Materials · Northern Neck Artisan Trail · oil painting · Reference Photos · Sketch · Step-by-step · Technique

Ox Cart Man Day 1 & 2 & 3

Thought you might like to see my next Williamsburg painting as it unfolds rather than wait until the very end. So to that end, here are photos of steps in the progression.

On the first day, I just worked on getting my composition the way I wanted it and began transferring the basic lines of the subject onto the canvas. Actually, to back up, I stretched the canvas and stained it the day before, so these photos are actually Days 2, 3 & 4, but unless someone tells me they want to see photos of stretching and staining, we will call this 1, 2 & 3 in which I’m actually focused on the work.

Okay, starting with the reference photo which I took on a very sunny November day in Williamsburg, VA. I have several photos of this fellow leading the ox cart, but this one appealed to me the best and included most of the man. What is unclear from this photo is that there are actually two oxen and I decided to leave out of the painting the little odd bits of the second ox. What is also a little weird in the photo is that I used Photoshop to plaster in a bit more space above the driver’s head and it did a weird thing to the top of his hat and switch. I also used Photoshop to dodge out a bit of his face so I could see his eyes a little better.

In deciding what to do with the composition, I knew I wanted the man’s right eye to be close to a focal point and I also wanted the ox’s eye to be close or on a focal point. My go to 1/3rd or 1/5th layout wasn’t going to work for this so I went back to classical painting and chose a different compositional tool. The tick mark on the upright center line and the smudge on the cross mark on the bottom horizontal line picked out where I wanted the eyes to fall. In case anyone is wondering, I stained this surface (oil primed linen canvas) with a mix of all the left over paint from my last painting plus a dab of burnt sienna to make it stretch far enough. The lines are drawn on with a yardstick in charcoal and lightly sprayed with a fixative to hold them in place.

As this was a complex image, I decided first to try and trace and transfer. For some reason, this did not work for me this time and I ended up simply drawing with charcoal as best I could. And this is as far as I got for Day 1.

On Day 2, I used my red plastic view finder to identify the values.

And I blocked them in with burnt sienna completing the first layer. I used heavily diluted paint in Odorless Mineral Spirits for this.

Day 3 I got the first layer of color. This was also thinned with OMS, but not as much as when I did the block in the day before. After this, the OMS jar was closed and put away. I use one brush for each color family at this point and just wipe off between uses and clean them all at the end of the day. I really liked the lavender in his coat, but realized at the end that I had two different versions with more Quinacrine Magenta on the top and more Ultramarine on the bottom.

So here is where I left it on Day 3. I’ll post Days 4 and 5 tomorrow.

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