- Lesson details
World-renowned painter Steve Huston will perform a quick oil paint demonstration of a sheep. You will learn that what we often describe as “white” colors are actually just relatively lighter variations on warms and cools and how to apply these concepts to your own work.
- Gamblin Artist Grade Oil Colors
- Simply Simmons Paintbrush
- Birch Plywood Panel
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that of depicting white objects. In this video lesson,
world-renowned painter Steve Huston will
perform a quick oil paint demonstration of a sheep.
You will learn what we often describe as white
colors are actually just relatively lighter
variations on warms on cools and how to
apply these concepts to your own work.
well full grown. She happens to be our sheep on our property, so I’m going to paint her.
I’ve never painted one of our animals before so I thought it’d be fun. We’ve got a
nice white sheep so we’re just going to play with that.
Now, a great place to look at whites—are two places: Go look at Norman Rockwell and
John Singer Sargent. There are others but those two used white quite a bit. Rockwell
used a ton of red too. But, for example, Sargent
had these beautiful tuxedos or gowns, dresses
of beautiful rich people in their fabulous clothing. There is a ton of white in that.
Yet, the whites were—not always, but they quite often different whites because of the
environment, the relationship between the
different colors in the setup. The fabric,
the lighting situation, all that kind of stuff. So there’s white and then there’s white.
What we’re going to find here as we paint our white sheep—her name is Bianca—appropriately
enough, we’re going to find that we’re actually not painting anything truly white.
It’s going to be just lighter variations
of warms and cools, richer in grays.
You can probably see when we do the long shot camera, our second camera there, the little
sketch over here I did of one of my daughters. So oftentimes I’ll just grab whatever I’ve
got in the studio and paint from it. If it doesn’t work well I’ll just wipe it down
or paint over another time. Maybe keep it for a few weeks and then decide I don’t
like it, or it just sits around. I don’t pay attention to it after I painted it, and
I just decided it wasn’t worth saving, and I’ll wipe it or sand it down if it’s dry
and use that surface again. So you can see the sand marks. I just used a little palm
sander and just get them out of there.
Now, I’m not concerned at all with my composition really, you know the feet if we didn’t have
this grass covering them would be almost right down on the bottom edge of the canvas, which
is probably not the best choice. This is just a little study in white. How can we get a
sense of white without making it white?
We have this lovely shadow here, and then there
is a fallen tree behind, and a tree over here
leaning off at a bit of an angle. Then there
is fencing and such. Back here the rest is all green grass.
So it’s just that quick.
Just lay it in simply. There’s not even a lot of shadow shape. There’s a strong
afternoon light here, and so we’re catching
just an edge light. You can see the long
shadow picking up on that.
What I’m going to try and do then is paint this white in such a way that it’s not pure
white, although I’m going to use a lot of white paint, of course. There’s going to
be a lot of shifts in temperature. That’s
why I chose this set up, or this particular
piece because I want to just have fun with
all the different temperatures of white.
I'm going to start out with a slightly greenish gray-white, and I just used a little of my
dirty brush from the drawing.
I should say titanium white, Hansa yellow,
transparent orange, naphthol red, ultramarine
blue, alizarin crimson, and ivory black. These happen to all be Gamblin colors, but they
can be other colors. Any good brand will give you choices of these type of colors. All I
did is I took my transparent orange—I don’t even remember. I guess I used the blue because
I see the blue there. Ultramarine blue and alizarin crimson, and made a nice earth tone
of it. You get much richer, more beautiful earth tones by mixing your own than buying
them out of the tube.
And so what I’m going to do then is I’m just going to look for temperature shifts.
That’s my M.O. all the time. Even though most of my gallery work has very limited color
in it, and most people would think very little color in it. I still play a lot of games with
the temperature shifts. So it will get greener. It will bluer. It will get yellower. It will
get oranger. It will get more intense. I want that to shift around. Warms and cools and
then richer gray versions of it. That’s going to make it look more sophisticated,
make it more real, and when I get into the rendering of things, and of course we’re
not going to do much here. But, when I get into the rendering of something, that’s
going to make it convincing. One of the biggest issues, I was actually—not to be named—looking
at a page of an artist today. Nicely painted work, but the rendering looked kind of like
plastic because that person, male or female, I don’t even remember which, was just adding
white to get to the lighter areas of the form.
It was a portrait and adding whatever reddish-brown
to get to the darker areas.
I’m going to make these feet. You can see some of this nice rich, yellow-ochre, white
lighter color. I’m going to let some of that come through
and get a little bluer here.
As we fade down into the cool grass.
In my world, when forms start to hide down into
the environment that they’re on. They start to take on the temperature of that environment.
I’m going to make it go bluer and bluer as it comes down. I’m going to want to bring
some of that blue back up. The reference actually has this. I’m just exaggerating.
That blue in the bottom in the legs and bottom of the torso things are going bluer.
So every time I change value I change temperature. That’s my M.O. It’s the M.O. of any good
realist colorist. Even people you wouldn’t expect are going to do that. A Frans Hall.
A Rembrandt where it’s all apparently golden light. It’s golden light, but there are
still warm and cool shifts there to great degree.
Here’s the shadow of one leg over the other leg.
Let’s get the head. I’m going to make that head a grayer yellow-white.
I’m going to push some pinks in there. I really didn’t plan this. I should try and
take credit for it, but the red that’s coming through from the underpart of the painting
happens to line up just beautifully with where that pink snouts going to be. So I’m going
to scrub this in as much thinner paint to allow that come through. You know, at the
big opening for my retrospective in 40 years—I hope I’ve got 40 years—I’ll say of course
I planned to allow that underpainting right there. I’d save that piece just for this
moment. But, it’s not true at all. It just happened to work out. That’s one of the
things I love about painting over old paintings. You’re not wasting any of the materials,
which is nice for all sorts of reasons. But also,
you get these happy accidents as I like to call them.
I’m going to make the ears quite pink here. Relative.
It’s always relative, everything in relationships.
So relatively speaking, what I did here was very rich pink, kind of
even peachy colors. But in another painting this might look anything but. It might look
actually kind of cool for a different painting. The sunset on the beach, maybe that’s the
coolest thing in the whole painting.
Notice that I’m really allowing little lines, little
edges, little drawn shapes to do a lot of the work.
I’m not really having to render.
There’s the little ear in shadow and then the little cast shadow onto the back.
It's just a little drawn line, what I’d do with a pencil or charcoal.
Alright, so we’ve got that laid in here like so.
I’m getting everything I need about
our little sheep here, Bianca, without rendering. I don’t want to render it because I may
have to change it. I might decide, dog gone it. Should have been bigger. Should have been
smaller. That’s way to yellow. It shouldn’t have been that yellow. But you can see I have
a whole rainbow of colors. I have purple. I have pink. I have orange. I have greenish,
bluish, kind of a Naples yellow. A whole range, more browner areas in there.
Whole color rainbow range of off-whites.
We know it’s not white even though it’s a white sheep—that’s
white. Maybe I’ll end up with a couple highlights. She has a little tag in her ear that is piece
of white metal that I might actually make pure white. But the body of it is a step down.
Notice that I keyed our “white” sheep to that highlight that I put on there. Let’s
put it on there again. We’ll put on our little tag there.
I use the end of my brush quite a bit to correct. So there’s the little tag. It creates a
little scratchy edge too where I do a soft edge. I can correct the drawing. I can come
back through and draw into it if I needed to feel the chest and ribcage against the
stomach area, stuff like that. I can actually do a light drawing on that that you won’t
see in the painting process, or it would be easily covered, but it shows me rediscovering
my drawing. Maybe I need to feel the volume of this in here and so that lets me know this
needs to come up a little bit further. The volume of this in here, and so that lets me
know this needs to come up a little farther to show that barrel in the front of the torso.
Alright, so anyway, I’ve got that laid in pretty well and maybe even too well. Now it’s
time to get the rest of the area in because this foreground is only correct if it’s
in the correct relationship to the background. So now I’m going to go for some green grass.
I don’t have any green out. Oftentimes I’ll have viridian on my palette. I don’t have
it today. I’d use it if it was on there, but I didn’t put that down. So we’re going
to work without that. That’s actually a great exercise to do is go out and paint a
landscape with a lot of green in it and don’t bring green paint. Bring a couple of yellows
and a couple of blues, maybe, and work from that.
Oops, I just painted my shadow green because I was talking and not paying attention. That’s
okay. We’ll fix that later. Those kind of
mistakes end up creating problems, and I love
to have problems when I’m working because that creates opportunities. If I’m always
following process, end up with the same solutions, I’m kind of painting the same painting over
and over again. We all have our techniques and processes to get things down the way we
need to get them down. But if it’s too rote, if it’s too formulaic, you’re really painting
the same thing over and over again. You’re not surprising yourself, and that means you’re
not going to be surprising your audience. It’s not for very long. Not after seven
or eight paintings. Of course, these strokes I’m putting in the direction of the grass
letting the hatching of the grass
suggest that so I don’t have to render it.
Maybe in my world when things get farther away they get darker and bluer and grayer.
So I took some of this same purple that I used for the shadows, and I added a little
bit more blue to this to darken it and cool it off. Then that purple graded—it was a
kind of green. I added a kind of red to it. It was a blue-green; I added blue-red, a purple.
I didn’t kill it into a dead gray, but it made it grayer.
It's really an impressionist outdoor painting, and that’s working in that pastel range.
Most of my work I don’t work in that.
I work in that brown, kind of formulaic Brown
School letting values dominate and letting
colors get suppressed except for a red boxing
glove or something like that. In outdoor colors you’re working in that pastel range.
And so you’ve got those candy colors.
I'm going to let some of this hatching come through for now.
I’m going to thin it out just a little bit just to make it cover a little
bit more area and then having to mix more paint.
Later I can come back and add paint
quality. Right now I’m trying to get rid of the white of the canvas.
Alright, now this is just down darker, here
are some deep shadows to the landscape behind.
Now, one of the problems you have is once you put paint down there you’re going to
fight that paint on some level t some degree. It might be so much you don’t even notice it.
In this case, I’m fighting it quite a bit. There’s a light, pale green down
there. I’m putting a dark, richer, brown-green on top. They’re mixing together. And what
I wanted to be that at first became that. And so I had to keep forcing more paint on
the brush, forcing my color darker, mixing my color darker than I’d planned
to make up for that issue.
Now, I’m going to do that shadow of the cast shadow of our friend here.
I'm to take some of that paint off. You can use
a palette knife. I’m using my razor blade
that I cleaned off. That’s too green.
I want it a little more purplish. I’m going
to add some red and blue together, make a purple.
Add a little bit of white and then mix it together.
This is going to be. Notice what happened. I put down the blue-green that
was the right value, but it was too much in the blues.
So then I corrected it with a more purple version,
and most of that original
greenish-bluish bit is taken away, but a little
bit is left on there. So together they’re the same value, but one’s a little greener,
more intense blue-green; one is a little more brownish-purplish.
Together they give more complexity.
It makes it nicer.
Then I’m going to give my shadow over that chest area.
I’ll just adjust that shape just a bit.
Alright. I have a tendency. I just darken that shadow between the legs,
and I haven’t even put in the color of the other leg.
We’ll just leave it for now.
I like to put in the deepest darks, I like to put in a warmer mark for the shadow. Usually
the shadows are going to be relatively cooler than the lights, especially if you’re outside.
Not always, but usually it will be the case. And so having a deeper, cooler shadow is typical.
But, if I did put a darker accent that’s not cooler but warmer than the warm and the
cool kind of push against each other. There’s a vibration that happens. There is an energy.
There is a conflict. So they separate and yet they group. They’re the right values,
but they’re the wrong temperatures in a way. The warm is fighting the cool and vice
versa. It creates more energy. It gives the illusion of depth in there. It makes it more—it’s
a little bit of a surprise to see when you come up to it,
and it adds a bit of depth to the painting.
Alright, so we need to get our log in here now. That’s a purple.
I need to make it a different purple than the sheep.
I’m going to push it darker than it is because I want
to frame that body of our little friend here.
This is just a sketch. I’m not going to
try and make it be the objects. I’m not going to try and render the cottonwood, bark,
and all that kind of stuff that’s on there.
I’m just going to let it be. So it’ll just be a shape.
Alright, now let’s take this a little bit
farther. Now it’s going up into lighter
wood behind. Some of it’s the same log, catching more light. Some of it is a different
log that has a lighter local color.
I took that same pot of color, took some of my dirty
lighter version of blue that I used to mix this and added it in. I kept adding white,
and every time I added white I add a little bit more temperate. A little bit more blue
or a little bit more yellow. Let’s push the final contrast so you can see I’m going
to make it much lighter or relatively lighter and bluer yet. And that temperature change—notice
that every time we go to a lighter value it’s changing temperature. There doesn’t even
have to be a necessary logic to it. It can be getting warmer and warmer and warmer. It
could go warmer for a couple of steps as it did and then go cooler. We don’t really
have to think it through. We can just try a temperature change. If you don’t like
that temperature change try a different temperature change. As long as the value is ringing true
the temperature can shift around a little bit or even a lot. There are branches over
here. Again, we don’t care a lot about the accuracy of these things.
Okay, let’s get in our tree over here. Now, this needs to be also an off-white. It’s
going to need to be a different off-white than the sheep. I’m going to take what is
more or less the same color here. I’m going to start that as a base, but now I’m going
to push it into the blues. It could have gone another way. Blue is a good choice since I’m
getting bluer in the grass as I go back. We’ll put some brighter, richer blue, so even stronger
blue back there. Then it’s going to get darker here. I want it to get quite a bit
darker because I want to be able to frame that ear. I don’t want the light tree in
the light ear confusing each other. It’s a little cast shadow of branches over this.
Alright. Then I’m going to come back on top of that because I see it in the reference
to some degree. I’m going to come back on this a little bit lighter and back towards
this yellow, similar to that yellow in there.
Okay, so now we’ve got that set in. Let’s get some—I’m going to make it the same color as this more or less.
Here is some of the fencing back here which may be ill-advised to even put in for such
a little sketch as this. There are hogs panels.
We don’t have hogs, but they’re nice panels
to keep the critters in.
Alright, a little bit of that.
Now I’m going to go back in here where that underpainting is. I’m going to go much bluer.
I’ve set up, again, that as I go back it gets bluer. I’m going to go crazy blue with
a little bit of yellow in it and push it way back.
Even in there.
Okay, so now I’ve got the painting laid in.
Now I can start playing with it. I’m going to bring in—
I want this grass and this sheep to tie in a little bit. I’m going
to bring in a lighter—and now I’m just kind of playing. I’m going to bring in a
lighter yellow on top of this. I can see a few little stalks of grass going lighter yellow,
but the body of it stays in this grass green area. One of the things I’m going to do,
there’s yellow in the white sheep, and there is yellow in the green grass. I’m using
exactly the same yellow, the same yellow or yellows in it. Some of the Hansa yellow and
a lot of that transparent orange. They’re going to get together. They’re going to
relate through their yellowness. They both have yellow in them, and they both have the
same yellow in them. That’s important.
Notice where I didn’t paint that dirty brown color ends up feeling like the earth underneath,
which is what we also see in the reference, and we typically will see that.
I'll bring a few little stalks of grass to break up the shapes.
Then I’ll get my trusty dark red.
I’m kind of thinking in terms of cloud formations and so the shapes here are kind of billowing
for obvious reasons. We’ve got a puffy little fellow with lots of wool. She’s a youngster
as I said there. She’s a lot bigger now.
Here is some of the belly separating.
This is actually just dirty wool here, but it makes for a nice temperature change.
I can play that off that kind of ankle structure for our little fellow.
I’m just working off what I see in the reference now, pulling that off.
This is the kind of hatching zigzag.
It picks up kind of the phonetic environment
of the twigs and the grill work and the grass
blades. Everything is kind of linear and broken.
Then I can do a little bit more work on the chest.
I should put in that back leg, I suppose.
I'm going to make it much cooler than it should be,
much cooler than it is to set it back behind that one.
I’ll bring in some of that same coolness into here.
Pick up a little bit of the grass work.
Then I’ll come back on top of that cool
with close to the same warmth that I used here.
So it will be the same color more or less. It’ll feel like the same color,
and yet it will be laid on top of a cooler base
rather than a warmer base, and then that will
make it track with our concept of distances cool.
Alright. We’ll do a little bit more work on the head. Here’s our little cast shadow
there around the brow ridge and the skull, separating from the ear structure. That little
eye in there into the snout area.
Then I’m going to do a pinker version of that and pick
up our shadow. It’s not pink. It’s relatively pinker. That took me forever to figure out.
Teachers would say—Dan McCall was the guy who taught me color.
He’d say, “Can’t you see how green that is?”
I’d be looking for green like this, not something that’s relatively greener.
This is relatively greener than that. This is relatively more of a peachy color.
That’s a relatively more blue color but only in relationship to each other.
In a different relationship, what looks cool here might look warm over there.
That was a tough one for me.
It took me a while to get it.
Alright, now our sheep goes very warm in the
face, or very cool in the face to red snout,
but it’s coming out of that cool blueness.
I’m going to bring some of that same blueness into the body.
I’ll push that nose even pinker, the lip area.
Little bit of the eye area gets a little pink with the albino action there.
I’m going to switch to a finer brush
and do a little bit more work around that eye. Now I’m going to
bring it a little bit of yellow into here.
Okay, so the blue that I put into the lighter
high-lit area I’m now bringing back into
the body of the sheep.
Carrying that on through. Little bit on the knee joints.
On top of this yellow.
At this point I’m just trying to figure out how much is too much.
My instinct is to render the heck out of things.
I have to always kind of watch myself.
I think that’s probably most of us.
I’ll bring some of this relatively cooler color into that warm.
And I notice that when we go back here it gets very blue and starts
turning back towards the cool environment.
I’m going to step back and take a look at it.
And then just a couple little finishing touches here.
There’s that shadow again, bringing it back. So I pushed that quite blue.
And I’m going to go back with my little red trick at the very edge of that.
Alright. So we’ll stop there, I think. I’m going to do one other thing here. I’ll bring
a little bit of this dirty tummy area, chest area,
cool it off a little bit.
Get a little purpler cool.
There we go.
I’m just doodling here now.
Sometimes you just want to keep working with it.
Sometimes you’re doing something and you’re just having fun, and
you just don’t want to quit. You don’t want to have to go home. You keep working
on it when maybe you’re better off not. I remember I’ve done quite a few paintings
in my time where I did something and go, God, that is a nice painting.
And then I just couldn’t leave it alone because
I had so much fun doing it that I had to screw it up.
I just overpainted it.
So there’s always the danger of that.
Even as I’m telling you not to do it I won’t quit painting. Alright, so we’ll stop there.
So that’s fun. That’s my first sheep that I’ve ever done. It was kind of fun to do.