Supplies needed:


-Burnt umber paint

-Titanium white paint

-Ultramarine paint

-#12 flat or bright brush

-Two sheets of 18” x 24” gesso-covered paper.

Objective: To create two grayscale, abstract studies with visually interesting compositions that each employ black (which will be mixed from umber and blue), white and four gray values.

This assignment is designed as an introduction to painting materials and basic painting techniques.  It is also designed to help you gain confidence using a large brush and to introduce the importance of keeping brushstrokes loose, especially in the early stages of a painting.  

Process:  As demonstrated in class and on the video tutorial below, mix a large batch black paint, using ultramarine with burnt umber to create black. Use this batch of paint to create four grays that range from light to dark on the value scale.  Mixing all of the grays from the initial batch of black will keep the color consistent as white is added to create the four values.  Mix the black and four gray values prior to beginning the painting.  

For the first few layers of the painting, avoid white and add Gamsol to the black to create lighter values.  The Gamsol acts as a thinning agent in much the same way water does in the watercolor painting process.  In order to ensure the stability of the painting (it does not crack as it dries) oil painters typically follow the “fat over lean” rule.  This means that early layers of the painting are thinned with Gamsol, making them lean and a medium such as linseed oil is added to upper layers, making them more fat.

Consider composition carefully.  The focal point (area of primary emphasis) should be placed off-center.  Let marks go off the page.  Vary the scale of the shapes used in your composition.

Direct painting methods involve working wet into wet with the oil paint.  This takes practice.  Getting in the habit of wiping your brush with a rag after almost every stroke keeps your color crisp and clear.  Plan to spend no more than two hours on each painting.


Are the brushstrokes controlled, but loose and interesting?  Be careful that brushstrokes do not get overworked and blended to the point that they all disappear.  

Is the composition of each painting thoughtfully composed with an identifiable focal point?

Does each painting employ four distinguishable grays (varied from light to dark in value) and black and white?

Video Tutorial, Mixing Basic Gray:


Student Work Examples:


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