canvas to ease the application of the Oils and to facilitate blending. Any clear Oil medium would suffice.
Photo #2 – Using a Fan brush, I used small amounts of Van Dyke Brown, Burnt Sienna, Sap Green and Ultramarine Blue to scrub in a “mottled” suggestion of deep woods. I purposely kept the bottom area darker to help convey the feeling of deeper shadows in the undergrowth. Notice that I did not cover up all of the Acrylic undertone and it is peeking through here and there. the Oils were applied very thinly and scrubbed in.
Photo #3 – Tree trunks were added using Van Dyke Brown on a 3/8″ Flat brush. Evergreen branches were rendered with a Fan brush and varying mixtures of Sap Green, Ultramarine Blues and Van Dyke Brown. Snow on the branches was indicated with Blue and White on the Fan brush, ultimately building to pure Titanium White for the lightest highlights which were placed more centrally on the canvas.
Photo #4 – Using my background Blues, Greens and Browns, I painted the reflection colors into the water. This was with the Flat brush. Note that the brightest glow in the water is nearer the center as it will be an important part of the focal point, or “center of interest.” I used Titanium White for this area. I also started defining the snow shadows and lay of the land at this phase, again saving the pure whites for the middle area of the canvas.
Photo #5 – More snow highlights and some grasses poking through were added. I used the Browns on the Fan brush for the grass stubble, then added more definition (especially nearer the foreground) using a Script Liner. As an adjustment, I brightened the glint of light in the water using more Titanium White, which I felt gave it some extra oomph. Lastly, I used some of my Blues and White on the Script Liner to create the snow-covered rocks in the stream.
There you have it! Although there are many different ways to execute a painting, this is an approach I use quite often. By using the Acrylic underneath, I find that I can use less paint over-all in the Oil stage, which keeps me from getting bogged down on a slippery, thick canvas.
I choose my underpainting colors according to my subject. For example, I might use a Yellow or a Red for a sunset scene. Give it a try!