Oil Painting: Sneak Preview of Dan Thompsons Figure-Painting Demonstration

View a demonstration of artist-instructor Dan Thompson's figure-painting techniques. Be sure to check back in the coming weeks for a more detailed video demonstration of Thompson's work.





Step 1: Thompson set up the model in a sitting position in front of different colored pieces of hanging cloth to create a background for the portrait. The artist then began to block in the basic shapes and outlines of the figure. Step 2: The artist placed the initial marks on the canvas—lengthening the lines and searching for gesture in the composition of the subject. Step 3: “There has been an attempt at perceptual drawing—relating patterns as one would look at countries on a map,” Thompson explains after the first twenty-minute session.  He added highlights in a rough, unified pattern. Step 4: After painting for one hour, Thompson began to transform the light and shadow masses from flat arrangements to structurally implied forms.





Step 5: Next, the artist applied the initial color notes to the canvas to figure out how to incorporate accurate shadows into the painting. Plenty of room is left around the color masses to account for the necessary revision of colors that would occur as the artist captured the correct light environment. “The color masses are thought of as elements that must be tuned like one would turn a guitar before playing a song.” Thompson explained. Step 6: Because cold light was shining on the model, the artist added a revised note of color to create a more realistic interpretation of the light on the subject. “Analogous to landscape painters, who would avoid putting green in the trees until it is absolutely necessary—or until it is painted within its proper context of the color relationships—common ‘skin color’ is to be added after the light is studied,” Thompson explained. Step 7: Next, Thompson focused on the development of the head. Step 8: The artist continued to work on the head, paying close attention to the smaller forms. For example, he worked to make the right eye more expressive.

“This is also an important phase of the painting: the beginning
of the end game,” Thompson said. “An attempt must be made to come to
some resolution of the smaller forms without losing the light effect,” he continued. “Instead of staying on the surface of the form with one continuous pass of painted strokes, the medium-sized planes are pounded into increasingly subtler turns.”


THE COMPLETED PAINTING: Figure-Painting Demonstration
2007, oil, 24 x 20.
Collection the artist.

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3 thoughts on “Oil Painting: Sneak Preview of Dan Thompsons Figure-Painting Demonstration

  1. It was great chatting with Dan today. We at BACAA attended the chat It was a very intersting session. We posted a few questions. It was such a treat having instant answers to our questions. I am very much looking forward to hosting Dan at the Bay Area Classical Artist Aelier in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dan will be teaching a 10 day Figure Drawing and Painting workshop from July 30-Aug10. We will work directly from a live model at our BACAA studio, where our space has a high ceilings and stunning north light.