Tips on Oil Painting - The Block-In Phase

By: Remi Engels

Tips on Oil Painting - The Block-In Phase

This phase is the second phase of a basic approach to the creation of an oil painting. The first phase is the drawing phase and involves the drawing of the scene you wish to paint. So, at the start of the block-in phase we assume that we have a canvas with the drawing of our scene on it.

During the drawing phase we already resolved many problems and made many decisions about composition, light source, design, focus point, etc. This is a good situation because it is much better to correct mistakes up-front than it is when you have already a lot of paint on your canvas.

The block-in phase consists of establishing the large shapes of color as indicated by the drawing. The emphasis here is on correctly observing the color of these shapes and making sure you maintain the correct geometry.

In this stage you should not be concerned with painting any details. I use usually work with fairly thinned-out paint and a brush that feels a little too large than for the work I'm doing.

Start out with the darkest shapes. Make sure you do not misjudge these dark colors. You will rarely find anything that is totally black. Most dark colors have a certain bias such as blue, brown, or purple.

Next I fill in the brightest colored large shapes (i.e., those colors that stand out or leap at you). Observe and analyze the color according to hue, value, and intensity. Also, make sure the colors stay harmonized.

Finally, I put in the more subtle colors many of which will be duller and more difficult to judge. Note that these more muddled colors are just as important as the bright colors. In fact, they are part of the reason why the bright colors can shine as they do.

Again, in this phase it is important to forego the details. Only two things count in this phase:

1) The correct coloring of the big shapes. This requires careful observation, analysis, and color mixing. It is important to check and recheck and if you feel the color is not quite right you should take the time to correct it even if you have to scrape it off the canvas.

2) Duplicating the geometry of the drawing. There is often a tendency to grow things. For example, when painting the large areas of a flower we tend naturally to make the flower larger. So, be disciplined and keep looking at the drawing and stay within the lines. Keep everything in its position and its proper dimensions and don't forget to paint the background if there is one.

At the end of this phase the canvas should be completely covered with paint, i.e., no white areas should be left unpainted. This way you have a good idea of how all the colors look like relative to each other without the presence of the harsh white canvas. You will also be in a good position to judge how well the overall color scheme harmonizes and if you need to make any corrections. And one more time, restrain yourself to add any details.

In this article we had a detailed look at the so-called block-in phase of the painting process. The end result is a fully colored canvas of large shapes all with the correct color in terms of hue, value, and intensity. During this phase we have also paid attention to the harmony of the colors.

About the Author:
Remi Engels is a pencil portrait artist and oil painter and expert teacher. Check out his Pencil Portrait Course.


Oil Portrait Painting (Lincoln) Blocking in Colors Demo by Jon Houglum



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