PA Richard Holland leads us down the magical path of painting with Oil's

Richard is an accomplished professional artist based in Tansley near Matlock in the stunning Derbyshire Dales, specialising in both oil and watercolour landscape paintings.   His gallery shows portraits, landscapes, waterfalls, abstractions from nature and still life paintings, and much much more...

To find out more about Richard, visit his website:

Over to Richard...
The image that I have worked on in this painting, is a path between Tanlsey and Lea in Derbyshire.

Materials used in this tutorial
I have worked  on a Large canvas 20 x 45 inches, and I have used a set of four or five different size flat synthetic oil or acrylic brushes + small rounds for details.

Sansodor was used as a thinner

All Winsor and Newton (Winton colours)

Under painting tonal colours
Burnt Sienna
French Ultramarine
Titanium White
Cadmium Yellow
Lemon Yellow
Naples Yellow
Raw Sienna
Cadmium Orange
Cadmium Red
Alizarin Crimson
Prussian blue
Cobalt Blue
Cerulean Blue
Dioxazine Purple
Green Gold

Hints and Tips used when developing my subject matter and source materials

I sketch thumbnail sketches all the time, sometimes one would catch my eye and I would need to develop this further. A sketch book is just as important as a camera when looking for inspiration.

When sketching, use a pilot pen rather than pencil, what you capture is more instantaneous, rather than spending time rubbing out pencil marks making sure its perfect.

Try to work from a location you are familiar with, preferably local so you able to re visit the location if you need more information.

Capturing the essence of a composition is important without spending large amounts of time working up an oil painting on location. I would usually do a quick watercolour sketch to capture this and use it as a primary source for my final work.

Work large on your final output, it so much easier in oil to convey a scene on a large canvas allowing more purposeful brush stokes to define what I am after.

Subject matter to be covered:

Being led into a painting using distance a perspective to achieve this
In this painting i need to capture distance to allow the viewer to feel as if their walking into the painting. Many of my landscape paintings are of very local scenes to where I live, this allowing me to pick and choose the best time to paint it.

I would generally decide on a picture to paint based on an initial sketch then if drawing works I would then follow this up with a watercolour sketch on location to work from when creating the final full size oil.

The painting I am demonstrating came about on a sunny but chilly walk last November in a little bit of frost, the light falling across the path give extremes of light and shade with a nice range of russets gold’s and bronze leaves in the trees, but still also having much of the branch structure showing.

Step one

I will start of by gridding up the canvas in my case I usually grid 5 x 7 squares and apply a detailed drawing with a B8 pencil using a watercolour sketch and photographs for information. When doing this I will add a reasonable amount of detail, but mainly making sure all the rules of perspective are followed.

Step two

Under paint the sky
My first application of oil paint will be a tonal application using three colours, Burnt Sienna, French Ultramarine and White.

I will start by mixing a range of tones from light to dark (see chart bellow for reference) and a range of blues with white mixes for the sky. We will then start to apply a lean (using thinner) coat of blue in the sky, whitening it as it gets closer to the horizon mixing on the pallet before applying.

Step Three

Under paint the bottom half of the picture
Tonally painting the rest of the painting consider all the shadows highlights, mid tones and everything in between, start to cover the canvas using the brush stoke to define shapes i.e. stones within the wall, the contours of the path and any vegetation along side the path etc.

When applying oil paint the terminology used is painting fat over lean, fat referring to the layering an application of  neat paint once the under paint is done, lean referring to the application of the under paint itself.  When applying a lean layer of paint make sure you apply this with thinner (not to much to make it watery, but not to little to be painting it almost neat to the canvas.

Step four

Under paint the main tree structure
We will then concentrate on the tree structure, but at this stage only apply the main trunks and branches tonally.

This is to allow us the then reapply the true colour of the sky without loosing the trees altogether. Make sure tonally you have the highlights and shadows correct to give the tree its depth and structure, and then leave to properly dry.

When apply a layer of paint to the canvas I use a range of flat and round ended brush of different sizes to achieve the desired object shapes, also to stop contamination of tones when applying.

Step five

Paint the sky in its true colours
We will now start to apply the true colours on the second layer of our painting, (making sure we don’t totally cover the under painting colours), thus starting to achieve depth.

Starting with the sky, I will mix French Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue, White and a tiny bit of Raw Sienna. Starting of at the top of the painting i will apply a darker tone of the blue slowly blending it until I reach the horizon line, there the sky will be a lot lighter and a tiny bit greyer with the use of Raw Sienna.

Make sure you’re happy with the sky before proceeding any further.

Step six

Start to apply the true colours to the rest of the painting
At this stage I will use a watercolour sketch created at the same time as I did my initial sketch on location as source material, only using photographs as back up reference.

We will start to consider the shadow colours and the mid tones don’t look at any of the highlights at this stage as they will be added on successive layers once the layer that we are working on is dry. Use a full pallet of colours as specified in the equipment needed, and start to apply the paint neat with very little or no thinner. Brush stoke is highly important as this will define all that we do from now on.

I would generally start at the back of my painting looking at the distant trees in the distance. With all of this information being in distance the colours used will be a lot lighter with a small application of blue to the range of greens oranges and purples that I have mixed, using them to achieve areal perspective in the painting (using colour to achieve distance).

With the blue being used within my colour mixes to try to add a few warmer tones to balance this out within the background.

Make sure you happy with the distant trees before you start to work over them with the foreground tree details.

Step seven

Applying colour to the tree trunks
I will the start applying the trees and branches using progressively smaller brushes to achieve the detailed branch work.

At this stage I would screw my eyes up and look for the darkest colours I see within the trees and paint them following the shape of the tree and branch in real life. The colours I use at this stage would be olive green mixes, grey mixes, burnt umber and sienna. I will add warmer tones for highlights in stage nine.

Step eight

Looking at applying colour to the walls and path
I would then apply the same techniques to now paint the walls and path, as with the trees looking for the darker tones initially.

As we move of into the distance the colours used will start to get a lot lighter using the same rules as the trees on the horizon, but not making them as light. Keep the detail in these areas loose to let the viewer of your picture interpret them as they will.

The wall colours are mainly tones of grey mixed by using blue, red, and yellow and raw sienna and then adding white; add extra yellow or red to change the tones of grey. I always use shades of Blue Purple and Blue Mauve for my shadow along with hints of the colour its covering.

Brush stokes is key to the walls and path looking correct making sure you follow the contours of the path horizontally and the stonework in the wall as would look. I would then expand on the base Burnt Sienna for the leaf work with oranges, reds, Venetian Reds

Step nine

Adding lighter colours and highlight over progressive layers
Once all of this has properly dried we start to apply the next couple of layers of paint picking out the lighter areas of out painting such as the leaf work in the trees, grasses work on the walls and path as well as making the sunny area more vibrant. Make sure these colours allow some of the colours beneath to show through.

Knock them back by dabbing with paper over the colours if need be. When applying the final colour make sure a wide range of warmer tones such as orange, green gold, reds, etc to punctuate the cooler blue-greens, greys and purples.

Finally once dry again keep applying the highlights using neat paint until you are happy with the final result.

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