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Painting "Jane"

  • A beginner’s tutorial in figurative oil painting 

This Painting is inspired by a photograph of Jane Birkin , The british  “it” girl of the seventies. An actress/Musician ,You may know her through her collaboration with (then) partner ,french musician Serge Gainsbourg in films and music such as the infamous “Je t’aime moi non plus" song and later on movie version .The title was inspired by a Salvador Dalí comment: "Picasso is Spanish, me too. Picasso is a genius, me too. Picasso is a communist, me neither"

Jane’s effortless sense of style made big fashion houses keep an eye on her . You might have heard of the “Birkin” bag by Hermes inspired from a basket she used to carry around as a purse? 

Now let’s Dive in!

First step , Prepare your canvas:

I picked a gallery wrapped 24 x18” canvas , the better quality the smoother the surface and easier the details application.

I gave it a light stain of Raw Sienna diluted with Turpentine . This base “under layer “ makes the white pop when applied later on.


Sketch the outline as outline forms . I like to leave the details for the painting stage and not focus on hiding the pencil lines later on.


While this layer dries , start mixing the flesh tones .

The target is to create a group of middle tones (not too light ,not too dark ) .

I like to keep a printed image on card stock paper of the painting I am working on . That makes color matching much easier.

The colors I used here were : Titanium white , Yellow Ochre , Medium yellow , Rose Madar , cadmium red ,Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umbre.


Getting to the right combo is all about experimenting with values and quantities. 

Start mixing the middle groups (yellows and Reds ) adding white on one side , blues and browns on the other side . Give yourself space and experiment while mixing with a knife . 

When you reach the right middle tone , make a good batch! 

I start applying the middle tones and highlights first then shaded parts.My prefered brush is a straight number 4 . I blend the flesh with a fan brush to give a 

smooth texture and remove brush strokes .


I avoid using black in my paintings (specially figurative ) , instead I mix Burnt umber and blue ultramarine . If you want your shades/ darker areas more grey , add blue. If you want it more red , add brown.

For the fabric , it’s a mixture of blue ,brown and white . to create the illusion of the transparency I add a little of the midtone flesh tones to the areas I want the fabric to seem transparent.

I also blend with the fan brush to give the smooth texture effect.

For the best results , Be honest with what you see. Don’t twist things around to fit what you “think” it should be”

There is no Right or wrong way of painting .It’s a creative process following different path every time brings out endless results.

So don’t consider this a blueprint, it’s merely a suggestion!


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