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How To Begin An Oil Painting - A Step by Step Art Project for Beginners

Updated on April 15, 2010

Starting A Rustic Country Scene Oil Painting-The Beginning Stages

Full color reference photo of the old barn scene I are going to paint. I will add to or take away from this as I go. This is just for reference. We will add in a lot of wildflowers toward the end for color and interest.
Full color reference photo of the old barn scene I are going to paint. I will add to or take away from this as I go. This is just for reference. We will add in a lot of wildflowers toward the end for color and interest.
Photograph of the old barn, printed out in black and white on regular copy paper. This way it shows me the different color values and shades.
Photograph of the old barn, printed out in black and white on regular copy paper. This way it shows me the different color values and shades.
My paints, wooden palette and paint brushes, along with mineral spirits, all handy to use by my easel.
My paints, wooden palette and paint brushes, along with mineral spirits, all handy to use by my easel.
The beginning layers of the painting, where I have filled in the sky, as well as started the barn. I will go back and add highlights later.
The beginning layers of the painting, where I have filled in the sky, as well as started the barn. I will go back and add highlights later.

Beginner Art Lesson - A Landscape Oil Painting, Part 1

When you decide to start a new oil painting, first you need to decide WHAT you want your painting to look like. In this case, I had taken a reference photograph of an old barn, surrounded by oak and mesquite trees, as well as some prickly pear and wildflowers. after transferring my image to my computer, I then printed the photo in black and white, on a plain piece of copy paper. Printing it in black and white helps me to see the various shades and color values I will be looking for, as well as showing me the "lights and darks" (in other words the shadows and highlights). Doing it this way helps me to get more depth to my finished painting.

I will use this photo as a reference to work with, but I will also add and take away things from it in order to make it more appealing in the finished oil painting. I will decide as I go what to keep, what to make up and add - this is what is known as "artistic license", lol! It is MY painting project, and I can make it look any way I choose. Anytime I start a painting, I feel as though I am starting a new adventure to somewhere I have never been before, because I am going to create my own reality as I see fit. That is one of the wonderful things about being an artist!

Once this is done, I vaguely sketch in the basic forms of the painting. The majority of the trees, leaves, and trunks will just be painted in, without being sketched. Some artists would rather sketch everything in, but I prefer to just paint as I go. I am usually a better sketch artist with my paintbrush than with a pencil anyway. I seem to get more flowing lines doing it this way, so you might want to give it a try if you aren't much on sketching. The only thing I really need to sketch is the shape of the barn, so I can get the roof line correct. I wanted a bit more of an interesting line to the top of the roof, so I took a bit of "license" with this part also. It just adds a bit of interest to the painting.

After I have my photo printed and have sketched or painted the overall form of the painting, I then begin to paint in how I want the sky - whether a sunrise, sunset, midday, clouds or no clouds, anything to do with the sky. The first "layer" will be the basic undertone, and I may go back later and add to it and work some more color in, depending on how I like it as I go. if I am going to put a lot of color into the grass and wildflowers (which in this painting I am going to), I am going to leave the sky a bit less colorful so the eye will be naturally drawn to the bottom part of the painting, toward the barn and the grass and flowers. I want the main focus of the painting to really be the barn and the bluebonnets I am going to add later.

When doing a painting, I will often mention the "layers" of the painting. This is because I build up layers of paint, starting with a bottom or base coat, and then add shadows and depth and texture with the layers of highlights and shadows I will add as I go. This adds a lot of appeal to the painting as a whole. What you see in this hub is just what I got done today, in about three hours of painting time. Part of that time was spent gathering supplies and printing the reference photograph.

If you would like to paint along with me, gather your paints, brushes, palette, mineral spirits or turpentine (odorless, of course!), and print a copy of the reference photo. You may be able to print it off of this hub if you right click on it, save the image to your pictures, and then print it out.




To Be Continued...

This will be a continuing, beginner oil painting lesson. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the "comments" section! I will take photographs and give pointers as I complete the landscape painting. If you have painted before, this will be an easy one for you. If you are really a beginner, you shouldn't have too much trouble getting started-the hard part is just "beginning"! So, lets get busy painting! I will walk you through it, step by step.

So, gather your supplies and a 16" x 20" canvas (either a canvas board or a gallery wrap canvas, whichever you prefer-I am using a canvas board for this one). You will need oil paints in whites, blues, greens, browns and black, and some other reds and yellows for the wildflowers. A medium sized flat brush for the sky and poles on the barn will be needed, as well as smaller, round brushes for the tree trunks and branches, leaves, grass and flower stems. This picture also has an old fence in it, that I may decide to add in, but haven't decided yet. We will work on that towards the end of the painting.

Gather your supplies, print out the photos, and lets get ready to leave on our trip to this old barn, somewhere in the country...see you when we get there!

Comments

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    • Taleb80 profile image

      Taleb AlDris 5 years ago

      Very useful hub, I searched for the second part of this hub, but I did not find.

      Hope to add the link.

      Thanks

    • BrendyMac profile image

      BrendyMac 7 years ago

      A very interesting Hub....useful to me..a complete beginner at hubbing,and pretty useless at it too.I only tried one oil painting,did a few acrylic,and lots of watercolours...but I'm inspired after your article..I will try it in the near future!! And I will br dropping in on your hubs for more tips to!!

    • profile image

      Karmen 7 years ago

      I stumbled across this page,while researching roofs of barns as I too am painting a similar scene. I LOVE THIS PAGE!!!!!

    • Laura Thykeson profile image
      Author

      Laura Thykeson 8 years ago from Central Texas

      agvulpes:

      Yes, the same basic principles apply to an acrylic painting. Some of the preparation steps are different, but if you already paint with acrylics, then you know the differences. If you are a true beginner, then I might need to do one about acrylic paints also!

      Laura Thykeson

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 8 years ago from Australia

      Laura this is a great tutorial, One thing though, would it possible to use acrylic instead of oils?

    • Laura Thykeson profile image
      Author

      Laura Thykeson 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Customastrocharts:

      Thank you very much!!

    • profile image

      customastrocharts 8 years ago

      These are lovely! I voted you up :)

    • Laura Thykeson profile image
      Author

      Laura Thykeson 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Susan,

      Thank you for commenting on my hub! I also love hearing from other artists. I am caught up with "altered art" at the moment. I love the freefor aspect of it. It really lets my creative side fly free!

      Laura T.

    • profile image

      Susan  8 years ago

      I love this page. I am an artist and I love to read about other people's artwork and techniques!

    • Laura Thykeson profile image
      Author

      Laura Thykeson 8 years ago from Central Texas

      lovelypaper,

      Thank you for your comment as well as your nice compliment! Glad you enjoyed the hub-come back when I have done an update to show the next steps!

      Laura T.

    • lovelypaper profile image

      Renee S 8 years ago from Virginia

      Very interesting. You're very talented.

    • Laura Thykeson profile image
      Author

      Laura Thykeson 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Keep on doing what you do best, dude! I'm envious of your drawing abilities.

      Laura T.

    • rvsource profile image

      rvsource 8 years ago

      Funny!

      Yeah art is an outlet for a lot of people. For me I loose track of time when I am drawing. In fact I just added another addition to my album. I might do a hub on it.

      Jeff

    • Laura Thykeson profile image
      Author

      Laura Thykeson 8 years ago from Central Texas

      rvsource,

      Thanks for stopping by. I decided to write about what I know the most about and enjoy-which is art. I had spent the last 10 years with a lot of health problems and depression, but finally got past all of that and getting back into the swing of things. Unlike some artsy people, I don't paint when depressed (so I won't be having any "blue periods" or cutting one ear off, lol!)

      Laura T.

    • rvsource profile image

      rvsource 8 years ago

      Nicely laid out hub. I don't work much with paints. I find them difficult, messy! I can also work better with a pencil, as I have more control. I've done a few paintings in the past, including pastels!

      Keep up the good work

      Jeff

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