Keiths way



I did another 9x5 today, but you will never see it. You can’t win ‘em all I guess! Instead, I thought I might show you a painting that I am working on as a demonstration piece alongside one of my students. Its a little bit more complicated than that though, because I’m showing her a technique that I don’t use any longer.


When I was first learning to paint the figure from life, Keith Dewell of the Julian Ashton Art School showed me how to go about painting in a very carefully defined sequence. Whilst I was by no means a novice, I certainly wasn’t confident enough to launch straight into an alla- prima painting. I was, at the same time, learning about tone, the palette, and everything else that goes into a well realised figure painting. As a learning tool, the sequence is well worth considering. In short, this is it.


  • A quick thumbnail study to establish the tonal range and basic composition.
  • A working drawing. Accurate, and with the light and dark tones clearly indicated.
  • A tracing of the working drawing which highlights the block-in
  • The tracing of the working drawing onto a canvas bearing a mid-toned underpainting
  • A flat block-in in raw umber in the shadow areas
  • The application of colour.


Of course the application of colour is the most complicated part of the whole thing, and far beyond my ability to explain in a short Blog piece. Its also a good reason why it would be worth your while doing a course with either Keith or me!


The reason I value this sequence as a tool, is that it enabled me to quickly understand the need to clearly define the various tonal areas of the painting, whilst giving me more time to concentrate on the whole business of which colours to use to be most convincing in my work. At the time, I viewed the technique as an end in itself. Of course, I view things somewhat differently these days, but the experience I gained from doing a half dozen or so paintings in this way, was invaluable.


The images are set out below in the sequence in which I made them. They take me to the end of the third days work with two more days –or ten hours- to go. Next time I talk about this particular piece, I’ll show you the palette I used, and the final stages to the finished piece. That will be in a fortnights time, and in the meantime I hope to have done some more 9x5s which are worth showing you.


Nick L

Nick Leavey