February 19, 2022

Shelby Brothers (Painting Process)

Oil on Paper


In this post I just wanted to go into a little more detail about my process with some step by step images of this recent painting, I suppose it’s more of a character study, of the 3 Shelby brothers from Peaky Blinders. 

Using a blue coloured pencil to begin with I’m just roughing in and finding the structure of the head. A colour pencil is good for this because it doesn’t smudge much on the paper and a softer colour doesn’t really feel like your final lines. With the drawing I think it’s good to start quite rough and tighten as you go. Structure is the most important thing here.

Then I’ll go in and make a tighter line drawing with 2H graphite pencil, I used a mechanical one in this case. 2H is also pretty light and non smudgey.  Once the pencils feels fairly tight and the characters are looking like they have some resemblance I’m ready to get into paint. I like the linework to feel pretty accurate but also like I can continue to improve the likeness in the coming stages. With this process of several passes in different media I find you can improve upon the image with each pass.

At this point I Gesso the paper. I’m working in an A4 sketchbook with 150gsm Cartridge Paper so the double page opens out to A3 and apply 2 or three thin layers of watered down Gesso. This seals the pencils in but it’s still dark enough to see when working on the paint. 

For the underpainting I’m using only Burnt Umber Oil paint thinned down a lot with medium. I’m using Zest It as it’s a nice healthy alternative to turps or white spirit and allows thin watery washes. It smells really good too! It’s a lot like doing an ink or watercolour at this stage and I’m just trying to lock in the basic structure of lights and darks. I build up lots of these thin washes and work up the tones. Eventually the paint starts to get a little thicker and more opaque and I’ll start mixing some Titanium White into the mix for highlights or maybe darken the Burnt Umber with a little Ultramarine Blue or Paynes Grey

Once the underpainting is dry it’s time to move into colour. I’ll start by glazing transparently over the underpainting and build up to using thicker paint with much less medium in other areas. I do most of my Oil Painting with Rosemary an Co. Evergreen Filberts or Flats sizes 1-4 with some tighter details using a small Pointed Round. These are a good Synthetic but natural hair feeling brush with a nice spring.

I go back in to some of the smaller details and tighten certain things up with coloured pencils once a passage is dry. It’s a long road then of rendering and pushing paint about until I feel like it’s done.

Hope this is useful information to someone out there and happy to answer any questions. I think these are turning out ok, of course I am over scrutinising the likenesses right now and still think I can push them further before calling totally finished. but overall I am really enjoying working with oils again  Thanks for checking this out!

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