Chester: A Demonstration

As many of may know, I really enjoy painting cattle and other farm animals.  They have a simple, unassuming manner to them that I really find attractive.  I found this bull on a recent trip to the wine country of Sonoma Valley.  I have included a number of photographs to give you a general idea of what my approach is for one of these cattle portraits.

Diagram 1: The painting is a 24 x 22 and I’ll be working from a studio study that I completed a couple of weeks ago. I begin each piece with a general drawing of the important shapes and features of the cattle just to get an idea of where everything finds itself on the canvas.   I then begin to block in all the shadows in the piece using a mix of darker warm and cools.  Most of my values at this point are what I consider my darkest darks in any given area. I’ll lighten up these areas as the painting continues to move forward.

Diagram 1














Diagram 2: In this stage you can see that most, if not all, of the shadow areas are blocked in.  Again, notice the combinations of warms and cools in the the colors.  This stage is still very rough and is designed to simply tell me how the balance of light and shadow are working together.  How are my shadows? are they too dark? Too cool? too Warm? In this stage I’m working very quickly to get everything blocked in without getting bogged down in any details.

Diagram 2














Diagram 3:  In this stage I lay in the background.  In this case I’m using a dark steely blue which compliments the colors in the cattle it self.  The value is very close to the value of the lower part of the cattle and lightens and gets slightly cooler as it gets closer to the top. I also start painting the light on the cattle.  It’s hard to see in the photo but I’m using combinations of cools and warms that are of the same value to create the light.  The same is true of those areas in shadow. The play of warm and cool colors that are very close in value is key in good picture making.

Diagram 3














Diagram 4:  In this stage I’m continuing to lay in the light and I’m also starting the lighten up the shadows and adding more reflected light, especially in the shadows of the face.  Notice how cool the shadows have become. I’ll continue this process of refining colors and values until the painting is finished. I’ll also be softening edges through out the painting, you may notice this on the final piece seen in diagram 5

Diagram 4














Diagram 5:  Here’s the final piece.

Diagram 5: Chester, 24 x 22














Diagram 6:  Here’s a shot of the set-up including the study I used to complete the larger painting of Chester.

Diagram 6: Studio Set-Up












It’s difficult to capture every step required to create a painting in this blog format, let me know if you have any questions regarding my process that I may not have shared in this post.  I’ll do my very best to answer any questions you might have.

I’ll be starting a series of monthly in-studio demonstrations starting November 28th, 2012. (Yes, tomorrow)  If you’re interested in attending these demonstrations just sign up for my newsletter which will contain monthly dates for each of the demonstration.
I hope to see you.


8 thoughts on “Chester: A Demonstration

  1. Hello Kevin,
    Lovely demonstration, however… An artist friend and I once had an argument as to which color is cooler or warmer- Ultramarine, or Thalo blue. One could argue that Ultramarine is warmer because it contains red. One could also argue that Thalo is warmer because it contains yellow. My point is that in your demo you never mention what specific colors you used to produce a specific warm or cool. I think it would be helpful in the future if you mentioned specific color mixtures since a color’s warmth or coolness depend in large part upon the color that surround it. As you well know one can produce a chromatically bright painting by utilizing a simple earth color palette… it’s all relative. And then there’s the problem of monitor display- I’ve taken photos of my paintings where I painted an Ultramarine sky and it came out looking like a Thalo.
    I notice that you worked on a stained background. It would interest me to know what color you used and whether the stain was wet or dry when you started the painting. I’m new to your blog so I’m not familiar with your working technique or your palette colors. I think that would be worth a mention to anyone new to your blog. Do you have any of this information in your archive?
    I’d love to attend one of your demos. Could you let me know what town you live in so that I can gauge my driving time?
    Also, could you give me the address of whoever does your framing?
    Thanks in advance.
    Val Chapko

    • Valdimir,

      Thanks for your comments.

      While I won’t get Into the exact mixtures of paint creat the colors I used to create this image, I can tell you that I use both Ultramarine as well as Winsor Blue on my palette. Getting into the kind of detail you’re requesting will not be something I do here on my blog. I try to keep my posts simple. The kind of detail you’re talking about belongs in a book.

      With regards to the stained canvas, I don’t use the same wash all of the time but I generally use a wash consisting of a transparent golden green and a transparent burnt sienna sometime grated down with a neutral gray. The stain for this articulate painting was dry.

      I have talked about my palette in the past and you can find that in the archive.

      My demos are held in Mountain View, Ca. The information is on my website at

      Cheers, Kevin

      • Thanks for your reply; quite frankley I don’t know how you find the time. I’ve not heard of “Transparent Golden Green”. I thought you used a Sap green.

        Would you kindly give me the address of your framer?

        Thank you once again, Val Chapko

      • Golden green is a transparent acrylic that I use for staining the canvas.

        Many of he frames I make myself. The one vendor I use most often for finished frames is

      • Once again thanks for the reply, Kevin. So you pump out paintings, write a full time interactive blog, and make your own frames? I’m Impressed; you must be some kind of superman. I once almost gave up painting out of frustration because a decent frame cost more than what I could charge for my painting. Can you recommend any books on framing?

        When I execute an acrylic stain I generally use a wet sponge wipe off method. I spray my canvas liberally with water and then use a damp sponge to wipe off the excess. I’ll dilute my acrylic pigment with satin medium and a lot of water and a dash of flow aid. Next I paint the whole canvas liberally with the pigment. I’ll then use a large damp sponge and begin to wipe off the paint film from left to right and/or top to bottom. I do this over an over agin until I get an even tone. When the sponge becomes saturated with pigment and I want a lighter tone I turn the sponge over and use a fresh edge. This will take off more pigment and by continually wiping back and forth that edge becomes saturated leaving a lovely, even, transluscent tone. Quite beautiful to paint on; you almost don’t want to cover it up. My favorite color is Mars Orange.

        Val Chapko

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