Fun With Wet-On-Wet Technique

Wet-on-wet is the kind of painting popularized years ago by Bob Ross. Essentially, the canvas is prepped with either a coat of oil (I like walnut oil) or a thin base of oil and paint. The background is then added and mixes into the base coat. It’s very easy to blend colors this way right on the canvas. Details are added directly onto the background, and all or most of the painting is done in a single session. Of course it’s possible and sometimes desirable to let the painting dry and return later to add more precise detail and highlights.

Two really good online tutors for wet-on-wet painting are Marion Dutton of MazArt Studio and Jason Bowen. I have learned a lot from both of these artists.

This brings me to the fun I had painting birch trees the other day. I took the reference photo during our recent trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. Here it is:


For a few days I thought out how I wanted to achieve a loose, bright style on this painting. When the painting existed in my imagination, I settled down to paint.


For the palette I chose Lamp Black, Titanium White, Aquamarine Blue,Sap Green, Cadmium Yellow Deep, and Lemon Yellow. I like Graham Walnut Oil paints for the easy flow of the paint and the glow of the walnut oil. I spread a thin coat of walnut oil over the canvas, then used a wide bristle brush to mix a thin layer of white over the whole canvas. Using the same brush, I laid out the background – blue for sky, black for mid ground, green in the foreground.

From there I used a script liner to sketch in the tree trunks. Using a palette knife and 3 different sizes of round brushes I layered in leaves, bushes, undergrowth, and highlights. What fun to spend a few hours recreating some of the natural beauty I was lucky enough to see on one of our hikes! It’s so satisfying to finish a painting in a single day sometimes. 

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