Umber and white underpainting demonstration

An underpainting is definitely a part of the beginning of creating a painting. However, it’s not the very beginning. If you’d like to begin all your painting with confidence instead of confusion, check out the “How to begin?” course

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Below is a short demonstration I made for you.

I paint from a photograph and you’ll see how I go about creating an underpainting. I use just 2 colors of paint. Well, actually 3 because if you notice, my canvas is a color. It’s not white.

An underpainting is something you should definitely consider using and learning about as it will make the process of painting so much easier for you when you understand how to use them.

Note: If you would like to go further with your oil painting instruction and are searching for a way to end your confusion when you begin your paintings, I recommend checking out my new course “How to begin?” Learn more now

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Before and After Oil Painting Pictures

Before and after pics are one of the best ways to show that something works, correct? Well let me show you an example for my own paintings.



The picture on the left is how I would paint when I had no plan, and just used trial and error. I did not know the oil painting process. I would begin always wondering if I was doing “it” correctly. Then I had no idea what to do next. The whole painting was made in a state of doubt and I would basically hope for the best.

Unfortunately the before pic represents a pattern not many students escape from.

I’m not sure where the idea came from, but this idea that a student is supposed to trudge along in frustration and trial and error is…frankly, ridiculous.

Do you think Rembrandt learned this way? Seriously?

Now, I will never tell anyone I will turn you into the next Rembrandt…or Rubens, or Monet, Sargent, Gainsborough, or any other master you care to mention

The picture on the right is how I paint, after I have learned the oil painting process. When I had a set procedure to follow. The same procedure that is available for you here.

Below you’ll see screenshots from just some of the many instructional videos inside my 7 Video Series of oil painting instruction.

They are from the online version of the program where you just choose the video you want to watch and click.

And although I never try to bullshit you and say something like “buy my course and become the next Rembrandt” I will say I try to provide easy to follow and understand instructions so you can begin improving and seeing results immediately, not years or even months from now. That would lead to frustration and you not sticking with it. The faster you see results, the faster you know that you really can paint the way you always wanted to.

Click here to start learning today with oil painting formula either the DVD version or Online version

Unless your satisfied with making paintings like in the “before” pic at the top.


Ethan Semmel

The process of oil painting – part 2

This is a continuation of the article, how was that oil painting made part 1. I was in the middle of showing you the overall process of oil painting using a portrait by John Singer Sargent. This may be general, but up to this point, the same processes are repeated only more carefully. Edges are not left as diffused and become more finalized. Small drawing corrections are made and the features of the girl and the dog features begin to get indicated. Take not that I did not say finished, they are only indicated here. The main areas of light and shadow are more established, like on the red sash and the shadow area on the girl’s face. Read More
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Oil painting process – how was that painting made?

Many people look at complete paintings and want to know…”How was that done?” What was the oil painting process? What did the painting look like when it was being made?”

I will provide an answer, at least a general answer, to that question here.

Let’s take a John Singer Sargent painting  as an example.

Please remember, this reconstruction is not done so you can re-create only this painting, which unfortunately is something that is done too much these days. This re-creation is made to help you understand the process of oil painting, period.

oil painting processNot the oil painting process to paint a fir tree or a snow capped mountain, but traditional painting, whatever the subject matter.

The exact same process would be used if Sargent were painting an apple or flowers.

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I have seen many “reconstructions” that are made so you can follow along and just paint that 1 picture. That sounds like a project my 5 year old brings home from art class in school. If you want to do that, I suggest getting a “paint by numbers set.”


Let me just say one thing first. Nobody ever can be 100% sure about how a painting was completed. I’m sure you understand that. But, through study and experience you can get really a good idea about how a painting was made just from looking at it and recalling your experience with paint.

The blank canvas would have been primed with white oil paint. This was done to convey a light feeling through the layers of paint that would follow.

It is a good idea to start with a very light priming if you are doing an impressionistic outdoor scene. This helps to add light to the painting  The bright white ground will shine through the layers of paint that are put over it. Painting on a bright white ground also helps the painting age well.

So, in 100 years, your painting won’t turn as dark and sink into the canvas. So it helps preserve your painting long after you are gone (if you care about that sort of thing.)

The initial drawing was made on the canvas with either charcoal or directly with some dark lines of paint.

The drawing stage was more for placement than making a finished drawing. He would keep everything loose in case he wanted to make any changes. Perhaps the areas which would eventually be black or dark would be indicated as well. But at this stage, placement was first and foremost in his mind. Not color, not the girl’s face, not the exact shape of anything…but placement on the canvas.

He was not thinking about drawing in the sense of a finished work of art that you just fill in, in one layer. Simply establishing a nice composition on the canvas was the important thing.

You can see this beginning looks almost like the drawing of a child.

That is fine, he was just building his foundation for what is to come next.

In using the word foundation, it probably will help you to think of a house and it’s foundation. When a house is being built, the foundation looks nothing like a completed house. The frame of the house goes on this foundation and it looks like a skeleton. The same happens with oil

When Sargent was satisfied with the composition it would be time to mass in (or lay-in) the painting.

The colors were mixed to the general overall tone of the masses such as the brown of the girl’s hair and the red of her sash and chain.

A general massing of color takes place in this stage. Details are not thought about yet. They will come later in the painting process.

Just like in building a house…you must put up a wall before you can put in a window. You have to put up the frame before you can put on the siding or bricks.

A general flesh color was established, and perhaps two flesh colors for the main areas of light and shadow. These were laid in on the girl’s face. As you can see, not much attention to detail at all in this stage.

As Sargent said, features like the eyes and mouth should be “drawn in” at the end. Edges are kept soft on purpose — they are a detail as well.

The process of massing in the main areas of color is now revised.

Now, this is only a beginning, as there is only so much I can fit here.

My 7 Parts Video Series covers the entire process in great detail by pulling back the curtain for you as far as techniques, processes, and all those secrets you want to know.

It’s the newest way of teaching old solid oil painting principles

— Ethan Semmel

Van Dyck painting of self portrait and a sunflower

How to oil paint – draw and apply color

The most common way of modern painting has painters drawing directly with their brush in color. The artist that I immediately think of that explains it best is John Singer Sargent. When this method of painting is followed, color is thought about right away and drawing and color are not separated at all. In my 25 years plus of study, I have found that this is a radical change from how paintings used to be made.

How Were Old Master Paintings Created?

A painting used to be constructed, in general in the following way...so yes...here it is...the secret method of the old masters... Read More
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