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Painting Lesson – Milford Sound

Here is a step-by-step oil painting lesson based on my painting, “Milford Sound, New Zealand”, oil on canvas, 16×20 inches.

The painting is based on a photograph taken by my sister, who is currently living in New Zealand.

The painting follows my usual process of:

  • Toned Stain
  • Sketch
  • Block in
  • Detail

Step 1 – Staining The Canvas & The Sketching The Composition

For the tonal undercoat, I used yellow ochre mixed with a lot of solvent.

Remember for the sketch:

  • It does not have to be extremely detailed. You are just trying to set out your composition and indicate any significant changes in value.
  • Do not use much paint.
  • I generally wait for the stained canvas to dry before laying down the sketch.
oil painting lesson - milford sound

Step 2 – Blocking In

Here you are trying to capture the general feel of the painting. You will be using larger brushes and can add some detail here and there, but detailing is not yet your focus.

The most important aspect of this stage is your color selection, so take care when mixing.

I paint dark to light in oils & acrylics. This is the opposite to watercoloring, where you generally paint light to dark.

You want to make sure your darks are actually pretty dark, otherwise, you will not have much room to move in the color spectrum. You want to make sure there is enough contrast in your painting.

painting lesson part 2 milford sound
painting of milford sound

Step 3 – Detailing

With detailing you are just trying to refine your painting.

I spend most of my time in the detailing stage just trying to properly balance my painting. Questions I will ask myself here are:

  • Have I achieved my desired color combination?
  • Does the painting “feel” right?
  • Am I missing anything in the composition?
  • Is the shading correct (sometimes it can be easy to forget the shading created by certain objects)?
Dan Scott, Milford Sound, New Zealand
Dan Scott, Milford Sound, New Zealand

Thanks For Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I appreciate it! Feel free to share with friends. If you want more painting tips, check out my Painting Academy course.

Happy painting!


Dan Scott is the founder of Draw Paint Academy. He's a self-taught artist from Australia with a particular interest in landscape painting. Draw Paint Academy is run by Dan and his wife, Chontele, with the aim of helping you get the most out of the art life. You can read more on the About page.

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