Oil Painting: Ron Hicks' "Noelle With a Black Dress"

Hicks Noelle With Black Dress oilIn the spring 2008 issue of Workshop magazine, Colorado artist Ron Hicks discussed how breaking down his subjects into shapes, and capturing gradations of light in each, allow him to create the moody figurative and interior work he is best known for.  Here we present his demonstration Noelle With a Black Dress.

Hicks Noelle With Black Dress oil Hicks Noelle With Black Dress oil Hicks Noelle With Black Dress oil
A picture of model Noelle Pawlowski, who Hicks painted for this demonstration.
Step 1
Hicks began by roughly blocking in the general placement of the model's head, shoulders, and chest using burnt umber mixed with turpentine. "When I look at a setup or a composition, the first thing I see is a bunch of shapes and values and how they relate to one another," the instructor said. "In the beginning stages, I'm working very abstractly and just thinking about getting the correct placement and proportions of shapes and values."
Step 2
Once he had a general sense of the figure's placement, the artist began to indicate planes and features of the face, thinking about the value of the model's skin tone and how that compared to the value of the shapes around her. Deciding that her facial tone was in the middle range, Hicks mixed a color that matched what he was observing and applied it very thinly. At this point he was noticing the movement of light on the model's neck and up through her head and had already mentally divided her face into four major shapes and values, in which he would later capture the gradations of light.


Hicks Noelle With Black Dress oil Hicks Noelle With Black Dress oil Hicks Noelle With Black Dress oil
Step 3
Alternating among the background, the model's face, and her dress, Hicks was certain to get his values reading properly so that he would already have that solved when he began working on color. Even at this stage, the artist was still thinking and working abstractly and concentrating on capturing the movement of light. "Right now I'm more interested in the transition of light and its presence in each area of the form than I am in edges and details," he said to the class. "I will work on those aspects in the later stages of the painting."
Step 4
The artist continued working on the model's skin tones, adding some lighter values on her chest, neck, and face to indicate the movement of light. He followed the advice he gave to students, in that he broke the big shapes he had established during the beginning stages of the painting down into smaller and smaller shapes of light and dark and warm and cool to really capture the light moving across the form.
Step 5
As he brought the demonstration to completion, the artist concentrated on refining edges and color and working on some of the detail. "I don't like to commit until the end of a painting," Hicks had said at the start of the demonstration. "I work very slowly and organically in the beginning stages and just kind of feel my way through the process until I'm sure that I've not only captured the subject as accurately as possible but also made a statement about what I've observed."


Hicks Noelle With Black Dress oil
Noelle With a Black Dress
2007, oil, 20 x 16. Collection Gallery 1261, Denver, Colorado.

Related Posts:


Oil Painting Blog

2 thoughts on “Oil Painting: Ron Hicks' "Noelle With a Black Dress"

  1. Wonderful tutorial and much more wonderful artwork. I simply love the freshness of this sketchy style. A great thank-you for sharing it with us. I’ll recommend it to all of my students and fellow artists. Good job!