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Oil Painting Techniques
by Phil Kessling

Celtic Models' Knight Painted in the Heraldry of Sir Roger le Rous

This article original appeared in Historical Miniature Magazine issue #14. It is republished here with permission.

Photos 61 & 62: The Finished Bust.

This article is based on a painting seminar which I presented at World Expo 98. It showed the step by step painting process of a 200mm bust. My subject was a Norman knight bust from Celtic Models which I painted in the heraldry of Sir Roger le Rous. A large scale bust is an ideal choice for beginning painters as the size allows for learning basic painting techniques without requiring the fine brush control needed for painting a 54mm face. Before beginning the step by step painting process, it is important to discuss some basic painting techniques.

The bust was cleanly cast in white resin and required only a little clean-up with a sharp X-acto blade and fine sandpaper. After clean-up, the bust was scrubbed with dishwashing detergent and an old toothbrush. The casting was primed with Floquil Reefer White which was thinned with Dio-Sol. I brushed on the primer as it helps to give me a feel for the figure's lines.

Generally, I undercoat with acrylic paints. I use a variety of brands, including: Jo Sonja, Cel-Vinyl, Polly S, Pelikan Plaka, Liquitex, Golden, and Vallejo. Each brand has a different pigment size and painting characteristics. Coarse pigmented paints like Plaka and Cel-Vinyl are excellent for textured surfaces. Finer pigmented paints: Jo Sonja, Polly S, Liquitex, and Vallejo are used for smooth textures like leather and skin. A dedicated set of brushes are used for the acrylic painting, as it is difficult to completely clean out acrylic pigment from a brush. The best brushes are reserved for painting with oils. Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes, primarily size 000 and 00, are used for the majority of the painting. Grumbacher "Prestige" badger hair brushes are used extensively for laying in large areas of color and for blending.

I mainly paint with W&N and Daniel Smith Artists' Oil Colors. The paints are used straight from the tubes without thinning. If thinning is required, due to dried out pigment, mineral spirits are used. I rarely use additives as the results are not always predictable. The one exception is Stand Oil which I add to basic flesh mixtures. This gives painted skin a realistic slight sheen.

My primary method of painting with oils is the wet-on-wet technique. First, an entire area is covered with a base color. This is smoothed out and excess paint is removed with a large, dry badger hair brush. Next, the shadow color is painted on and blended into the original base color. A deep shadow color is added and also blended. The next step is to paint in the highlight color and then blend it. A final light highlight color is selectively painted on and blended. It is important to have good contrast between the shadow and highlight colors in order to give the figure depth.

After each painting sessioin, the figure is placed in a covered crockpot to accelerate the drying time of the oil paints. A good temperature is approximately 150 degrees F. I use a rheostat and meat thermometer to adjust the temperature. The figure remains in the crockpot for 4-12 hours.

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