Using Big Brushes for Small Details

Today I painted from life, and as usual, I like to experiment in my sketchbook. After all, that’s what the sketchbook is for, to put down thoughts, experiment and grow as an artist. I have been pushing myself to use bigger brushes, bolder strokes, and brighter colors. Stand as I paint, charge the canvas and make each stroke count. So today I stood back quite a bit as I painted from life, and my palette was very bright, consisting of lemon yellow, cad orange, cad red lt., quin magenta, pthalo blue, and emerald green plus, plus white.

I have been reading. A lot. More than just looking at the art of the great painters, but trying to understand what they thought and saw in order to paint a picture. Harvey Dunn, a great painter and teacher, was never one of my top favorites as his brushwork wasn’t super slick, but as I get a little bit older I’m understanding his genius. Here is some of his wisdom.

“Paint a little less of the facts, and a little more of the spirit. Look a little at the model and a lot inside. Paint more with feeling than with thought.”

As I started I was wondering if this palette of “skittles” colors was going to be to over powering, but as I remembered my grays and brown mixtures, and kept my brushes separate, I was actually surprised at the result.

The colors tend to have an outdoor feel, much brighter, and as I painted I stood back, and tried not to allow myself to get a small brush and start painting tiny details but instead capture the spirit of the model.

Dunn had another saying when trying to convince students to use larger brushes.

“Use a big brush for the face and hands — you can get a finer line with an inch wide brush than you can with a tiny hair. And little ones for the sky. It sounds funny but try it.”

I learned a lot today, about color and using larger brushes and capturing the spirit of the subject, and not just thefacts.




9″x12″ Oil on Sketchbook




Painting a Mermaid Lagoon

I just finished this 24″ x 36″ oil on canvas this week and I thought I would share some of what I learned along the way. I painted this piece from imagination, meaning I had no reference so I got to just make it up as I go and it’s a lot of fun to paint that way.

First, a lot of rich color can come from subtle grays and browns. I remember a quote by the illustrator, Dean Cornwell, “A great colorist is known for their grays just as a chef is known for their gravies and sauces. The grays are the sauces that flavor all the other colors on the canvas.”

The sky was layer upon layer upon layer, because I wanted to give the feeling of real depth, not just a two dimensional flat space on the canvas. After that, the light pours in and influences everything around it. Prints of this image are available by clicking here, and be sure to follow me on Instagram @kyle_henry_art to see latest updates on my art journey.      -Kyle


$3700 -24″x 36″


Speed Painting Oil Portrait from Life




Here is about an hour of painting in less than a minute. Paints used: Titanium white, Ivory Black, Venetian Red. (Cobalt Blue brought in during last 10 minutes of painting). I am enjoying the painterly process, and exploring limited palettes. Not my best painting, but a great learning experience.

Painting a River Landscape

30″x40″ OIl on Canvas

I have always been enjoyed visiting a state park up in the Northwest corner of Arkansas called Devil’s Den. The rocks lining the river for miles and the only sounds are the birds and flowing water. I wanted to paint a fairly large picture that captures the tranquility of this special place.

Sorting through some of my photo reference, I start sketching some ideas. I think it might be fun to add a bear so I look for a reference and do a sketch of that too.

The photo reference of the creek is just for information only. I am not interested in copying this photo as it does not have the emotion that I want. An early morning might be more interesting.

First step is to very loosely block-in the overall painting with the basic colors using a large brush. After I allow this to dry for a few days, I am ready to begin  the finished painting, from back to front.

I work on the sky and then the mountains, refining the shapes and drawing as I go with the paint, and always stepping back and taking the whole picture in and making sure it works well from a distance.

The painting up to this point has the look of a dry creek bed, because I will have to lay in the rocks and then apply the lights of the water to achieve the look of clear water. The thickest paint is applied last and will reflect the light shown on it when it hangs on the wall for a nice effect.

Here you can see it all framed up and on the wall. I look forward to enjoying this a few months before it travels to an art show. If you like this painting you may want to check out my instagram by clicking here


Oil Portrait 2 hour session

Friday morning painting from a live model is a nice break from studio work and great creative exercise. I started with a very loose block in and went with a limited palette of titanium white, ivory black, yellow ochre, and cadmium red, which is pretty close to that used by artist Anders Zorn. I made sure to keep the first stage very loose and not get bogged down in the details, and kept my warms and cool brushes separated.



How I Paint a Bible Painting: Part 3

20160802_163544Up until now, I have worked only with acrylic paint, this enables it to be completely dry when I paint on top. Allowing me to finish this painting from start to finish in one week.

The top of the picture looks very bare, so I start blocking in the tree. The great thing about art, as compared to photography, is that in a photo this tree and figure would be almost entirely silhouetted against a sunset. In a painting, I get to control the light, making it appear that much more colorful.

Trees are painted in steps, a block in for the leaves furthest away, then put in the branches, then put leaves nearest on top, and that’s basically it. The trunk, I just think in terms of where that core shadow is and what the temperature is, it’s will be cooler than everything else, but avoiding purple, or it would get to out of control. I stay with earth tones and greens.

20160803_094614After the tree is established, but not finished, I move on to the figure of Jesus, or the focal point of the picture. I like to get the focal point done as early as I can, because everything will relate to that part. I have to be careful to choose contrasting colors, but not too “cool” for the clothing, and not too dark, but enough so it stands out from the light background. Nice neutrals against the high croma works both with contrast and makes the background appear brighter.

20160803_143336At this point I need to work on the bottom or nearest foreground as well, adding in the shadows as well. I know in the lower left I will add flowers, so I can save that for later in the process.

20160804_142802The background is painted, the buildings in the distance, the stairs behind the tree, all add to give the illusion of depth by overlapping. More texture is given to the grass around the base of the tree, as well as figure in the foreground are painted. I have two sets of brushes, one for “polished” brushwork, and some I call “scumblers” for grass and texture.


In the final stage, you can see I added the foreground flowers, to further push the scene into the painting, and add a few highlights as needed. The colors turned out nicely but I can’t sit around and stare too much or I would want to change something, so I move on to the next picture! Click on the image for a larger look and thanks for reading. If you like this post feel free to follow me on instagram: kyle_henry_art