INTRODUCTION



Firstly the text on this page gives you an introduction to Dale's 'steps in painting' approach, then there are two further major sections to click on directly below, namely 5a and 5b.
Section 5a
Section 5b  28 step-by-step demos in varying degrees of difficulty for you to choose from.


INITIAL THOUGHTS ON 'RULES' IN ART.

I am aware that art should be free, and that the visual image should be something more than just a mechanical reproduction of some thought process...   it was Henry James who said that 'art is the soul of a Nation...'    We all know that one gets art from artists, but just pictures from 'palette-mechanics'.

By the same token, in order to create the artwork, a lot of practical and often highly technical things have to be done on the paper or canvas.    A work of art is therefore the product of two elements:

  A) CONTENT (THE IDEA OF THE ARTIST), and

B) TECHNIQUE (HOW THE ARTIST DOES IT).

If there is inadequate content, then we have a mere technical exercise as a result, and if the technique is deficient, then the expression of the idea will be lacking.    Both of these factors are necessary in a good work of art.

Now it is very difficult to assist an aspirant artist with the idea, although one can give participants guidelines and encouragement to assist stimulation, subject analysis, discipline and related spheres which can help them to create with more spirituality, enjoyment and and motivation.    Hopefully quality ideas will flow therefrom, and the artist will grow in stature....   On our courses we assist the participants in this 'right-brain' realm by providing facilities to make them comfortable and relaxed, by sharing our peaceful and tranquil studio setting, by spoiling them with fine food and beverage, by providing an eclectic music programme, and by giving them access to hundreds of collected photographic, video and graphic images as stimuli.    In addition to this, I try to bring a greater awareness of the 'big picture' in world art into the course, and all along the way we have the particular beauty of Leisure Isle around us...    But I still know that the really good ideas will come out when they are in their own environments, surrounded by their own loved ones and when they can start to plot an art direction in their own creative world.

Handling technique is different.    Technique is mainly from the other side of the brain.    We have more medical folk than any other profession attending our courses, and I always endeavour to explore the left brain / right brain hemisphere influence theory with them.    Whilst it would appear to have certain grey areas (sorry!), there seems to be definite consensus in the concept that there are cerebral areas that control different disciplines in our brain. The most-quoted and formulated is the theory that the right brain is the side that has to do with the 'big picture', and is holistic in its nature, whilst the left brain is more technical and analytical.    Teaching technique in painting would therefore probably fall more under the left brain influence.

I started out in this section by suggesting that art should, as far as possible, be 'rules-free'.    Indeed most of the books and videos of artists that I have collected over the years suggest this desire, and then the artists go on to do their artwork following the guidelines of a series of obscure rules that they have created for themselves!

I have always been one to try and make my job easier, and when we teamed-up with the Gatehouse Production House in Johannesburg to make my first two videos on oils and watercolours, both the production team and I decided to ensure that my steps in painting were set out in detail to assist those who followed the demo paintings in the videos.   After all, we realised, if you go on a learning workshop for golf, or cooking, or fly-fishing or any other discipline, you will be given a structure of ground-rules.    Why should the technical side of painting be any different?     We have sold hundreds of the videos over the past decade, and confidence from this broad acceptance has led to the processing of this computer programme.

                                            ANALYSIS OF THE PAINTING PROCESS

Over the years, since my first lesson in oils with my late father Leslie Elliott when I was at school in 1961, I have been analysing the painting process.    Almost by default I inherited the role as a painting facilitator on the established Mont aux Sources painting holiday programme in the 80's, and since then I have actively watched how folk paint, how they cleverly streamline the process, how they employ devices and techniques to make their job easier and how they utilise their equipment to their best advantage.    One very important thing I have noticed: once the artist establishes a basic set of rules to paint with, he or she sticks with that structure forever. Obviously the artist will always tweak the framework as his technique becomes more proficient, but the basics will remain the same.    It is therefore, with respect, very important to have a tried-and-tested, versatile and uncomplicated set of 'rules' to start off with.

I have developed a set of 10 basic steps in oils / acrylics which I have introduced to hundreds of creative folk. These steps are very straight-forward, and should help to give a structure to your oils / acrylic painting.    As stated in section 1, I have developed a system where we will use the best qualities of both the oils and the acrylics, the first 5 steps being 'acrylic' steps, and the last 5 'oil' steps.    To re-cap: the acrylics are good for us because they dry almost immediately, and they are excellent at building up strength in the painting with medium tones, whilst the oils are good because they have the edge with their vibrant colours, they handle much better than acrylics, and they don't discolour when they dry, as acrylics do.

This is the layout of the 'mechanics' of my 10 steps that I give to participants on my courses:

Acrylic Steps 1 - 5
( Using mainly the quick-drying qualities of acrylics )
STEP 1 - PLAN 
Plan your painting from your various references - sketches, photographs, general accessories etc. - do a quick sketch on a piece of paper to check your composition and structure plan.
Planning can include: quiet contemplation; reference to aids ( like sketches, photos, real life objects or scenes, any other stimuli etc.); basic layout of your thoughts on a scrap sheet; analysis of your goal/intention/reward, and an analysis of the tools and rules you will use to get there.
Planning should be methodical, and never rushed. Enjoy your planning, and explore multiple possibilities to achieve your aim!
STEP 2 - TONE YOUR BOARD
Tone your board with acrylics to suit the colour scheme of your picture. Use lots of white and apply colour as a paste working from cools at the top to warms at the bottom.(cerulean, cobalt, ultramarine, pink, ochre, yellow, orange, brown, red.) blend the colour bands into one another.
STEP 3 - DRAW YOUR IMAGE
Draw your plan on your board in 4b pencil in basic detail. Make sure you draw your whole plan onto the board - not just the more prominent items in the composition. Work up the elements of the picture as an interlinking pattern, activating the entire picture plane.
STEP 4 - COLOUR-IN YOUR DRAWING 
Use your acrylics a second time - this time to colour-in the drawing pattern you have created ( sort of like a child with a colouring book ). Apply layers of acrylic to most areas of the pattern, only leaving the under-painting from step 2 where it can work for you. (Eg sky).
When you do this step, apply medium acrylic tones, not the very brights or darks, as this is for the oils to do in steps 6 - 10. Work the painting up from lighter colours to darker colours, within the aforesaid medium tone range.
STEP 5 - FOCUS: DRAWING AND BLOCKING-IN WITH DARKS
Use a black or other basic dark colour (b.d.c. ' mixture of ultramarine, crimson, burnt sienna) to create an outline focus for your painting, using a small drawing brush, and also block in any dark areas. This establishes the darkest limits / parameters of your painting
Oils Steps 6 - 10
( We use oils because oils look better, oils handle better and oils don't discolour when drying )
STEP 6 - 'OIL ON' 
Using a big brush, cover the entire board surface with a film of your painting medium ('Janny's potion' - a 50/50 mixture of refined (or raw) linseed oil and English distilled turpentine (also known as turpentine oil).
STEP 7 - 'OIL OFF' 
Allow the oil in 6 above to soak into the board for a few minutes, and then rub it off with a cloth. A thin film will remain, which will: (a) assist the application of the paint on to the board; (b) give the acrylic under-painting ( which can be rather dull and lifeless) the radiant ' look' of an oils finish, and (c) act as a vehicle for any glaze which you might like to apply
STEP 8 - BRIGHTEST BRIGHTS 
Put in the very bright colour extremes. You will now have the outer colour parameters for your picture, ie the .darks from step 5, and the brights from here.
STEP 9 - COLOUR THE PICTURE IN
Colour-in the remainder of the picture, in tones between the two colour parameters set above. This sounds simple, and in fact it is! You have the two extremes set above, i.e. light and dark, and it follows that all the other colours must 'fit in' between the two. For instance, on a misty day your brights would be softer, and your darks not so sharp, so your step 9 colours would have a closer range to work in. On a sunny day the opposite would apply.
STEP 10 - FINAL DARKS AND HIGHLIGHTS 
There is always a fine-tuning job to be done on a painting, and to end off, block in the necessary dark areas with the applicable tone of the basic dark colour (B.d.c. ' mixture of ultramarine, crimson, burnt sienna. Add more ultramarine for cool darks; more crimson or burnt sienna for warmer darks; or add sap green or viridian for the deep green of foliage shade.) Likewise add the final 'zits' to the painting by inserting the bright highlights where necessary.

In the following section, Section 5a we look at the first basic exercise in the Step by Step proccess

Copyright 2003 Dale Elliott.