Finishing My Oil Painting, Leaves of Grass

Leaves of Grass by Patricia Watwood, detail of torso, oil painting. Notice the chalk marks on the figure that the artist used to check and measure the proportions of the figure's limbs. Leaves of Grass by Patricia Watwood, detail of hips and thighs, oil painting. Notice the chalk marks on the figure that the artist used to check and measure the proportions of the figure's limbs.

Notice the chalk lines drawn over the figure to assess and check the proportion and length of her limbs.

I have finally finished my oil painting, Leaves of Grass, which I have blogged about previously. In all, the painting probably took nearly 2 months of time. In an earlier post, I shared the drawing and small study I made in preparation. I transferred the drawing, worked up the underpainting by copying my study, added narrative details from several different sources, and then went back to working from life with my model, Leah.

But before I finished I had a few steps left: After the first wash of color is on the canvas, I continued in "underpainting" mode with the model, truing up the drawing and reassessing the form and structures. I sometimes use a bit of chalk or pastel and draw construction lines or correction marks on top of the dry paint. This is a great tip on how to "edit" your drawing. Using simple lines in red or white pastel, I note the skeletal landmarks (and their symmetrical partners on the other side of the body), the lengths of the parts of the body, and the axis of the gesture and major forms.  

The finished version of Leaves of Grass by Patricia Watwood, oil painting.
The finished version of Leaves of Grass.

By notating the simple construction lines, you can reveal errors in proportion and parallelism and make corrections. The chalk lines can either be completely wiped off using water or solvent, or you can just incorporate the powder into the oil paint when you work back into it. The correction lines will sit on top of the canvas, like a transparent layer, which is useful in helping you analyze and consider changes without getting bogged down.


For more painting instruction from Patricia, check out her latest DVD, Figure Painting: Realistic Skin Tone.



Oil Painting Blog
Patricia Watwood

About Patricia Watwood

Patricia Watwood has studied painting with Jacob Collins at the Water Street Atelier, and also with Ted Seth Jacobs at Ecole Albert Defois. She earned her MFA with honors from New York Academy of Art.

Watwood paints nudes, figures, portraits and still lifes in the classical tradition. Her paintings draw on allegorical, mythological, and narrative themes. She continues the classical pursuits of representational painting, with an eye on the contemporary world. The recurring theme in her paintings is the spiritual human presence. Watwood states, “Formal training is the indispensable underpinning of my practice. I seek to follow and build upon the artistic intelligence and traditions of the past, and bring them anew to my own generation.”

Watwood has exhibited in group and solo shows in New York, Paris, Houston, San Francisco and Long Island.  Her work is represented by John Pence Gallery in San Francisco. Her figurative paintings have been included in several museum shows, including “Enchantment” at the Hartford Art School, “Slow Painting,” at the Oglethorpe Museum; “The Great American Nude,” at the Bruce Museum of Arts and Sciences; and in “Representing Representation VI,” at the Arnot Museum. Her work has been featured in numerous art publications including International Artist, and a recent cover article in American Artist magazine.
Watwood also does portrait commissions, and is represented by Portraits, Inc.  Her recent projects include a portraits for Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government, and the former Mayor of St. Louis, for St. Louis City Hall.  Watwood is currently teaching at the New York Academy of Art, and at the Teaching Studios of Art in Brooklyn. 

Watwood and her husband and two daughters live in Brooklyn, New York.

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