Oil Study: Starting A Painting Without Drawing

Oil study painted from life

After watching this tutorial about visual order painting, I wanted to see if I would be able to incorporate aspects of this approach in my work. I decided to do a small oil study from life for practice.

Instead of trying to paint a complex scene with multiple objects, I thought it would be best to start with a single subject.

I started by toning the paper with a very light layer of burnt umber before blocking in the main value groups. I continued to gradually refine the values, colours and edges trying to avoid overworking. This is a photo of the study taken with a phone camera.

Although I need to work a lot more on the quality of my edges, I found that this method helps you to achieve a variety of edges in a more fluid and natural way than my current method, which involves drawing an outline of the composition in paint on the canvas and then adding colours.

I also liked the fact that I could get a sense of the value and colour relationships (and whether I was on the right track) much earlier on in the painting process. I am looking forward to painting more studies from life that I hope will help me to improve the accuracy with which I render values and value changes in my paintings.

One of my aims with this study was to see what it was like to start a painting without drawing and I really enjoyed it. I will need to work out how to incorporate this approach in my process for imaginative paintings as I use an outline to help me work out the composition. Perhaps I’ll be able to find a way to combine the two methods.