Techniques: Intermediate

For the absolute beginners, please check out this video for a more in depth introduction of my “3x3x3” painting technique that cover basic drawing, color mixing, and value blocking.



In this post, I’d like to introduce a more challenging technique that can produce pretty much the same result as my “3x3x3” method. However, this method requires the artist to activate more cerebral power since he/she has to draw, judge colors/values, and perform edges control at the same time. It is more suitable for painting from life since the artist only need to concentrate to paint one section of the figure at a times. During live painting, models usually move and their poses tend to drift as time goes. The initial drawing/block-in result produced during the first sitting begin to lose its accuracy during subsequent sittings. Attempts to adjust your drawings/values usually end up producing mud (unless you have complete control of the model and make him/her pose to fit the painted result from the previous sittings OR already have the next level of skill).

I still make 3 piles of paint values as if I’m preparing for the value blocking in the “3x3x3” beginer technique. However, I will need to attempt to mix the correct values before I put down any stroke. I pay close attention to the drawing as I paint. Over the last 1 year, I’ve tried to paint more in the positive shape (meaning painting only the figure and leave the background alone). This practice train my eyes and brain to avoid and recognize inaccuracies very quickly.




Picture 1: establish proportion, chose your value


Picture 1 (above): You must select a point of start and the correct proportion of your subject prior to paint since everything you paint later will directly relate to this decision. Painting with SHAPES and not lines is evident in this picture. Her right arm and breast are melted together and painted as one shape. They are separated later only after the overall proportion deem corrected. I’d like to establish the structure that is the least likely to be altered during the first sitting (even if the model moves, it is easier to correct).  In this case, they are the breast & shoulders.  If you look closely, there are more than 3 values established here. However, the extra values tone are simply the combination of the original 3 piles of paint that I’ve mixed.


Picture 2: establish more shapes


Picture 2 (above): Continue to built shapes in a top-down fashsion. By triangulate the darker shapes (darker spots at left arm pit, right thigh, and calf muscle) I now roughly establish the important land marks of the right leg.


Picture 3: develop lower limbs


Picture 3 (above): same principle as above. Now with more shapes and a better established proportion, I know that the anatomy of the figure will soon emerge. It is now just a matter of push/pull the edges. I also pay close attention to the original value and adjust the intensity as I go. I now began to play with color temperature to better define and improve the 3-D quality of the figure.


Picture 4


Picture 5


Picture 6


Picture 4-5-6 (above): continue to work and establish the final structures of the figure using the same principal (feet, legs, and fingers)


Picture 7: working on hands

Picture 7: (above): spending some time perfecting the correct proportion of the fingers of both hands

Figure 8: working on head/face

Figure 8: working on head/face

Picture 8 (above): Reworking on the head proportion and establish the impression of a face. I placed the signature as part of the painting (if it’s not working or interupting with the light passage, I’ll just remove it, placed it somewhere else, or simply not sign it).

NMA nude #51, oil on board 8x10

NMA nude #51, oil on board 8×10

Picture 9 (above): Only think about the highlights at the end. Some edges need to melt together, blurred, or sharpened depend on your perception (Cast your eyes away to the background for 1 minutes and then look at the object again (repeat as needed), you will know which edges need to be melted, blurred, or sharpened to create that “first” impression look).  In this stage, the right shin and left arm are fused together creating the wholeness feel of the entire structures.  Same things happened to other small area.  This is your inner artist at work and cannot be taught.

After 2.5 hours, I think it now can be called a “successful study”. As long as you don’t paint objects that are larger than life, the size of your painting is irrelevant. I employ the same process to paint bigger picture. The only difference is the size of my brushes. This entire painting is done with just one #2 flat brush.

Thank you for reading. I hope it help…And happy painting

Please come back for more update. Befriend me on Facebook (Khanh N. Huynh) for more frequent postings of my daily work. Visit my studio sometime (available time will be announced on FB)

Khanh N. Huynh, MD

(May 2015)

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