Master painter Douglas Flynt teaches classical techniques like grisaille and ébauche while breaking the process for painting still lifes into a series of manageable tasks. The following is a free excerpt from the feature article “Slow & Steady” in the March 2012 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.
Drawing, Grisaille and Ébauche
by Douglas Flynt
1. This finished linear drawing progressed through a block-in stage for which I used predominately straight lines. I then checked the structural integrity of my rendering of each object and rounded these straight lines into curves. To increase visual clarity, I lightly shaded many of the shadow areas, although I purposely kept the drawing devoid of any heavy shading—saving that for the painting process. I transferred this drawing to a lightly toned linen surface, where it served as a linear template for my painting.
2. In this detail you can see that the orientation of marks used to create the shadows often changed as I knitted together small structural planes or facets. You can also see a remnant of the cup’s central structural axis, which I drew to aid in the construction of the elliptical opening.
3. Here you see the completed raw umber wash-in or grisaille. For some of the lightest areas, I added white paint. This stage, which gives a sense of form and shows variances from the objects’ local values, is keyed much lighter than what the final values will be.
4. Here is my finished ébauche or first block-in with color. Conceptually, this stage helps me connect color with form as I imagine the objects with small structural planes or facets and identify the hue, value and chroma for each facet. This passage was done with thin paint, allowing the ground to show through to some degree. Because of the thin paint application, the values—particularly the darker ones—are still lighter than what they will be in the finished painting. I’ve repainted some areas (such as parts of the shell and the smaller cup on the left), entering into the final paint passage. Before starting this final layer, I rubbed a thin “couch” of medium onto the appropriate areas to “oil in” the surface. This allows the dry paint to accept the wet paint more easily.
5. This close-up shows the contrast between the ébauche—seen on the cup and background—and the final paint passage on the shell.
6. Because of time constraints, I was unable to finish the painting (Untitled; oil, 8×10) during the workshop. Most of the shell and the smaller cups to the right and left of the shell have received a final paint passage. The cup behind the shell, along with the background and blue cloth, are still in the ébauche stage.
7. This detail shows a portion of the shell and of the cup with a final passage of paint.
Master painter Douglas Flynt methodically explains the nuances of classical techniques for composing and painting a still life in the March 2012 issue of The Artist’s Magazine. Get your digital copy here to read the full story.
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