Greg Mason Burns

Technique Instruction: Figurative Oil Painting

Figurative Oil Painting

Figurative Oil Painting: Portrait of Nivea Bona – oil pastel on glass (2013)

My strongest work are my abstracts, but sometimes the figurative comes out in me and I produce some good landscapes, still life paintings, and portraits. I enjoy these more than my abstracts because of the challenge they present, but like anything they require practice. I came across these videos by Joseph Lorusso who shows us how he builds up his palette and uses it on canvas to produce a portrait. There are some good tips in here on figurative oil painting. I hope you enjoy. You can view both on

The vast majority of my work is abstract, even when I do figurative work. I don’t develop my paintings the same way a typical portrait artist may do. Background for me needs to be simple so that the focus is on the figure first. From there, the way I develop my palette is often based on which of the strongest colors I have immediately available to me. The figure, to many, is about some sort of realist approach. The artist typically wants the figure to look like a real person, but I don’t always take that approach. As long as the figure is recognizable, then that’s aesthetically appropriate enough for my tastes.

Head of Man is an abstract oil portrait painting using blues and greens.

Figurative Oil Painting: Head of Man – Oil on Canvas

Figurative Oil Painting

Figurative Oil Painting: Progresso (Oil on Canvas – 2013)