- Lesson details
Learn the fundamentals of oil painting with acclaimed artist and instructor Charles Hu.
This course breaks down the entire process of oil painting and is intended for beginning and experienced artists alike. Charles explains the important concepts of gesture, shape design, and composition. You will also learn what materials are needed, how to get set up, and the techniques used to apply paint.
After taking this course, you will be on your way to oil painting from life using a variety of different subjects and palettes.
In this lesson, Charles demonstrates how to paint an entire scene: the figure, drapery, and environment, while using the Zorn palette.
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and we're gonna be working off a reference that has a
costumed figure in an environment. So the limited pallet that we're gonna
be using, which is the Zorn pallet, is black,
this is cad red medium, this is yellow ochre, and this is white. So
we've only got four colors. The black is your very
dark blue, the basically white is very, very light blue.
And then you still got the - so basically you got the primary
colors the red, the yellow, and the blue so that you can mix green
with black and yellow. But you get this kinda earthy green, it's not
a full - we can't get an extreme pallet from this but what it's great for
kinda starting, experimenting with color because you don't want to get too much
color right off the bat because it's just too complex.
So you still have some color temperature,
you know intensity can shift and at the same time it can help to
concern and still focus on your value.
Again we're working on - this is a
16 by 20 Fredrix canvas board.
I just threw a bunch of brunches, might be - for sure it's too much more than I need but I just
threw them out just in case.
Okay so again we got this beautiful reference.
This kinda indoor environment. So you got this, it looks like
this was shot with more of those softer white,
almost like the ambient light, which is great because
it captures some of the true accents of the color versus a lot of those
studio, you know those very hot, warm spotlights.
Everything turns to this kinda yellow scene.
But so the reason what I like about this picture
and there are a few similar set ups but
I like this because you can see all the furniture, the lines the furniture creates
is nice kinda gesture, flows right to the figure
and when I squint my eyes I get this beautiful zig zag shape
of her white dress and then the legs
that swing back towards the left side of the painting again and
then I also like that little round, white box in that lower left corner
which I think this might be our only picture that has that which I think when you step back
works nicely because they balance, you know, these two. Obviously I don't want to make
this as white as this. And I like this fur -
this fur coat thing that's kinda - has a nice texture
and also kinda swings back. Okay so
I'm gonna do
a wash because overall this is not really high key painting, still kinda darker,
kind dark environment. It's not
super dark but it's obviously not outdoor bright light.
Okay so it looks like we have this kinda warm, yellowish color.
to it. You can see that from somewhat
almost like a concrete floor but you got some of the yellow showing through, definitely the warm
is kinda yellowish.
So kinda mix this
somewhat kinda orange
but not very intense.
Maybe you can do
a little bit warmer.
It's a little better.
Okay. I just
Just get that canvas
So we got, again, we got the line of
pillow furniture coming in, the figure is gonna be somewhere right here,
the mirror and again the back, the end of the
fur almost looks like a huge tail
coming right here.
So I'm just gonna use black
I'm gonna find where
that dividing - the edge of the dividing wall that
gives me a sense of the environment. And then
you definitely don't want to put it in the middle so I'm gonna - looks like I'm gonna put it about right
here. Almost like a third.
That'd be a good spot.
So that takes me to that
Coming down right here, I like the entrance.
The entrance of this pillow here.
This is that white pillow.
Flow right to this blue bed.
This is that yellow thing I'm seeing here.
Come down. Here's the bed.
Swing back, here's that leg
can't see anything just...
So here is the
Make these edges a little more sharp,
a little more clear.
At least this edge needs to be clear so I know where that base
of the bed.
So check this distance,
it already looks like a table right here.
Blocking out -
where's the mirror.
Step back and check.
I'm using a softer sable brush, you know, that was
what I'm using too because those softer
ones grab the paint a little better.
My aggressive brushes their
hair gets a lot of kinda wear and tear
so it gets a little too hard, it doesn't absorb the paint
well. So a lot of times when I'm trying to lay in, trying to put a mark
and it just dries up.
So these take the paint a little better.
What I'm looking for - I'm trying to get this rhythm, that flow back in here.
See how it
Block in some of the darks.
Again I like the shape.
Gonna try this brush. That one - the tip
kinda flares out.
That should give it a little
bit of a shadow on the back. It looks like kinda yellowish.
This looks like a Japanese screen in the mirror reflections
and you got this side of the mirror actually come much more closer
than where I had it.
start with -
I'm actually gonna start with the white of her dress because
things - I want to have that to pop out first.
I like, like I said, I like the zigzag.
Get a sense of -
I wanna stretch her a little bit longer and make her feel a little taller.
And let's block in some of our darker darks. So I have
this area pretty dark.
The one in the middle.
That almost looks like
I had this reddish
color to it.
Goes around, come over here.
And here looks like
turning to a nice, dark shadow.
All this dropped down pretty dark.
Have this greenish
And then here's the shadow
of that. I'm gonna start painting all the light and shadow of each thing.
Just and get the overall, general value.
So you got this light
pillow, kinda yellowish.
It gets darker right here.
Try not to make it in the middle, like the light and shadow separation.
Don't make it in the middle. Maybe just less, just more.
You know we got this also looks
almost like that is something dark redder,
That comes down, goes to the top of this
Here it gets really dark.
Things you need to watch I feel like
see how this distance looks too much alike.
This is actually the red
cloth sits a little bit longer.
There's some more elements that I see. So I need a green,
we got a green.
You're not gonna get that green, there's no way. Unless you have like maybe
a phthalo green
so you're just gonna
use your black and yellow.
And you got this yellow
Sitting down here.
So now doesn't seem bright because the surrounding is too light.
So just kinda trying to get
like a unique shape.
This thing also
So you can add that little light blue
it's kinda like this green, I'm just gonna
use that and just make it lighter.
Again I like this shape that swings up.
The top gets a little darker.
below that is really dark.
Dark kinda carries into the
shadow of this.
Now we've got this
Look at this shape
probably carry through over to her.
So I wanna try and create a unique shape, works with all
the rest of the set up. So it's not just -
if I have to copy I'll copy, if I need to tweak it
I'll, you know, I will do so.
Light on the top plane
This comes in, it goes to the bottom of the shoes right here.
Let's get the dark shadows
everything kind - there's a lot of tension right here, that's where her
kinda builds up here.
clarify the edge.
I'll keep this a softer edge.
still feels brighter.
Then we get this dark here.
Basic black, add a little of our red
just to warm it up a little bit. I'll keep this edge
I need to
lighten this up, this is too dark.
It doesn't separate from that.
I'm gonna trim this yellow thing, make it a little bit
I'll make this more of an aggressive shape.
Like going in like this.
Shooting out this way.
I'm gonna go to the side because it's a little bit darker, a little warmer.
I'm trying to swing that hair
kinda back this way.
Now this flows into
this shadow right here and I just soften these edges.
Soft edges help reduce
contrast and then also reduce the tensions.
Just gonna make this big old black
thing right here because it's all in the shadow anyway.
That's too straight, too.
That's too straight, too flat
forming, it's kinda boring.
sure if I wanna make it too light because it might compete
with her so I'm just gonna darken it down
a little bit and I will see.
So it's a little
So you're able to remix the color,
just find around where the color family is. It's a green color family
right here and it's in your darker zone. Here's my darker zone, here's my lighter zone.
Let's get some of the background.
Roughly this area because I know she's really light so I'm just gonna
mix somewhere in the middle value, kinda middle area.
Got this kinda warm, almost
Actually might be a little more orange.
Even a scribble in for now.
Don't wanna get it too thick.
Because if I paint too thick
I might catch glare because I have that issue. So I'm just
gonna keep, you know, keep it thin.
So light comes in here.
We got some light over here too.
Only I'm letting some of the yellow tone showing through.
It gets darker when you get down to the bottom.
Shouldn't be too cool.
Warm it up a little bit.
There we go.
I don't like this
little maybe space to be straight.
I want it to come in like this.
So thinner you'll get less glare.
Actually if I'm painting this thick I won't be able to see.
Just gonna scribble in some of those plants.
Again I'm trying to concern more shape
then how we actually look like
I can always come back and fix it.
This is the blue that I can get
within this pallet.
key out the value and then I'll come back.
Make it darker.
This is too bright.
I want to see if I can stretch her a little bit.
I got some pink right in here.
See how I flow.
See most - it's more about
a shape in most interesting
most interesting shape, most interesting edges.
Clean this up.
Let's swing her hair back.
Get those shadows. I'm gonna push out her hip.
Here's thicker, here's thinner, so it feels coming out.
Make each value and color clear.
It turns down, gets a little bit darker.
Right here. And then looks like you rise up
and you can
here you can just kinda make it up.
Flooring goes out, gets darker.
This side of her face is a little bit darker.
The front is lighter.
When I get to the details
I will zoom in on the reference but I'm
not zooming in because I just want to get
kinda the overall impression of this set up.
So I'm not, again I'm not gonna try to render it.
Just trying to design it.
out. Swing back.
Watch out, don't get too much of these zigzag
My white got a little dirty so sometimes what I'll do
is that I will kinda
scrape out some of my dirty paint and
I'll use my, you know, pallet knife and I'll mix a new pile
In this case you might probably gonna be
some type of gray color if I have enough other color but now,
you know, it's still a lot of white so it doesn't really turn
much into a different color.
if I use a full pallet or even maybe
today after the sections if I still have a lot paint left, like I said,
I can scrape all of them and mix into a big
pile and they will, like I said, they'll probably gonna be some type of gray because
you just basically grab a bunch, all different colors, which you got
complimentary colors all add into one so you're gonna get some gray.
The reason why I do that because
like I said some color will dry faster, especially the earthy color will
dry faster. So if I'm just gonna leave it in the pallet, it might be dry
or if I knew I can paint the following day
and it will be dry. So if I mix all the kinda just
mixed into a big pile the paint will last a little bit longer
I'm not wasting my paint.
And then like I said
use that color to harmonize your painting or
sometimes I need textures, like thick textures,
and you can use that as your kinda
ground to create those textures.
Maybe you later want to glaze over it or
do whatever you want. But
so that's, you know, something you can
can do. Okay so when I was
taking lunch I stood back and looked at it. Actually it looks better than I thought.
Actually a lot of time my painting looks better from a distance
and when I come up closer it sometimes shocks me. But that means when I
look from a distance it actually looks not bad that means
it's going in the right direction. So we just have to tune things
a little bit and clean things up.
Probably don't need all those
make here a little bit pinker.
Maybe a little more than that.
Looks better on the
print because usually when you print out something and you reduce the
intensity, sometimes the contrast is better to push
it a little more.
Now here, go one more step darker because it turns
kinda turns down.
Looks like a strong highlight here.
Probably some in this area, when I come back with some finer brushes. My brush is too -
right now it's too big for those
If you overdo it, come back and kinda
settle down because, again, I'm afraid of too much zigzag
will make her feel a little too squashed.
Let's open this up a little bit.
let's make it a little bit rounder.
I want this shape to come in
that swings out, pull back like this
on back of this.
Back of this. So keep this straight.
I will bring this
I'll bring that forward.
Here's the highlight.
I will follow this leg, swing this
shape this way.
And all this
different by all this little dark
Coming like this.
I'll make it lighter, I want it to pop out more.
In this case make the floor a little bit lighter.
Soften these edges here.
We can make
this very wet. I wanna
kinda soft feel to it.
Again don't make this
too even, feel like this and this
looks a little too similar.
Coming out with the right
shape sometimes that can be the
toughest part because sometimes I have to keep experimenting
it and it doesn't work and do it again until you get the right
you know right
Make sure you're separating a dark and light.
Using a light to frame your dark.
See how this looks too - again looks
Just do that, keep it simple.
Got paint on my face.
We can make this pop
I have to make this darker.
I'm gonna do more a warm light on top here.
Once it's a warm gray, a little bit darker.
A bit yellower.
Actually it could be a little bit darker.
But I might be concerned if I do want that much contrast on the top.
Maybe it's okay.
kicks in. That kinda swing out.
Things get really dark here.
Here it gets very dark from the drapes.
Going like this, looks like this,
comes down, pushing back up, and this fades.
Facing to this dark
Very deep here, very dark.
Keep this really dark too but it's kind of warm in there.
This is gonna angle up.
Come in, overlap.
Got some of this purple into
the green. I don't know why but it looks like that.
Get darker coming
Watch out this shape.
Come, swing forward.
I want this to
come a little bit smoother, this shape, come in a little bit smoother.
I'll try it, if it's maybe too bright I'll
push it down later.
Also here is really bright. I'll see if I push it
brighter I'll see
how that looks, step back.
You know now I start seeing this spot.
It might be okay so far. This one - I want this shape
to do this a little more.
And then this got - here got more dirty.
I think that
blue cushion also needs to do a better job.
Swing up to her.
Check, stand back.
This goes up to her.
I want this to
turn this way.
Let's make this
lighter. Let's push the contrast a little bit more.
Okay I'm gonna make it
to really see
Really get a sense of light, comes in. The light
might be a little warmer but I'm concerned about just the value.
Then some of underground still showing through.
A little darker, when it comes down
to the bottom.
a little more interesting.
Might be a little too black. Let's make it a little bit warmer.
I'll come back and bring
out some of the light.
Need to light up this space here too.
Here actually I
want to make it darker.
Get down here because it gets a little darker.
Put some of that warm.
Into this side, it doesn't feel quite harmonized.
I feel like it's not the same wall.
Stand back and check.
So I kinda - here's warmer but when I get to the light I shift
to cooler so I have some of these kinda gray. I already have some gray here.
So make that lighter so I have a temperature shift.
Make it lighter, add a little bit of
other color like yellow, add white, add a little bit of yellow within the lights.
More pink light, more yellow light, grayer
just kinda again trying to connect all of my
I want this for composition purpose, it kinda leads to her hair.
Almost forgot this leg here.
Clean my pallet.
Too much going on on my pallet.
Sometimes when you have too much going on on your pallet you can't get a nice
kinda rich, clean color because everything has a
white in it and it's sometimes hard for you to see the
I've got that green, I need a new
place on pallet.
I'm just kinda sculpting on my -
sculpting on my
I wanna push that - the shape
Much easier to see what the color, actual color is
I want this to come, have this.
As this little wedge comes up and really quickly
it drops off. And then
drop off like this.
And there's a light here.
Soften that edge, push
the contrast a little bit stronger.
Also here, push it.
Bring the lights
Bring the light down this way.
Move your hand,
So contrast as well.
Breaks the edge. Don't always wanna make a hard edge.
Sometimes you need it, maybe
to take your eyes quickly over to her.
Breaks that up.
Again to just harmonize. Doesn't have
to stay on the carpet.
So bring it into this
Just throw some of the...
That's alright. Make this darker.
I kinda like what I
did, I had a strong highlight, which is
my original plan was to keep it even but I accidentally put that stroke
up so I made it narrower here and wider here which just
shoots over to the right quicker in that sense which is better.
You know I like that so
I actually learned something.
Gonna get down here and I'm still gonna do that
those dot in the yellow so you kind of merge into this yellow
Need soft - this looks
a little awkward, that round tip.
Play it down again.
Just the one hard edge. And I like
the shadow shape. Trying to get a few times.
Doing that kinda merge into
Get that shape right.
Try that again.
There we go.
The colors are boring up there so I'm gonna use some of
the most intense color I can get. Pure yellow.
Very strong green
The green is not that interesting but
this is the kinda best green
I can get.
I wanna get that frame,
I'll repaint this
to make it more cleaner.
I'm not really caring about the
perfectness of the drawing, again
this somewhat I kinda liked a
little bit of distortion.
if I do wanna make it perfect, like I said, I
can slow down.
Slow down and make it perfect
when I sketch it in but it's not
what this exercise is about.
Somehow I just
let it drip - well that might be a little too much but
that somehow can be a fun texture.
Get a little on the ground.
Reshape her socks.
Kick the heel back
I might just let it get lost
with those shadows.
Maybe I can just lose it in the shadows.
If I can usually that's a good thing.
An advantage to group things.
Again still finding some of the
I can carry through.
Break some of the shapes.
Contain some of....
Does it always have to be the same dark color?
I'm gonna mix a dark green.
A little bit intense, add a little bit of yellow to see
if I can intensify that green a little bit. I like to
use some of them in there.
That bun on here might have gotten a little too
crazy. Coming down, push it back a little bit.
I like the top is very
flat. I like the difference of the
vertical and I'm always kinda dig through that because it's kinda
what I teach. Create the complimentary idea,
straight versus angle.
Vertical versus horizontal.
Break things, this
plate - how can you break through, again, what you need
Push that light and now I see how
would it be too distracting.
Push it more.
And then come back, punch in some of the nice
A little thicker than I wanted it. That's alright.
We're almost there
guys. I just want to again clean this area up. I like
here just - and maybe just refine here a little
I need to load my paint. I ran out of yellow ochre.
Actually my black too.
I need a lot because -
that's probably a little too much.
My ivory black.
later I need to clean that up too.
Kinda sneaking in some of the pure
Because everything's so gray
basically. We key it
because we're using a limited pallet.
That's not good.
I'll see if I can use the wet just to
draw the hair over her face.
Because I don't want to touch too many times.
There we go.
Make sure your brush is clean.
I didn't mean to do that.
Finding the balance. Just swing this way.
Like I said
I wanna clean up this area.
Pop in some
I'm not copying from the reference,
I'm painting what
the painting needs in terms of balancing act.
Bringing your eyes around.
Similar highlight. Make this looks smaller.
Let's make this part solid
so we can see where her back is.
Soften that edge.
I think the last thing.
Let's give a little light into...
Then a wash - feel like just a haze over.
Push it hard, I got some of the paint
blended into what's on the canvas.
So now tie this in, break this line.
Do the last thing. Her hip
pushes out too much.
I feel like back up by her head is here, it doesn't quite
connect with this. That's not good.
Now it connects.
So here we go.
so I kinda went in a different approach
like basically washing the tone down and just, you know,
thinking about how I want to compose images. At one point
I think you guy's noticed I was holding a brush
different than I used to hold. I usually just hold my brush like how I write.
Occasionally I'll hold a brush like this so that can allow me
to use my arm more because this way ends up using mostly your wrist.
And so when I was holding like this I start blocking
just flat shapes, it allowed me to see the flat relationship to kind of
reorganize all the relationship, you know, of different elements.
And then I start carving out the
relationship, carving into the rhythms,
and I don't know if you guys will understand what I'm saying
but the thing is, again, everything you draw it has
to relate to what you draw previously or where you're gonna go next. Almost like
a chess player. You always want to know a couple steps ahead or what have you done.
So you're trying to tie them in, to the point I'm working with
a balance, balancing act. And sometimes that can be intuitive, right,
I feel like I need to trim this and I need to add this, you know,
so that's a little bit hard to teach because, again, everybody's gonna be a little different. By the end it's
how you compose an image, negative parts of space,
all the foundation of a drawing element. Okay, so hopefully you guys enjoyed this
limited pallet again, we're not dealing with
a crazy color here so make sure
if you can watch this film, this lesson,
a couple times, kinda adapt to what's
a limited pallet can do for you. Again, there's still a lot going on on that canvas.
Okay so thank you, I'll see you guys later.
if you can ask a friend or even your family member if they would like to sit for you
and, you know, just kindly ask them and then, just you know, again
you need a light, you always need a light for this. Those, like I
said, the clamp light also works well.
You might need a little more powerful lightbulb because you have to shine
the full figure so it at least needs to be a 100 watt lightbulb. And
if you don't have somebody to sit for you, you can work off a photo reference. Or what you can do
is have somebody sit for you and paint for an hour or two
and take pictures and then you can finish off photo reference. Still, keep it the limited pallet
with the Zorn pallet. Okay. Have fun.
Free to try
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
19m 19s2. Laying in the Composition
22m 12s3. Blocking in Major Shapes
30m 24s4. Roughing in the Background
22m 53s5. Defining the Shadows
18m 8s6. Tuning Elements of the Composition
19m 25s7. Building Textures and Variation
25m 15s8. Directing the Eye with Value
15m 49s9. Working in Secondary Shapes
18m 51s10. Pops of Color
20m 17s11. Achieving Green in Zorn
23m 4s12. Final Touches and Conclusion
53s13. Assignment Instructions