How to Paint a Rhino in Oil

Skill Level : 1 Beginner, 2 Intermediate, 3 Advanced

Medium : Oil Painting

Subject : Animals

Tutor : Nolan Clark

Class Length : 2 hours 2 minutes

Avg Rating : No Ratings Yet

Gold Level or Higher Class

Class Description

In this class we will paint a Rhino portrait

During the class you will learn:
1) How to use texture paste to create texture on the canvas
2) How to render the texture of the hide
3) How to paint the horns
4) and much more

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Class Tutorial


template of the rhino

Begin by transferring the outline of the rhino to the canvas, using ordinary carbon paper.  Mark the main features such as eye, nose, and mouth.  Be sure to draw the folds and wrinkles.   Add any other distinguishing markings.

The place baking paper (waxed or parchment) over the transfer and trace it onto the paper.  You will need this to re-establish the lines after you have added texture to your painting.


adding layers of texture paste

Check your local hardware store to get some ready-mix filler (spackle) to use for texturing.  Spread it onto the canvas, to a depth of about 2 to 3 millimeters.  Use any instrument such as a pencil or aluminum foil to add textures.  Taper off the edges so that it will fit into a frame.  Notice the variations in making texture you can achieve by using cling wrap.

Apply additional layers of the texture paste to create the deep folds.  Put the cling wrap over the surface and put in the wrinkles.  Continue using that technique for other raised areas.

Use your finger and a bit of water for smoothing when needed.  Easy-peasy, just like icing a cake.  Tightly seal your texturing paste when you are done.


colors used for painting the background

Mix the paints you will need for the background, mostly grassy colours with shadows and highlights.  Dab in the colours as they are on the reference photo.  Gently blend them in, keeping out-of-focus to create a sense of distance.  Do the same for the foreground, then gradually adding detail, like blades of grass.  Adjust the colour of your paint for the nearer grasses, then watch the technique Nolan uses to paint the grasses.

Rhino colour mixing

colors used for painting the rhino

Mix the colours you will need for the rhino.  Match the colour to the reference photo as you move from colour to colour.

Blocking in

painting the wrinkles of the rhino

Begin painting the darkest wrinkles, then work to the lightest part of the wrinkles.
Scrub in the paint from all different angles into the textured areas.  Note how the texture creates its own highlights and shadows.

Continue blocking in the tones of colour using the same technique described above.  Use kitchen paper towel to gently rub off excess paint.

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Hide texture

painting the texture of the hide

Using your brush in a flat position, gently lay your shadings over the surface of the wrinkles.  Start with the darkest tones and work to the lightest ones.  Shade in the front and back legs.

Continue to look and compare what you are doing with your reference photo to get the tonal values correct.


painting rhino's eye

Be sure to get the tonal values and shadings correct in the eye and nose area.  Make the eyeball as dark as possible, then add the glint of light in his eye.  Be sure the nose has a very dark spot to create the “looking-in” effect.  As you did above, compare your work with the reference photo.


painting the rhino's horn

Block in the basic colours in the correct places.  Note how Nolan uses his knife to get a sharp edge around the horns.  Look closely at the reference photo as there are many tonal changes on the horn. Use the same technique for the second horn.


painting the rhino's ear

Use a very dark spot to create the looking-in effect on the ear.

Final overview

final painting of rhino

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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