Recently I've been challenging myself to paint from live models using oils. But rather than bite off more than I can chew in a 2.5 hour window I'm choosing to focus in on sections of the model. This forces me to pay close attention to subtle shifts in temperature and tone that I would have previously ignored.
Using natural canvas panels, I paint directly onto the surface. It's challenging trying to get the colours right without using the background colours and tones as a marker, but I resist the urge to paint the background in each case.
Being relatively new to oils (just over a year now) it has taken me a significant amount of time (and attending quite a few workshops) to figure out the right consistency of paint to use and get a handle on brushes etc. I paint without medium. I like how the paint drags and leaves its mark, it reminds me of pastels.
I try to employ good palette etiquette and not mix my colours on the painting itself unless it is intentional optical mixing which is something I'm only now beginning to get my head around.
I use a limited palette for each piece (yellow, red, blue, white, umber). My primary colours change depending on the skin tone of the model, e.g. sometimes I will use cerulean blue and other times ultramarine, sometimes both. I try to avoid burnt sienna as I used to rely too heavily on it and now don't put it on my palette at all. I have, with dark skinned models, occasionally used ivory black as cool dark but in a very limited way and never unmixed. I endeavour to never use any colour straight from the tube.
Each time I start a new piece I feel my speed and confidence grow. I also get more proficient at mixing the colour I want at any given time. My long-term goal is to be easily able to recreate life on the canvas so that I might intentionally distort it in a surrealist fashion but as we know we must 'learn the rules like a pro so we can break them like an artist'. That is my mantra!
My current weaknesses and areas I need to improve are my tendency to over-blend, my tendency to use more brushstrokes than are required and not enough attention to my edges. I'm just about understanding colour temperature and that is starting to show through. I'm starting to exercise discipline in my colour mixing and spend more time on my palette than on my painting.
Baby steps! Everything else all in good time.
Some resources I have found useful on my quest for realism ...