- Lesson details
In this course, professional contemporary realist gallery painter Hollis Dunlap teaches you his approach to painting both the portrait and figure in oils. Hollis has refined his painting approach, first learned at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, over decades of painting and teaching.
You will work along with Hollis through each of the stages of painting, from a basic block-in of the big masses, to the final rendered picture.
Hollis begins by introducing the materials he uses and why he uses them, then demonstrates his painting process with two main projects: a one-day portrait painting and a four-day figure painting. Along the way, you will learn foundational painting topics such as understanding the form, the importance of value, and the selection and use of color.
In this first lesson, Hollis covers the materials he uses for both portrait and figure painting. He discusses mediums, pigments, brushes and supports. Hollis also shares his experiences and preferences and gives you all the information needed to follow his process.
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Connecticut. Throughout my career the major focus of my work has
been the figure. New Masters Academy invited me here to show you
my approach to painting the figure from life and if you'll join me,
you can watch and learn as I paint two pieces from start to finish.
I'll start with a description of the materials that I use and why I use them.
Throughout the process I'll do my best to explain every color choice
and brush mark as I refine the painting over time.
My preference is to work from natural light, which will allow us to study the color in a
naturalistic way. We carefully considered the colors in the surrounding space
and the effect that they had on the model.
I hope that by watching this you'll learn some things that will benefit your own
process. You can follow along as I refine the drawing in color
as we go. I'm just trying to think of the simplest representation of
the figure I can do. I hope that over the course of the figure you'll learn
some things that will help you paint the figure more confidently and more effectively.
Thank you for joining me and let's get started.
Dunlap. I'm an American realist painter from Connecticut. I began
painting with oils in high school, supplementing my studies at night in
adult education classes. Later I graduated from the Lyme Academy
of Fine Arts in Connecticut. Throughout my career, the major focus
of my work has been the figure. New Masters Academy invited me here to show you
my approach to painting the figure from life and if you'll joint me, you can watch
and learn as I paint two pieces from start to finish.
If you're an NMA member, you probably have some experience and knowledge
related to drawing and painting but even if you don't
I think that the information within my demonstrations will help you if you're just beginning too.
I hope that by watching this you'll learn some things that will benefit your own
process. Here at New Masters Academy we've done our
best to recreate the conditions that I prefer at my own studio.
My preference is to work from natural light so we have a cooler light source
which will allow us to study the color in a naturalistic way.
I'll start with a description of the materials that I use and why I use them.
After that, we will introduce the model,
set up a pose, and begin painting. Throughout the process I'll
do my best to explain every color choice and brush mark as I refine
the painting over time. With our second model, we'll see how
the same color pallet can work for different skin tones. I hope that over the
course of the video, you'll learn some things that will help you paint the figure more confidently
and more effectively. Thank you for joining me and let's get started.
the materials that I'm gonna be using during this painting.
The materials I use are fairly simple compared to what
I've seen some artists use and I don't think that's
necessarily good or bad but I like to use the simplest
possible materials that I can. Over the years I've used about everything you can
imagine. And some of its great and some of it isn't
and I think it's valuable to kind of pair down to what - to really the
essentials of what you need. I think that's really helpful when you're working from life because
any time you can save is good. You know, I don't like to have to choose
between two different blues for example or
different mediums that's gonna take away too much time. I also find that
paintings tend to preserve better when you use less materials, we'll get into some of that
too. Generally simpler is better. That's
the whole idea. So with that in mind I'm gonna talk about
my pallet knife here. And this is as simple as you can get, I don't
even know what brand it is any more. But it's just a diamond
shaped pallet knife and I like this shape because
it allows me to get small points with things if I want to use it for painting.
It's not too big but it's fairly versatile, I can use it to clean
off the pallet if I need to. It's just a good all around kind of
little tool. I really don't use it a lot for painting
but it does come in handy. For example you can
smooth out areas with it as I'll show you later on. So that's what I use this
for. I like this shape more than bigger
wider knives just because in case I wanna
get in for some detail I can use that tip.
So that's the knife. These are kind of two
soft synthetic brushes and
I will use sparingly, occasionally if I
need to blend areas of the painting or soften markers.
I try to use them as little as I can but they're handy for
certain things. If an area has too many brush marks you can
kind of soften things with these and it can simplify your painting.
Let's see what I got here. Just another synthetic
square brush. You're gonna see from my pallet that I like square brushes.
They tend to become filbert brushes over time because
the corners naturally kind of get worn down like something like this,
you can kinda see that shape. This was a square brush at one point.
But they tend to wear down in a way that I find that works.
In the beginning, I like these square - just because it helps
me draw with a brush more accurately. I can get a nice point with it.
With the edges. So this is a synthetic.
This is the biggest brush I have here, which is
actually a natural hog bristle brush, which I love
painting with. The reason I like these brushes is
because of the natural bristle holds paint in a way that
I prefer. If you kind of take a microscope and you looked up at the brush hair
of a natural brush, you'll see little flag
coming off the brush hairs which helps it hold paint in a way that I
prefer to a synthetic. Although I'm less picky about it
lately. I've been using more of these synthetics, like things like this which work
fine as well. You know I'm really not that picky about it
but I do prefer the look of these bristle brushes
I should go through these. These are all
natural bristle brushes. And they're not a particular brand.
That's important to me because
what's important is that they work and that they're the right shape. The one
thing I try to avoid with brushes
is a kind of splayed out look. So when I see a student with brushes that are doing this
I hate that so I tell them to get new brushes. So all these brushes,
if you look at them, the brush hair still make this
shape. And I like that because that helps me avoid any weird
little marks coming out the side of the brush when I try to put
a mark of paint on. Sometimes
unpredictable marks are good but in general I like to have control over it.
I like to use these square edges to draw with.
I do have a couple like round brushes as well
for small details or little blending areas. And again the
brand to be really doesn't matter. These are kind just
things I've collected. I have a pile of brushes back home of about 200
brushes sitting there that are kind of used up. And I have
a habit of cleaning my brushes constantly so I tend to go through them very quickly.
Let's see here. What else have I got?
Really the key for me is
each one of these brushes is probably gonna be used and it has its own
role, you know, like these, you know, from the pallet knife to the softer brushes
to these kind of square filbert brushes, they all
help me maintain control in the painting and, you know, since I don't draw with
charcoal first, I like to have some sharp edges to
draw with. Let's see. These -
this is my pile of paper towels, which I'm very
self conscious about but I use way too many of these.
I've probably used a small rainforest or a large rainforest. I'm trying
to cut down on them but they're still there, I haven't been able to totally
omit them so I'm not, unfortunately, very
environmentally friendly. I would like to just use a painting rag and
not be throwing things in the garbage but as it is
I'm still a total consumer of toxic materials and using
terrible paper towels. I could probably get Bounty paper towels endorsement,
maybe that'll be my first artist endorsement since I haven't
got the brush yet.
and I should say that I don't really
have a preference for what colors people use. I never kind of
force people to use certain things, these are just kind of my suggestions and I use
these because I think they're the most versatile colors
you can get. And as I said earlier, I think that's valuable, if you're painting from life
to really pair it down to only what you need. But I love every color,
I love every blue you can imagine. Like phthalo blue is beautiful,
cerulean blue is an incredible pigment. But what I find though is that
using this range, I can mimic the essentials
of each of those colors if you paint properly. And the term
I use would be using clean color.
And I'll explain to you what I mean by that as I go.
Essentially it's being really neat and specific with your mixing, making sure
your brushes are washed nicely. So this is
ultramarine blue and this is kinda your basic,
middle of the road blue. And it's very transparent.
So you can mix really great darks with it. I can actually mix
tones that look darker than black with the ultramarine because
it's so transparent. Sometimes transparency gives the illusions of
being darker than it is. I'm not exactly sure why that is,
I just know that it looks better to my eye than something like ivory black. As
you can see I don't use any black. But
ultramarine is a good middle of the road blue. I can mix bright greens with it
and bright violets. It doesn't
overwhelm any of the colors, it's a very natural looking blue.
Every other blue that I've used with the exception of maybe cobalt blue, which is also very
natural, cobalt blue is a little more opaque
so it doesn't work as well for the range of darks you can get with
ultramarine. But cobalt's great too but a phthalo blue,
prussian blue, cerulean, area all a greener,
yellower type of tone. And I find that they
tend to dominate the painting in away that I don't really look for.
I think the more experience you get, the more you can use those colors well
but for me I like to have something that
I can go either way with. I can mix a green with this or I can mix
a violet. it's difficult to mix a violet with
a - well if you're using like a phthalo
blue or a cerulean which have more yellow in them, that
counteracts with the other color you're mixing with and you might not get the exact
color. I find that the ultramarine is right in the middle so I can do whatever I want
with it. I'm never kinda fighting the natural strength of the
pigment. So that's that. This
is burnt sienna which I use a lot in
conjunction with the ultramarine blue. What I love about
burnt sienna is it it's kind of a substitute for a cadmium red.
When I was in art school, the reason I started using this
back when I was in art school I was doing a lot of paintings from live models under
artificial light. And we had these warm lights. And I was using
cadmium reds and cadmium oranges and I ended up looking back on my paintings and I have all these
orange paintings. It looks like the models all have a sunburn.
And it drives me crazy because, you know, if I could just adjust
the color on those paintings I would have a lot of nice paintings but
unfortunately all the color is weird. I've literally taken photos of my paintings from art school,
put them in my computer and taken out a little of the orange and I'm like oh there's the way the
painting should look. I'm like should I repaint the whole thing, I dunno. So I was frustrated
you know, I would go to the museum and look at the Sargent
paintings and besides the face that he's
a much better painter than me I was frustrated that he seemed to be able to
get away with using so little color but it looked so good.
And maybe it was just that I didn't really study color theory at the time.
All I knew was that my paintings looked orange, his looked
beautiful kind of grayish tones, colored grays, chromatic
grays, so I started using earth tones
more and that really helped.
It took away almost immediately the weird kind of
orange purple psychedelic stuff disappeared and the painting starting looking
more 19th century, like the color that I really loved. So
I think that I was hesitant to use colors like this because I thought they were
depressing or boring or something. Like a burn sienna, you know, it's
so dull and maybe a cheap pigment but it's
not - it's just very useful. It's almost like a unifier
it serves to like unify the whole painting and it gives us this overall
tonality which I find is lacking in a lot of modern painting.
A lot of modern painters go straight to you alizarins and your
cadmiums and you get these kind of almost caricatured
versions of color. Which
could be beautiful but it's something that I think if you can learn to use it
well it's much better so
what I would suggest people do, what I did,
is avoid cadmium reds and alizarin crimson for a good
seven, eight years, learn how to paint with things like burnt sienna
and maybe like mars or indian red
and you really will get better at color that way, it'll
force you to mix more carefully as well. I should say another -
going back to the ultramarine blue, the reason that these colors
are great is that they're not overly strong. Like if you've got a
phthalo blue, phthalo green,
you can kind of zap your color back to life by using it, it's so strong.
You don't have to clean your brush all the way, or you don't think you have to. So I find that
people get a little sloppy with their brushes and maybe they'll mix something and the
brush isn't totally clean. if you're using phthalo green or
phthalo blue you can kind of get away with that, but you
can't really because it has an overall effect on the painting.
Everything there is designed so the overall color looks as good as it possibly
can. And you can't compromise with it. The little bit
your color's not gonna look quite as good. It's like cooking in a way.
I feel like I have a cooking show now, it's like a little bit of that,
but it's actually true. I can see a painting where someone uses
phthalo green, phthalo blue, I can tell right away, I can tell if you use cadmium yellow
medium, cadmium yellow light, cadmium lemon. I can tell if you've used
cadmium red or not and you have to train your eye to see
those things. I don't know that there's one way to train
your eye, the best way is to look at paintings. Go to museums
and look at painters you love and try to imitate that color, copy
paintings. When I was a
freshman in college I had copied a Velasquez painting
and it was - I think it was St. Thomas was the painting and
he's got an orange drapery in it and I was using cadmium red I think and
my color didn't look like his painting and I
substituted a burnt sienna and all the sudden it looked like his painting. And I don't
know for sure that he used burnt sienna but I'm sure he used something very much like it,
like an iron oxide red because he didn't have cadmium. I know he had vermilion but in that
particular painting I don't think he used that. I was just
interested because the way that he painted made
the earth tone look brighter. There's another famous painting
that I copied by Velazquez called the Forge of Vulcan. And there's an incredible
figure of Apollo in the left of the painting and he has a bright orange drapery. It's one of the -
it's a brilliant painting and the drapery looks very
orange but it's really not. If you try to copy that painting with a
cadmium red it looks too bright. It doesn't have
that harmony. So there's lots of earth tones in those paintings. They're the
most tried and true colors ever. The cave paintings in
France were done with these. You can see the pigment right on the walls.
So I love that kind of tie to history by using these.
And I should say
that I don't care what brand you use, what I do care about
is that it's the right type of color. Meaning that I look for a more
warm burnt sienna. Some brands are cooler toned.
Anyway, so these two I use together a lot
to mix darks. This is permanent alizarin
crimson. This one, this is a color that
can also destroy a painting very quickly
but I went back to it recently because I think
you can do a lot with it, especially when mixing it with the ultramarine blue, you can get really
dark, beautiful tones. If you want to avoid using black, like
I like to avoid things if I don't need them. When I first
started painting I used a lot of colors like this really badly and so I ended
up with a lot of like orange, purple paintings. So
I stopped using it for a long time. I remember I had
a teacher in college that looked at my paintings and he told me I should be using earth colors and I
kinda sneered at him because I thought I was better than him and I
said yeah what do you know, you know. But then I started looking at my paints and like you know he's right,
I should probably learn how to mix color. So I avoided this
for a long time. And recently though I finally feel confident enough
to use it again. So it's really good
for mixing beautiful violets. If you use it with the blue.
Or you can mix it with yellow to get great orange tones, intense tones.
I use it sparingly though because I think that
it's really easy to turn your painting into a kinda purple,
magenta, artificial looking thing. And, you know, a lot of painters
that I love, you know, people like Sargent and Zorn,
they never have that problem of the painting looking too purple. Like a lot of
figure paintings I see now there's a little bit overuse of the purples and
magentas and it looks a little bit Walmart to me, you know, for
lack of a better word. Cheap. So
it's something with that color. So I try to really
use this tastefully. And not just have a bunch of purples
everywhere. Having said that it's great,
you know, now they make a permanent version like this and it's
dark and it's transparent. You can do a lot with it. So that's
that one. This is cadmium yellow light.
This, like a lot of the things that I'm using is
kind of the best all around yellow to use.
It's light enough so that you can mix
bright greens with it, if you mix it with the ultramarine blue. But
it's not as light as a cadmium lemon so you don't get that kind of alien
fluorescent yellow look. It's just light enough.
So that's what I like to use. It's great because you can imitate
if you use it properly, you can imitate veridian or phthalo
green tones if you mix the ultramarine blue with a little bit
of the yellow and the white. The key thing when you're mixing is to
keep your color clean. Meaning that
you can't just grab a brush that has some leftover red on it and
try to mix your green. You gotta make sure there's not something that's gonna counteract what you're trying to do.
So if I wanna mimic a phthalo green,
I can use mostly blue, a touch of yellow, and some white. And it's not gonna be
quite the intensity of phthalo green but it'll have
the same role in the painting. And that's really the key is to understand
why the color that you're mixing is doing what it's
doing. Why does phthalo green look the way it does? You know, it's because it's
more on that blue side. Why does veridian look like veridian?
What I usually tell people is try to make people think that you
used veridian in your painting even though you didn't.
Understand why color looks the way it does. Why does the green
look yellow or blue. The cad yellow light
allows me to get almost any range of
greens. It also mixes really well with
the alizarin to make orange tones.
So it's another very versatile color.
So that's that. And this is titanium white.
And I've used probably twenty different whites over the years and
my favorite is really lead white or a flake white. There's a Utrecht
flake white that I love that's kinda of really juice and nice.
A lot of lead whites are really kind of chunky and almost dry
and they look beautiful but they're hard to paint with. They dry really quickly. So I like that
titanium dried a little slower. It's a little more
opaque, which doesn't always look good in paintings.
I have a painting that I painted halfway
with a lead white and when I was half through
I ran out, I used titanium for the other half, I can see the difference. It's a very
subtle difference. But a lead white'll have a little bit of a almost
pearlescent metallic quality to it. It's also more flexible.
So it really is a better white to use. This is fine for me though.
I think that if you use it properly, without using too much, you can mimic the
effects of lead white. If you use it - so it's
a way of putting the paint on which can give you the transparency that you might
lose. So this is for me a good all around
white, it's not too cool, too warm, has a nice consistency
to it. Some lead whites dry so quickly they drive me
nuts. I like my paintings to stay as wet as long as possible
in case I wanna go back in there and blend something with my special brush.
But I really don't like it
when paintings dry. It's always a struggle for me,
you know, I'm always trying to use something, some type of medium to make my paintings stay wet.
And there's a few reasons for that. The main reason besides the fact that I like
to get in there and blend things, is for the layers of paint to be all
attached to one another. If you're layering dry layers over the top it tends
to increase the chances of your painting cracking over time. If you can do a painting
in one attached layers you'll have also a
nicer more transparent finish. So I try
to do that, inevitably now
with some paintings, especially bigger ones, they will dry and I'll have
to go into the dry paint. I don't love that but I've
gotten less annoyed with doing that recently.
The painting that I'm gonna do here is probably gonna be all wet into wet.
It might dry a little bit after the second day. Ultramarine
blue is pretty fast drying,
so is your burnt sienna. So that's why I've got a little -
like my medium is basically walnut oil. I
I like walnut oil because
it's little slower drying and less yellowing than
linseed oil. I don't have any fancy medium, I don't really like getting into that.
I've used things like Damar varnish and certain types
of turpentine and oil over the years but I don't find
that I need that now. And maybe I should use it but for better or for worse
all I use now is a little bit of walnut oil. I like it because
it's less yellowing and it's a little slower drying than linseed.
And the yellowing is a big thing as I have paintings that I did with linseed oil,
in fact I had one - I had a show in New York City and I had given the gallery
a painting - maybe the show was probably
six month I had given the - after I'd given the gallery the painting. And I had this idea I'm gonna
glaze on this painting. So I used some linseed oil in the painting
and then I hadn't seen the painting, you know, since I had given it to the gallery. I went to the opening
and I was like oh what's - I wonder what that big yellow stain on
my painting is and then I thought oh yeah that was that glaze I put on it with linseed oil
and it had turned so yellow, so quickly, I was really surprised. And somebody
had bought the painting and I was like oh I guess they didn't mind that it looked like there's this
huge yellow stain on the painting, they probably thought I did it on purpose but unfortunately
they're gonna watch this video now and know actually it was my bad
linseed oil turning yellow. So I kind of resolved not to use
that anymore. And there's a lot of linseed oil anyway in your
paint. So it's already there. Every oil painting is
gonna turn a little yellower over time. Or a lot yellower.
Look at Rembrandt, you know, I wonder what his paintings looked like when they were just done.
Probably a lot less yellow than they look now because he's always glazing
all over the place with everything you can imagine. Experiments. So
a lot of those warm tones Rembrandts are probably more natural
looking when he did them. So this is just a jar of
walnut oil, which I'll use as I go into the
painting if I want like a little bit of a juicier kind of look,
you know, just to get that kind of flowing, wet look that
I really like. I want the painting to look wet
ten years from now, you know, that's the goal here, which is something that I always loved about
a painter like Sargent. All that same school of painters, Zorn,
Krøyer, Sorolla, their paintings still look wet and I
always loved that look. So I want the juiciest possible
paint. This is just
gamsol in here and I use this to clean my brushes,
which is really important. I'm a little bit obsessed with it,
almost to a point where I feel like I need to stop doing it so much. But you'll see as I'm painting that I'm
always washing off the brushes. Inevitably, even though I've got
15 brushes here, I'll find my two or three favorites
that seem to be working for me and I'll use them way too much. So instead of what I should do
is use two similar brushes and mix my darks and lights
with each separate one, inevitably I'll end up cleaning this off, mixing a dark
with it, cleaning it again, and then mixing a light. Which isn't really a good habit but it's
something I do a lot anyway. Some brushes
just you start painting with them and they have the right feel and I kinda go with it.
But I wash the brushes a lot in here. I like these things because
they're cheap, they're relatively easy to clean, but inevitably every
three months or so I get a new one because they get full of paint. So
that's the medium, I guess you can say mediums I use,
but they're not even mediums at all it's just gamsol and walnut oil.
That's my favorite odorless kind of turpentine
substitute. I'm sure a lot of people probably know what it is but if you don't it's kind of the
least toxic thing that you can get, or at least that I know of at this point.
I'm sure there's probably lots of boutique-y brands that make other stuff. I
just I like to keep these covered as much as I can. I don't like
the idea of breathing in anything that's toxic. Even though you're not smelling it, it's still
probably not good for you to breathe in. So I try to use these as minimally as
I can. This is just my coffee, which is
not to be confused with a medium but is
your essential artist supply.
Gotta have the coffee. Anyway,
I'm gonna lay out my pallet now just the way I usually do this.
What I usually do is just like this order, I go from dark to light.
So I'll put out some blue here. And I like to keep
my kinda piles of paint up at the top. So this is my
mixing area, this is where I have the paints up here.
And I dunno what order
I usually go, kind of blue into the reds.
Here's your alizarin. These could go
in either order but I'll do them like this for this painting.
I don't know which is really darker, this is probably a bit darker. Generally
I like to dark to light but you know it doesn't really matter which way you use those.
Here's your yellow.
And really I like to put out a lot of paint, I should even be
putting out more than this. The blue, I'll go through the blue pretty quickly. I don't like to have to
stop in the middle of the painting and get more paint, that bugs me so
there's usually, you know, my studio pallet has usually
got mounds of paint on here. Which isn't the neatest thing but
at least it's authentic. There's your big pile of white.
So that's kinda how I set things up. This for me is just a logical
sort of thing. I like mixing area here, paint's up
there. Really this pallet would be better without that
thing but I can work around it. I just like to have as much room here as
possible. As I'm working I'll probably be cleaning this off a lot
because I'm very picky about that so once I run out of areas to mix I'll
kinda scrape off this and wipe it down with a piece of
paper towel just so it's clean enough. So that's the basic layout.
I like to kind of - I like to keep these colors next to each other so
that I can mix them quickly. Let's see,
the last material oriented thing that I'm gonna talk about is the
canvas that I'm using. It's actually not a canvas, it's a panel. It's
just a masonite panel. One of those Ampersand Gesso panels.
And I really like them. A lot of people don't like them. This is the
slickest one they make. There's a gesso board. This is just
the artist panel with a coat of gesso on it. I like them a lot
for doing relatively quick paintings. Any bigger than this
I would probably stretch a piece of linen. I like this really
slick surface because I like to choose where
I want the texture. So when I'm doing a smaller painting I usually use a panel
because it just allows me a little more control
than a, you know, the heavier weave of a linen doesn't
allow. I would say linen is probably the best
thing to use overall. I used to be much more traditional and
if I was gonna be really traditional I would stretch linen,
I would use rabbit skin glue
after I stretched the linen and then I would put a coat of white lead, very thin
coat. That's probably your most archival thing so if you really wanna do it right,
that's a great thing to do. I think that the gesso, this is acrylic
gesso and I think that that's okay
on a panel. It can be brittle over time if it's on
a stretched canvas that moves around. You don't want that so I
tend to avoid it for like a bigger painting. But for a panel,
since it's a solid surface it's much less likely to crack.
And that little bit of absorbency that it has I think is good too because it helps the paint
bond and kinda stay. So it won't flake off. You wanna make
sure each layer of paint bonds together properly, especially if you're
painting over dried paint. And that's always a little bit
problematic because weird things happen to the chemistry of the paint when one later
dried and then you put a new layer on. Sometimes they don't bond correctly.
That's another reason why I like the painting to stay wet
and to paint wet into wet if I can. With this painting I'm
hopefully that I can do that. I'm sure it'll dry a little bit. In any
case this is an el cheapo gesso panel.
It is cheap but I find they don't look cheap. You can make them look beautiful
and as I said they're the least absorbent panel that
I can find, which I prefer. I want the paint to look fresh
and juicy and wet. Whenever I have a panel that the paint
soaks in a lot it drives me crazy. I never like that look. I always
think that if you prefer that, you should take up acrylic painting
because this is oil painting and you want the paint to look wet. And
if you're uncomfortable with wet paint, work on getting comfortable with it
because it's one of the beautiful things about oil paint, it looks so
transparent and sexy and I'm going
into like - gotta be careful what I say here but it's the best looking paint, I would say
that. It's a dry looking
medium. Hopefully that was helpful and I think
we're gonna move on now to setting a pose and the basic initial block in,
kinda the beginning stages of the painting. Hopefully that made sense
and now to time to move on to the next stage.