Animal Painting Tips and Techniques

How to Paint a Cat Portrait in Oil Using The Classical Painting Technique by Michael Bevia

In this blog post I show how to paint a cat portrait using the classical approach to oil painting. I’ll go through each step of the classical style process, including the underpainting, the blocking in of color and final touches.

Creamed colored imprimatura

Step 1.

I applied a light cream-colored imprimatura consisting of chalk (calcium carbonate), lead white, dark ochre and red ochre to the canvas. The imprimatura was semitranslucent and applied thinly with a little turpentine. This light colored imprimatura was very popular throughout history, specially during the 17th century.

sketch drawing and underpainting

Step 2.

Once the imprimatura was completely dry, I sketched in the cat portrait using a brush with brown ochre and red ochre. I then created a sense of light and shadow with the same colors for the underpainting layer.

Color block-in

Step 3.

After the underpainting was dry, I blocked in the color. In this step I was looking for a sense of color harmony and unity. I always let some underpainting show through the colored layers and leave gaps between some colors so the warm underpainting shows through.

softening edges

Step 4.

Once I felt the colors were harmonizing with each other, I started to work on my edges. Softening and blending wet-into-wet to create the illusion of form through more smoothly blended effects of modeling.  I also deepened some shadows and brought in some highlights.

After this work dries, I will apply further glazes and scumbles to finish the cat’s fur and whiskers! I hope this quick tutorial was helpful. You can check out a timelapse video of this painting on my youtube channel Here!

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