I was sorting through the inevitable stack of annoying "studio stuff" that tends to collect in my corners. I found this oil sketch of my favorite model, Gwyneth. It is a "failed study" ** for a painting that I never got around to starting.
Oil Sketch for a Painting of Gwyneth
8" x 10" oil on paper with masking tape
Although I can easily fix this sketch, I'll have to put it on the back burner with the others until I have the time to give it some serious attention and make it work.
I always make an oil sketch prior to beginning a large portrait. It resolves issues of value, color, compositional elements, and background that would be a nightmare if I were to try to resolve them in the final painting.
Here's my best hard-earned advice for any inexperienced painter reading this: If an oil sketch doesn't look good - the final painting won't look good either.
An original oil sketch (however ratty around the edges) will sit on my easel as a guide to get me through the final (larger) painting.
It is an extra effort but well worth it.
This is an oil sketch that sits on my easel right now. It is only 8 1/3" x 10" but it is guiding me through a much larger historical portrait that is 25" x 30."
The original photo reference I'm using is a faded 150 year old daguerrotype that did not show many clear details. The handbill, frock coat and background is made up...there is no way I could paint the finished piece without this little guide.
The Oil Sketch is never meant to "nail a likeness"...that's my job for the final.
Sometimes I paint on paper, cardboard or even directly on my reference photo.
Sometimes I paint this quickie oil sketch if I have a red-hot visual idea and use it as a guide to set up and photograph the model.
** Be sure to check out the comments added below if you are wondering why I think that the Gwyneth Oil Sketch doesn't work as is.