How to Paint an Old Barn: Steps 1 – 4

I decided to paint another old barn for my “Barns of Michigan” series of oil paintings. And also decided to photograph the process for readers, to show the steps in creating a realistic old barn in oils.

Step 1: Block in the sky and ground areas

blocking in sky and ground in an old barn painting lesson

Old Barn Painting Step 1

In any landscape painting, it is critical to decide how much sky you will have, and also determine the main colors. I usually block in the sky first, using a mix of cerulean blue, ultramarine blue, and titanium white, with a hint of burnt umber for cloud shadows, and also do a warm underpainting (yellow ochre, burnt sienna, cad. yellow light) for my ground.

Step 2: Sketch in the barn

Old Barn oil painting lesson: step 2 sketching in the barn

Old Barn Painting: Step 2

This next step is critical: getting the perspective and shape right. I try to do the best possible sketch at this point, using perspective. I will rework some areas later, but I am sitting the barn where I want it in the picture at this point, using ultramarine blue to sketch it in.

Step 3: Blocking in the Barn Main Shapes

blocking in the barn areas and colors in this free oil painting lesson

Old Barn Oil Painting Step 3

Now, I start painting in the barn and roof, blocking in the initial colors, and getting some of the darks in for old boards and missing board areas. It’s starting to look like a barn now. I use burnt sienna, burnt umber, and ultramarine blue, for the barn boards; and use these same colors mixed with titanium white and a bit of cerulean blue on the roof. Right now, I’m just “roughing in ” the shape of the barn; detail will come later with other layers. This will sit overnight to dry.

Step 4: adding more detail to side wall

Old Barn oil painting lesson: adding detail to the barn walls

Old Barn Painting: Step 4

Now for the fun part: adding more detail to the roof and side of the barn. I do this by adding darks (burnt umber, ultramarine blue) and lights (burnt sienna, yellow ochre, burnt umber and a hint of white) to detail the boards more. This is when the sketch done earlier shows: the perspective “makes’ the picture in a sense.

In the next steps, I will be adding the foreground and more details.