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How I Paint : A Red Stag in a Highland Landscape

UPDATE: I’VE FINISHED IT!  SEE BELOW. I hope you like the final painting. It goes on show at my latest Winter exhibition, which opens on Saturday. Read more……Red Stag, painted by Robert E Fuller

As you can see from the date that I began this blog, it takes a long long time to paint in oils.  Click here to read this blog post about how I structure my time when I have a big composition like this one to complete. I’m afraid, despite best intentions, I didn’t manage to photograph the final stages of the painting, as I added the detail, but you have the beginning of the story of the process here:



I’ve begun a new oil painting of red stag and I thought I’d share each stage of the painting with you as it progresses. I’ll keep adding to this post as the painting develops so keep a look out for new updates.

Pencil Outline
Painting small brushstrokes onto the pencil outline

I spent a day stalking this stag with my camera in the Cairngorns. Click here to read about that incredible experience. He was truly magnificent and I’ve already painted his portrait twice since but I wanted one painting set against the magnificent backdrop of Glen Etive. I began by sketching the outline of the stag and the mountains behind in pencil and then following the outline of the stag in soft ochre and dark brown oils. I sketched round the outline with small brushtrokes that follow the direction of the  fur so that its texture will sit naturally against the background when I add it.

How I Paint: Blocking in the Colour
Blocking in Colour

I then began blocking in the base colours of the stag’s fur, adding warmer tones and blending in the darker shadowy outlines. I left its hooves because eventually these will be covered by grass. Once I had finished blocking in the stag I began on the backdrop; starting in the far distance and gradually working my way back to the stag.

How I Paint: Blocking in the Background Colours
Blocking in the Background

As I worked I added details; like the rocks and boulders strewn on the ground by its feet and the meandering river in the valley below. At each stage I add further texture to the fur. I also dragged colour from the background into the outlying fur so again it sits naturally against the backdrop.

How I Paint: Adding to the Foreground
Adding to the Foreground

Then it was time to add the sky and clouds and add more detail to the backdrop. I also begin to apply paint to the fur more thickly, to give texture to the fur, again always working in the direction that the fur would naturally lie on the animal.

How I Paint: Adding Texture and Detail
Adding Texture and Detail
How I Paint: Slowly filling in the backdground and adding texture
More Background and Detail
How I paint: adding background
Adding detail and getting the underlying tones of the grasses

Only once I was happy with the sky and the incoming mist did I add the antlers. I didn’t want the brushstrokes to disturb the lighter texture I had for the clouds.

How I Paint: Adding the Antlers
Adding the antlers

There’s still a lot of detail to add so I shall keep adding to this post as I complete it. Look out for new updates.


To read about the day I spent stalking this beautiful red stag (pictured right) with my camera click here


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