Renard and the Strawberries: Painting Demonstration


Justin and I had a very specific idea in mind for what the painting should be like in order for it to fit the narrative of the story. One of the themes we wanted to depict was the innocence and free spirit of youth, and the sense of a world full of possibilities and mystery.  

Justin came up with some initial conceptual thumbnails to start with while I did several studies of animals and figures. Once we decided on an arrangement and narrative that we both liked, I began the final drawing. 




Determining a palette is very important for me before I start adding color washes. For this piece I knew I wanted to use a limited base palette of Green Umber, Raw Umber, Paynes Grey, Titanium White, and for the fox, Old Holland's Red Gold Lake.  To thin the paint, I used Gamblin's Solvent-Free Fluid. (Remember to observe fat over lean!  If you use too much oil, it will bead up on the surface.) 

All of the base colors are applied in light layers.  I like to keep the pencil lines visible to act as a guide as I build color.  This step helps me determine the mood of the painting as well.  Having a strong foundation will help me in subsequent steps, and makes the detailing process much easier for me. After I apply my base colors, I set the painting aside to dry.  I need the painting to be dry because I like to drybrush in my shadows and highlights, and this works much better of a completely dry foundation. 



For this piece, I decided to start with the fox. Using Red Gold Lake mixed with Raw umber, I buff in the shadows of the fur.  Mixing Paynes Grey with Raw Umber gives the darks I need for around the eyes and the nose.  Titanium White mixed with small parts of Red Gold Lake are used for the highlights.  I like to paint the individual hairs, and then smooth them using a wider soft brush.  This way the fur is defined, but still appears soft.   For the finer hairs, like the long ones around his ears, eyes, and whiskers, I like to use a sharp tipped brush (Pointed Round 3×0).  For this step, I add a new color to my palette as well. Alizarin Crimson will give me all of the rosy hues I need for this piece.  


Now I begin work on the foliage.  

Starting with the dry base from step 2, I begin to block in the smaller details of the piece.  In this case, it's the individual leaves, and the strawberries. By mixing Green Umber with  Red Gold Lake a more vibrant leaf color is achieved. The strawberries are blocked in using Alizarin Crimson. To give the leaves more dimension, I highlight the top outer edge where the light would be hitting them using titanium white. As you can see in fig. 2, the colors are very stark. After this layer has dried, I soften it by applying a glaze of Green Umber mixed with Gamblin's Solvent Free Fluid (fig. 3). While the paint is still wet, I am going to add the same golden highlights to further define the leaves.  After the sharp details are added with the fine tipped brush, I can go back soften them by dabbing them with a wider frayed brush. Lastly, I will add highlights to the strawberries using Titanium White mixed with Alizarin Crimson (fig. 4).  These steps are repeated for the rest of the foliage in the piece.


Much like the fox, I buff in the shadows and highlights for the birds in the painting using the dry base from step 2 (fig. 1).  The feathers are created by dabbing the brush onto the painting. The feathers will will rough and chunky initially (fig. 3), but by gently dabbing them with a frayed dry brush using the same manner as the fox's fur you can achieve a softer finish (fig. 4).


For the little girl's skin tone I mix Titanium White with Red Gold Lake and Raw Umber.  Small amounts of Alizarin Crimson are added to the cheeks and lips.  For the finer details, like the lace trim on her dress, Titanium white is thinned using Gamblin's Solvent-Free Fluid.  Her hair is painted using Raw umber as a base.  For warmer highlights, I mix Titanium White with Red Gold Lake to warm them.  


"Renard and the Strawberries", 12x16, oil on board

"Renard and the Strawberries", 12x16, oil on board

Lastly, I add a unifying glaze with a very thin amount of medium and subtle warm tones. And now we are finished! From start to finish the whole process has taken about three and a half weeks of work.  

This painting, along with 8 others will be appearing in our book, The Other Side of the Mirror, later this year at Gallery Nucleus. Please check back in over the next few months as we release more demos and preview work! You can see some working steps of the other images in the series as we create them here.


Miniature painting demo

Hey guys!  Justin and I are working on a series of mini paintings of Dryads and Satyrs.  My first painting in the series is Morea, the dryad of the mulberry tree. I thought I would document the process as I went along.

Step 1:  The drawing

After deciding on a thumbnail I like, I transfer it to Strathmore series 500 paper by shading the backside of the thumbnail paper and tracing over it with a sharp pencil. The lines will be transferred to your new paper using this "carbon copy" technique.


I like to use the Prismacolor col-erase brown pencils to create the final drawing.  In this case, the drawing is going to act as the underpainting for the image.  Normally I would use paint for this stage but because this image is only 2.5x3 inches, pencil seems more appropriate.  I pay attention to the overall lighting of the piece during this step to make the painting process run more smoothly.

When the drawing is complete, I seal it using golden matte medium.  This protects the paper from the oil that is going to be applied in subsequent steps, ensuring that the painting is archival.   Be sure the matte medium is 100% dry before you start adding oil.

STEP 2:  Blocking in color

Once a palette is determined, rough colors are applied in light layers.  I like to keep the pencil lines visible to act as a guide as I build color.  After this step, I set the painting aside to dry. 

STEP 3: Glazing

Using walnut oil alkyd, I mix hansa yellow and alizarin crimson to make a golden orangey hue.  I apply this to the surface of the painting.  Remember to observe fat over lean.  If you use too much oil, it will bead up on the surface. 

This step unifies the lighting in your piece.  I am going to repeat this step many times before the piece is completed.

STEP 4:  Detailing

While the surface of the painting is still wet from the previous glaze, I like to add a detail layer. Using a fine tipped brush and mostly titanium white paint, I can add in the highlights.


When detailing my image, I like to use one sharp tipped brush (Pointed Round 3×0) and one older brush that is a little frayed (Angled shader 1/8")  After the sharp details are added with the fine tipped brush, I can go back soften them by dabbing them with the frayed brush.  In the example above, you can see what the strands of hair look like before they are softened.



So typically for a piece like this, I will do steps three, four, maybe even a dozen times.  It is crucial to make sure the painting is dry each time you cycle through these two steps.  When you glaze the piece, your highlights will become diminished, but don't panic!  Just paint them back in during the detail stage.  This allows the painting to gradually build dimension and vibrant color.

STEP 5: Presentation

For this image, I have chosen a vintage early 1900s solid brass filagree Italian frame.  I have been collecting these tiny frames, and have a little stockpile built up that we will be using for all of the paintings in this series.