How to Build a Pattern and Focal Point in an Oil Painting

Going directly from concept to canvas, artist David P. Hettinger pieces together narrative figurative scenes in lush oil paintings. The following is a bonus excerpt from his feature article in the May 2012 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.

Building Pattern and Focal Point
By David Hettinger

gesture drawing, David Hettinger art, oil painting
1. I begin all my paintings with a drawing on the canvas. For less complex paintings, this is a simple gesture drawing in burnt sienna to place my subject on the canvas.

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painting subject, David Hettinger art, oil painting
2. I define my subject with a contour drawing and add color to key areas where I intend my main focal point to be. In this piece, as with most of my figurative pieces, the focal points are the face and hands.

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oil painting background, David Hettinger art, oil painting
3. I sketch my background and add tone to form a pattern of lights and darks. I always know what the setting will be and how I want the figure posed, but the lights and darks involve more guesswork. When I see a pleasing pattern, I move from drawing to painting.

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fleshtones, David Hettinger art, oil painting
4. I add color to the clothing and surroundings to give me a guide for the fleshtones. I’ll try for the model’s own fleshtone, but an overall pictorial harmony is more important than exactitude.

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patterns, David Hettinger art, oil painting
5. I begin placing darks to act as a guide. I want to control the viewer’s eye with a strong light-and-dark pattern.

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painting face and hands, David Hettinger art, oil painting
6. This close-up shows my key area, where I place the strongest detail and richest flesh color. For me, the face and hands are the most expressive parts of any figure painting, so I always try to include hands.

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thick oil paint, David Hettinger art, oil painting
7. I added a bowl of berries here to give a touch more color. The red sets off the blue-green of the blanket. I’ve also begun to apply thicker paint.

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thick oil paint, David Hettinger art, oil painting
8. Because the face and hands are so important to me, I take extra care with them. For most of this painting, I used a Robert Simmons No. 6 bright bristle brush, but for the face I used a Blick Master synthetic No. 8 brush. The synthetic brush loses its shape after a few cleanings, but I like the way the brush works when it’s new. If I have to buy new brushes for every painting, then so be it.

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loaded brush, lush painting, David Hettinger art, oil painting
9. I finished Bowl of Cherries (oil, 16×12) by painting with what I call a “loaded brush.” I like oils for their lush look and the fresh, clean brushstrokes of rich color. Detailed areas have a bit less paint, but I really load up the paint in areas around the center of interest.

The Artist's Magazine, David Hettinger artFor more on David Hettinger, visit his website at: www.davidhettinger.com. Read the full feature article in the May 2012 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.

 

 

 


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