Course Archive
April, 2020

Learn Oil Painting Online with Interactive Lessons Live on Zoom

Working on a Self-Portrait: a Time-Lapse Demo

The video below shows you two things:

  1. How I have things set up to do to a self-portrait (see the small inset).
  2. How I develop the drawing and the light in the early stage of the painting.


Oil Paints

I use only Michael Harding paints.  If you don’t have them and/or can’t get them, use what you can get.

Note: this is not acrylic painting, so acrylic paints are not an acceptable substitute.

  • Cremnitz White or Warm White or Titanium White
  • Ivory Black
  • Raw Umber
  • Raw Sienna
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Vermilion or Cadmium Red Light or similar
  • Cobalt Blue or French Ultramarine Blue or Ultramarine Blue
  • Terre Verte


Try and have an assortment of hog bristle, synthetics and sables of various shapes—flats, filberts and rounds—and various sizes.  Small sables are good to have when it is time for precise drawing and details.

If you can, get a brush set.  For example, on Jackson’s Art website they have a set of Black Hog bristle brushes and Pro Arte synthetics.


First you need the oil and the solvent.

For oil, you can use regular linseed oil or walnut oil.

For solvent, I recommend the odorless, non-toxic kind.  I use either ‘Tintorsetto’ (which I get at the Rome art shop) or ‘Shelsol-T’ (which I order from Kremer).

Get three ‘jam jars’ and mix the following mediums:

  • Lean Medium: 75% solvent + 25% Linseed Oil
  • Medium Medium: 50% solvent + 50% Linseed Oil
  • Fat Medium: 25% solvent + 75 % Linseed Oil

When I do this, I use a double-boiler to heat the medium for about 15 minutes.  If you don’t have that, don’t worry.  Mix the property quantities, then shake thoroughly.

Other Materials: Canvas, Easel, etc.

As we’ll work 1:1 (meaning the scale of the work is the actual size of the still-life), the size of the still-life determines how big the canvas needs to be.  If you can, keep the size around 30 x 40 cm.

Ideally you’ll have some kind of easel that you can use to place your canvas next to your still-life.  If not, do what you can.

You’ll also need:

  • A palette
  • Palette knife
  • Rags, paper towel, wet wipes

Setting Up Your Still-Life

Keep it simple, but also give yourself some combination of textures.  Here is a list of suggestions:

  • If you can get your hands on one, an ostrich egg is exemplar: ample real-estate of opalescent volume (a perfect surrogate for heads and skin).
  • A group of regular eggs is also good.  Punch them with a small hole, let them drain and rinse them out.  White eggs are best.
  • Other objects: medium to large shells or animal skulls.  Else, cutlery, cookery or china.
  • Compliment your object with some fabric, either under, behind, or both.
  • If you can, put it in some kind of ‘shadow box’.  A shoe box could work… or a cabinet.  See the video above for an example; my still-life sits inside a cabinet on the wall that I’ve lined with blue satin.
  • Finally, if you still aren’t sure what to do, look at paintings by Chardin.  Do that.  😉

Placement of Your Canvas and Lighting Your Still-Life

Place your canvas (or paper) directly alongside the still-life.  (Again, see video above.)  Ideally, you want the light that falls on your still-life to also illuminate your canvas.  If you are right-handed, put the light on the left; left-handed on the right.  (I’m left-handed.)

If you can’t set things up as specified, don’t worry; we’ll do our best to manage.