How-to: Black & White, Still-Life Oil Painting

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Painting black and white still life oil images always requires you to keep a few very important things in mind. Learn about black and white still life oil paintings with help from a graduate of the Maine College of Art in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Painting Techniques
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Video Transcript

Hi, my name is Abbeth Russell. I'm an artist out of Portland, Maine, and I'm going to show you how to make a black and white still life oil painting. So, my subject today is this black mug here, and I have some black and white paint paint already squeezed out onto my palette. You're going to start out with your white, and take a blob of what, put it over here on your palette and add just a tiny bit of black, to make a really light grey. You're going to use your grey to just sort of sketch out the general shape of your still life object. Don't worry about getting it perfect right away - the nice thing about oil paint is that it allows for mistakes. Be sure... when you're painting still life, you want to include some of the background in the painting. You don't just want a mug floating in nothingness, so I'm just kind of sketching in the table a little bit, and I'm going to take some more white, because I've got a white table here. Painting is just a kind of slow process of building up your image. And I'm going to take some darker grey to add in the background behind the mug. The other nice thing about paint is that, even if you're painting something somewhat realistic, you can kind of cheat, and change what you're seeing. So, I've decided that I want my background behind the table to be darker than the mug itself, so I'm going to turn this black mug into a kind of dark grey mug. So, once you've sketched in the basic shape of your still life, you can take a smaller brush and go back in with some more solid details. So I'm starting to add in some of the areas of lights and darks that I'm seeing on the mug. A little bit of a shadow down on the table. And with oil paint, since it stays wet for a while, you can really blend your colors together. And you want to be thinking about using a full range of the grey scale, so make sure you get all your darkest blacks and your lightest whites, and also all those amazing in-between tones that you get with grey. And I'm just using progressively smaller brushes to add more and more refined details into my still life. So, now I'm going to go for a really tiny little brush to add some reflections that I see onto the mug. It's actually the reflection of my paper that I'm seeing. And don't be afraid to let your paint get really thick, especially when you're adding some white highlights. My name is Abbeth, and I just showed you how to create a black and white still life with oil paint.


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