The Making of “The Violinist from Venice” – Oil Painting Workshop


Here is the creation process for the painting “The Violinist from Venice”, which was done live at my oil painting workshop/class that I teach every Wednesday at Jerry’s Artarama in Tempe, near Phoenix.

Here is the finished painting:

The-Violinist-from-Venice - original oil painting by artist Christopher Clark

We start with a value study done in charcoal. This is a crucial stage in the painting process that many artists ignore. Sometimes they feel that they’re painters, not drawers, so they jump right to paint. Which is fine if you’re a master painter, and you can figure out your drawing and values at the same time as everything else. Or if you’re just pressed for time (like when painting en plein air, and you’re chasing the changing light of the day). But many artists don’t realize that drawing and painting are THE SAME THING, you just use different mediums for different occasions. Drawing means “construction”, and every painting has a drawing within it. Doing this sketch stage is guaranteed to save you hours of agonizing time correcting a painting when you’re halfway through it or further. Doing a 10-30 minute sketch (or two of them) will save you so much torturous time later.

charcoal-copy - oil painting class workshop phoenix, with christopher clark artist

For the painting, we then start with the underpainting, which is lots of washes and thinned paint. My paint palette here is yellow ochre, alizarin crimson, and black. Here’s the initial color wash:

stage-1-copy - oil painting classes phoenix with artist christopher clark

I start to block in the major drawing shapes. This is a figure drawing, so getting the drawing tight now is crucial. I don’t want to be making drawing corrections when I’m thick with opaque paint. When doing a landscape, you can be a little looser with your drawing, because there’s so much room for error and interpretation. If you move some branches around, it will still look like a tree. But when drawing a figure, if an arm is too long, or the torso too short, or head too big, or the figure just generally looks poorly drawn, your whole painting will fall apart and look amateur. Study your proportions for figure drawing, because there is very little (or no) room for error.

stage-3-copy - oil painting workshops in phoenix with christopher clark, fine artist

Here’s the finished underpainting. Notice the sense of light already, because of my constant attention to a warm-cool and light-dark gradation.

stage-5-copy - oil painting class phoenix with artist christopher clark

When going to opaque painting, the entire color palette I’m using here is: titanium white, cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, and black. Keeping your color palette simple will keep a uniformity to your colors. And save you money. There’s no need to buy 80 paint tubes, when you only need just a few essentials.

The background wall was quickly suggested with very little tight detail. This will all the foreground characters (violinist and music stand) to be more prominent.

stage-6-copy - oil painting workshops in phoenix with artist christopher clark

Here is a detail shot of the figure. I spent a lot of time here with detail – but not too much so it’s distracting. I’m doing impressionism, which means we’re creating the “impression” of detail. One cleverly placed brush stroke will imply so much more detail than painting every strand of hair individually.

It’s also important to observe all the color temperature shifts. Look at her legs for example. There’s the core color of her skin, and then there’s reflected light coming from each direction, which changes the color temperature of her legs in that direction. Every single object you will ever see displays this concept of reflected light and color temperature shifting. Pay attention to it.

stage-8-copy - oil painting class in phoenix with artist christopher clark

And here’s the finished painting:

The-Violinist-from-Venice - original oil painting by artist Christopher Clark

Contact me to own this original painting. Also contact me to register for my oil painting classes/workshops in Phoenix.

Also, because a dear friend of mine enjoys seeing my paint palette when I’m done with a piece, here it is:

palette - oil painting workshop class in phoenix by artist christopher clark

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