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Painting People and places: Capturing everyday life in oilsAdebanji Alade has written a new book that explains his unique painting and sketching methods. It also builds on his argument about the importance strong sketching fundamentals. The book shows readers how to paint vibrant urban scenes and crowds, portraits of individuals in intimate settings, seascapes, interiors, green spaces and seascapes. This is an excerpt of the book about using the grid method to paint.
Use the Grid Method to Paint
How to Transfer an Image onto a Surface
I bring my love of sketching into every aspect of my painting – in fact, I don’t make any distinction between the two. Each stage of the work is important. It flows from pencil and pen into paint. I use coloured pencils with my reference in hand to get the shapes and proportions right, then switch to brush markers.
I don’t want to have to consider tone or line once I’m painting: that’s when I want to concentrate on colour. The underlying tonal drawing therefore needs to be just right – essentially, it’s a textureless painting. If you can get this stage right, painting will be enjoyable and the process will flow.
Add a Grid
If you’re working from a screen, there are many free apps or websites that will let you add a grid. If you’re working from a screen, there are lots of free apps or websites that will let you add a grid, such as:
Drawing a grid on both the photograph and the surface will break the image up into small ‘tiles’. Each tile can be treated as a miniature painting and numbered. This makes the image easier for viewers to understand. It’s important that the proportions of your surface match the photograph, or you’ll distort things.
Generally, a 3:4 ratio is what I prefer – though this is simply because the screen on the smartphone that I use is in that proportion. You can easily adjust your grid to any proportion as long as the reference and surface are in sync. Most smartphones allow you to crop images quickly and easily to different common ratios. Mine, for example offers square (1:1) and 9:16 ratios, as well as 4:5, 3:4, 2:3, 3:5, 3:4, and 3:5 ratios.
You can break up an image into triangular shapes using diagonal, vertical, and horizontal lines instead of a simple grid. This style of gridding was introduced to me in a sculpture course at Yaba College of Technology. We used it to create relief sculptures from pictures using clay as a base. The process is easy:
1Start by drawing a straight line from the corner of the image to the center.
2Draw a horizontal and vertical line to cut the diagonals.
3Repeat this process on the four sections until you have enough grids that will help you accurately portray the image from the picture onto the surface you are painting.
4 Number the horizontal and vertical lines on both the reference and the surface, and you’re ready to go.
I’m sometimes asked if the alcohol-based brush markers will bleed through the oil on top. It’s possible they can, if you work with thin layers, but I love rich, thick, luscious impasto-style painting, so I’ve never found it to happen.
Q & A with Adebanji Alade
Clare: This is the third book you’ve written. What did you learn from writing this book?
Adebanji, I’ve written my first book before. That’s what has changed. Although I loved the first book, it was written with a lot of timidity. But in this one I was bold and courageous, ready to share my skills with the world and I’m really proud of it. I feel that it represents all I stand for and all I believe.
Clare: This book has been called a love-letter to cities, especially London. What do love about painting the city? What are the challenges and do you offer any advice in the book for this?
Adebanji: I love painting London, it’s where I was born and it’s a very well known city. I love the old landmarks and places that haven’t changed for hundreds of year. I love looking at old paintings of London and comparing them to the way I paint it now. When it comes to challenges, there aren’t any major challenges because all the paintings in the book of London are painted from pictures. But if there’s a challenge I would say it’s getting a good drawing at the start. That’s the power of sketching. If the sketch is good then there’s a chance that the painting will be good. In the book, I describe how I start every painting with a solid drawing. Before oil paint touches the surface, I need a solid sketch that is inviting and strong enough to make me want to paint the painting.
Clare: What chapter in Painting People and Places was the most difficult for you to write, and why?
Adebanji says: The chapter that was most difficult for me to teach was how I paint scenes with a lot of people. One thing is sure, I can paint crowded scenes but I wasn’t sure how I would go about teaching it. How I would demonstrate that. I followed my instincts and painted the project as I normally would, but I had my Editor nearby to explain in more detail what I was doing verbally.
Clare, who do you believe the book will be most helpful to?
Adebanji’s book is most useful for the more advanced beginner in oil painting, not the absolute newbie. It’s for anyone who can draw, can paint but wants to take their craft to the next level.
Clare, do you have any upcoming exhibitions? What are your plans for 2024?
Adebanji: I’ll be exhibiting with the Society of Graphic Artists in March at the Mall Galleries. That’s the nearest one I can think of. This year I’ll be doing more art documentaries with the One Show and I’ll be adding more members to my online sketching school called ‘The Addictive Sketchers Movement’. I’ll be painting more plein air this year because I want to spend more time outdoors.
Photo credits: Search Press