How to Paint a Buffalo in Oil

Skill Level : 3 Advanced

Medium : Oil Painting

Subject : Animals

Tutor : Nolan Clark

Class Length : 1 hour 52 minutes

Avg Rating : No Ratings Yet

Gold Level or Higher Class

Class Description

We will learn how to paint a Buffalo portrait

During the class you will learn:
1) How to use texture paste to create texture on the canvas
2) How to correctly paint items like grass in front of the animal to ensure it doesn't compete for attention
3) How to render the very rough texture of the hide and horns
4) and much more

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Class Tutorial


transfer the template onto the canvas

Transfer the portrait-like close up to the canvas, and then make your own transparent template to lay over the canvas to help you keep your painting in alignment.


add texture paste onto the buffalo

Begin the texturing process by applying a light layer of the texturing paste (such as spackle or Polyfiller) to the horns.  Once you are sure it is adhering properly, continue to build up layers to the desired thickness (thickest point will be 1.5 centimeters).  Work on one horn at a time.  Develop the contouring as seen in the reference photo.  Cover the area with cling wrap and put in the texture lines.  A light blow from the hair dryer will help to remove wetness from the paste to keep the cling wrap from sticking.

Move on to the eyes.  First build up the folds around the eyes, then use Nolan's technique for rolling the paste to sculpt the eyelids and make the eyeballs.  Do the right eye first, then the left.  Use the template often to be sure you have the lines in the correct places.

Continue on to the nose.  Lay the texture paste in a ramp-like fashion, gradually adding depth until you get to the nose.  Contour the three planes of the nose.  Use your finger to form the inside of the nostrils and then the knife to cut in the little lines on his nose.

Shape the ear next.  Follow Nolan's technique to get the shaping correct.  Note that you will lift the ear away from the body at the top and bottom.  Sculpt in all the little fine lines.

The last spot to be formed is the bottom jaw.  Taper it off to the upper jaw.

Allow the texturing to dry overnight.  Make an needed corrections after it has dried.  Be sure that the texturing is tapered off at the edges so that it will fit into a frame.


paint the background

Mix the colours you will need for the background grasses, then adjust for several tonal values.  Block in the grasses as they appear in the reference photo.  Gently blend them in, keeping them out of focus.


painting the face

Scrub the light, middle, and dark tones onto the textured face.


painting the horns

Mix the colours you will need for the horns and then adjust for tonal values.  Begin by painting the colours that are in the cracks.  Then come back and lay on the colours in the appropriate places.

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Face details- Left eye

painting the left eye

Use mostly sky colour to highlight the eye area, plus dab on some muddy spots and shadows. Replicate the brush technique that Nolan uses to simulate the look of hair.  Keep looking at what you have done and compare with the tonal values on the reference photo.

Facial detail - Left ear

painting left ear

Start the ear by laying very dark paint at the top of the inner ear to create the “looking-in” effect.  Then gradually add the lighter colours.  Flick in some ear hairs.

Facial detail - Mouth and nose

painting the nose

Use existing paints and start by blocking in the very dark areas of the mouth.

adding detail to the mouth

Scrub the appropriate colours into the textured cracks between the nostrils.   Create the dark “looking in” effect with the inside of the nostrils.  Lightly apply highlights and shadows.  Add a few hairs.  After it dries, you might want to follow up with a light sky color wash to give it a wet effect.

To add interest to your painting, layer on some of your grass colours to create strands of grass in his mouth.

Final overview

final painting buffalo in oil

Go back over the painting to be sure you have all the details correct.


About Nolan Clark

Read more about Nolan Clark

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