Oil Painting Blog

Blog about oil paintings by Robert Dawson


I began by trying to paint a photo of Michael Jordan realistically. And I made it 75% of the way. But then I got bored and began deviating from the original without rationalizing the changes. For instance, why stars? I have a good interpretation! He's thinking about fame and it's fueling his jump. But I didn't paint the stars with that in mind. The same is true of the white man's "mask," which looks to me like something a wrestler would wear. Is professional basketball set up to sell tickets and ads? Maybe. I'll let the viewer decide.

Blending success!

It's a small feat, but I'm happy to note that I have, let's say since it's not perfect, sketched out a solution to the problem of blending with oils.

As I say, it's not perfect. You can see brushstrokes and this picture, because it's a close-up, is grainy. But it is a leap forward compared to previous work.

And, yes, this is a new painting. It's a surprise for someone. It's also unfinished. So, I can't show it yet. Soon!

Portrait of John Cowan

This is a portrait of a friend and former co-worker, John Cowan. Aside from his day job as a lawyer, John is also a very creative artist whose work ranges from metal sculpture to comic art. I asked John to send photos of himself and this was painted from a close-up of one. I like both photos, but the light on John's face in the one from which this painting derives seems almost angelic (if I may) in that much of it is bathed in bright light and the shadows are not equally as dark but, rather, add subtle volume to his features. Of course, I couldn't help but take liberties with that, not because John is evil but because I was honestly more inspired to play with color. And I also wanted to present him in a somewhat comic-like manner.

The technique, as you can see from the progression of photos here, was to sketch him with olive green paint, block in lots of different colors, blend them, and then add detail.

  1. Sketch
  2. Block
  3. Blend
  4. Detail

I like this approach a lot. It allowed the joy of creatively applying color and the altogether different enjoyment of applying detail (although, knowing when to stop is hard). I'm not sure I will do it again exactly like this, because my current goal is to experiment and learn new techniques. My first goal was blending and now, and maybe forever, it's experimentation. It's fun! And I hope John likes it.



This is a portrait of a man I knew from the church I attended growing up. I'm not entirely happy with this painting and would like to do it again, but, despite its flaws, it does look like him.