Oil-Painting Tutorial: Create a Stunning Ground on Canvas with Oil-based Paints

  • By: Michael Smith
  • Date: September 12, 2023
  • Time to read: 4 min.
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Art advice 1. “Creating an Exceptional Ground for an Oil-painting”


Today let me present the first Art-recipe on the topic oil-panting tutorial video-recipe of creation of a new, unusual and mysterious ground. In this video I will show how to solve the task of creation of a beautiful ground for a painting in oil applying a non-traditional method.

This video demonstrates the way the ground for the painting showing a field of poppies is being created.

Applying this uncommon technique, you will be able to create marvelous themes, beautiful still-life and landscape paintings, portraits, abstract paintings…

For the work on the ground I made use of a medium-grained canvas, paint thinner, a brush, a blade of stationery knife, a palette knife, about 10 paper pages (from a usual note-book) and the following oils:

  • Zinc Titanium White
  • Cadmium Yellow Medium
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Permanent Alizarin Crimson
  • English Red
  • Burnt Umber
  • Alizarin Violet Lake
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Cerulean Blue Hue
  • Turquoise
  • Viridian Green
  • Emerald Green

As you can see, the list of oil shades is pretty long but this does not mean that you must definitely use all the shades I did. You may chose similar colors and shades or mix the oils you have at hand to get the necessary shades.

The charm of this very technique is that every person who decides to apply it creates something unique, something of his/her own. Everyone gets an inimitable, amazing and beautiful ground, having its own texture, patterns, shades and mixtures of oils.

The creation of the ground made with the suggested technique takes approximately 15-30 minutes depending on the size of the canvas.

Now, let us get down to work.

Squeeze the pieces of oil out of the tubes right on the canvas. Most of all, you will need Titanium White oil – spread it on the whole canvas evenly, in chaotic manner. Further, we will act according to the following principle:

The upper part of the canvas will be the sky -so on this part you should apply the shades which are typical of the sky: blue, turquoise, yellow, just a bit of pink, some violet and lilac shades etc.

The central middle part of the canvas shows poppies: all possible shades of dark red (burnt umber, English red, Permanent Alizarin Crimson) will prevail here, also you will use some alizarin violet lake, some yellow shades (yellow ochre and cadmium yellow medium) and, certainly, some green (turquoise, viridian green).

The bottom of the canvas will show would-be grass and stalks of poppies, so here we will give preference to the green, the blue with some touches of red and yellow.

When the canvas is totally covered with pieces of oils, we add oil-thinner of the blank spaces, this should be done evenly, on the whole surface of the canvas. We are doing this in order to mix all the used oils successfully. You may use neat oil-thinner or oil-thinner with Damar Varnish (in this case your ground will become dry sooner) or triple thinner. You may use any brush you like, just make sure its size corresponds to the task set (I used flat synthetic brush #10).

When the thinner is applied, you are free to mix the shades.

A tiny but important piece of advice: it is better to mix oils this way when the canvas lies on the table or on the floor, especially if your easel is not the most well-balanced one.

By way of preparation, lets crumple about 10 pages of an old note-book or a useless newspaper. When your paper tool is ready start mixing oils.

Let us do everything slowly, there is no need to hurry. Try to mix not more than three oil shades at a time. The upper “sky” colors should be mixed first, then move on to the middle and the bottom of the canvas. Try to change the crumpled paper rather often. Avoid making dirt on the canvas. The range of your hand’s movements should not be wide, make the moves dipping.

In the course of work, you may add necessary shades and wipe away those stokes which you consider awry with the help of a palette knife and a duster.

Mixture of oils is such a captivating process, it can even be called magical in a way. In spite of the fact that you applied oils according to some principle or being driven by logic, the result can appear absolutely unexpected.

oil painting lessons
oil painting lessons

When all the oils are mixed on the canvas and there is almost no spare space, we can already observe a certain standing out painting, it is something resembling abstract painting.

In our case, the upper part of the canvas shows the sky, the air, sunshine, sunbeams that are directed to our field of poppies; the bottom part shows flowers trying to reach the sun. In order to show this, we take the blade of stationery knife and lightly scratch the canvas from its upper part to the middle. In this way, we set the direction for our midair. It so happens that hundreds of multicolored oil-strokes of various shades are being directed downward, right to our future flowers.

We may start painting the flowers right away, at this stage. It is possible to paint them with the palette knife on the surface of the created ground. It is better to wipe the space where you are planning to paint flowers with a duster – this will make the colors brighter, more beautiful and neat.

We will be able to improve our ground and the sky any time you wish while working at the painting.

If you want to learn how to paint poppies without any brush, with the help of a palette knife, a duster and your fingers only, see the next issue of Art-recipes!

May success attend your creative work!


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