Faith and the Sword- Oil on Panel Demo
Philip Howe Fine Art
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On this piece I wanted to go back to how I used to frequently work- on a nice gessoed panel. There is a different feeling to a smoother surface panel and it certainly is the most permanent surface for the oil paint as, unlike any canvas, stretched tight as a drum, it will still flex and buckle slightly but enough to weaken the surface and eventually cause cracking. I don't worry about it either way, the main purpose was to try a harder surface, one where my brush strokes did not drag against the canvas texture, and a good panel will leave a cleaner stroke.
I was surprised how much I enjoyed working on the top surface of the painting, its really quite different from the pull or drag you get from canvas, as the paint sits more delicately on the surface rather than sinks in so each stroke is a bit more laid on looking, and I like that illustrative look.

Because of the smoother surface and the way the paint sits more on the top layer, I wanted to take advantage of the smoothing aspect of the oil as you will see in a number of the sets below. First the blockin stage- done with larger brushes and thicker paint to block out the drawing and fill in the general tonal range, 2nd- smoothing this area over via large mop brushes and smaller bristle long-flats, and finally 3rd- refining those wet areas with harder edges and cleaner, more accurate drawing of fresh paint.
In general, this works every time since, by smearing or smoothing the local areas they go slightly out of focus. So any new stroke over this blurred area will, of course, be a sharp edge, giving more control over where to put those sharp and lost edges is a real advantage in doing realism if you want to suggest a 3 dimensional effect on this flat plane.

A good example of this blurring and sharper edges effect is in the leaves below. Just below is the more refined after stage, and the 3 below show the 3 stages- blockin-blur or smear, then the beginning of the sharp edges, done with soft, long flats which lay on a sharp, clean line not unlike a palette knife. Its an interesting approach as it uses controlled focus while the color and value can even be off a bit and yet the mind tells you there is a real edge or form beginning to take shape out of the abstract blockin.

upper_leaves_refined.jpg
Upper left leaves refined
3_stages_leaves.jpg
3 stages of leaves- upper left
figure_red_washed_in.jpg
Red washed in with medium
before_after_blockin.jpg
Block-in and smoothed over arms
3_head_block_in.jpg
Head blocked in
3b_head_smoother.jpg
Head smoothed over
3c_refined_head.jpg
Head refined, pre-final
blocked_smoother_ground.jpg
Foreground blocked in and smoothed over
3_stages_rocks.jpg
3 stages- lower left- blockin, smoother, refined

The shots below are from the final piece, refined and shot under better, polarized light. If you compare some of the stages above, which do not show the final stage, you will see the simplicity of the technique and how effective it is on the smoother surface of the gessoed panel.

sword_hands_detail.jpg
sword_head_detail.jpg
sword_rocks_detail.jpg

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