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Direct Painting

MonetDirect oil painting is a style popular since the late 19th century in which the paint is applied opaquely to completely cover the ground. Painting commonly proceeds by stages, allowing drying between stages, but may be completed in the one session given the right skill and circumstances. White is used throughout, plus thin washes in the lower stages, but glazing is absent. The aim is a coherent and integrated statement, with all aspects closely worked in.

Commercial manufacturers of paint tend to put too much oil into the tubes, and then give their paint solidity by adding fats. You can use the commercial article straight from the tube if you wish, but you'll generally get better results by removing these oils and then remixing the pigments with media of your choice. Remove the oils by blotting with cardboard or blotting paper, or by placing tube oil on a glass plate, and then keeping the plate under water for 24 hours.


1. Sketch in charcoal. Brush away surplus and trace sketch in turps-thinned paint.

2. Block in broad areas of color with turps-thinned but opaque washes of color Rework these wet into wet with white or more color as necessary. Dry if necessary.

3. Paint with more subtlety and detail in a fatter medium. Work of the previous stage may or may not show through.

4. Add details in fine soft brush.

Direct Painting of Portraits

SerovSolomon {1} recommended this approach for portraits:

1. Draw accurately in charcoal; then pencil in with raw umber and turps.

2. Use oils to lay in background in correct tone and color, scraping back afterwards. Lay in main mass of hair at same time or at end of this.

3. Lay in main masses of flesh highlights and shadows.

4. Model hair simply.

5. Adjust three flesh tones as required.

6. Complete flesh modeling deftly and economically, painting wet into wet.

Direct Painting of Landscapes

ShishkinRichmond {2} recommended this approach for landscapes:

1. Block out main masses in charcoal.

2. Apply paint thinly in broad masses approximately correct in color but not in tone necessarily. Medium may be turps or thin oil.

3. Complete the sketch in more detail and subtlety, paying attention to tone.

4. Repaint in studio from sketches and drawings.

Further Reading

The text references are as follows, some now rather dated but worth looking out for:

1. 'The Practice of Oil Painting and Drawing'. S.J. Solomon. Seeley. 1910.

2. 'The Technique of Oil Painting'. L. Richmond. Pitman. 1952.

3. 'The Materials and Techniques of Painting'. J. Stephenson. Thames & Hudson. 1989.

4. 'The Artist's Methods and Materials'. M. Bazzi. John Murray. 1960.

5. 'Alla Prima: Tips on Mastering Immediate and Fresh Oil Painting Technique'. Explore Drawing and Painting.

6. 'Direct Oil Painting Demonstration'. YouTube. Note the limited reworking.


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12a. The Beach at Trouville by Claude Monet. 1870. The National Gallery. London. Painted very freely, in situ, and with some problem areas left unresolved.
12b. 'Portrait of Ivan Mozorov 'by Valentin Serov. 1910. The State Tretyakov Gallery. Moscow. Schematic portrait built on split analogous orange-reds opposing blue. Dark outline of sitter is an essential part of the composition.
12c. 'Countryside near Moscow' by Ivan Shishkin. 1869. The State Tretyakov Gallery. Moscow. Composition built on parallel bands of dark foreground, cornfields, background and dominating sky (which is also horizontally layered).