Detailing Technique: Realism with Sarah Stribbling

Detailing Technique: Realism with Sarah Stribbling

Sarah Stribbling, one of our Fuel Your Creativity artists, is known for her realistic and captivating oil paintings of wildlife. Read more about her inspiration and how she became an artist here. To achieve the fine details in Sarah's paintings, she paints the entirety of the subject as a base coat (read that blog here!) Once the painting is dry, she adds any details needed using Aretza Oil Paints and Arteza Paint Brushes. Keep reading to learn how to add precise details and take your oil paintings to the next level! 

Supplies Needed:

  • Oils Paints
  • Paint Brushes (Thin or Detail Brushes Preferred) 

Start on Eye

Looking at the reference picture of a cheetah, Sarah starts by adding a black outline to the eye area, keeping in mind where you also need to add the highlights in the eye. Areas like inside the lower lid, pupil, and corners of the eye are often highlighted. It's essential to add these details, regardless of if your reference photo has them or not, as this adds life and realism to your composition. Sarah prepares a few shades of brown and orange and a little black for the iris. Next, she adds shading, patterns, and shadows to the iris to match the reference pictures as closely as possible. 


Painting Fur Details

Next, Sarah starts painting fur details around the cheetah's face and body with a thin brush. She looks at the reference photo and gathers the colors she'll need on her palette. For the fur, Sarah uses multiple combinations of white, brown, and orange to get the perfect assortment of shades. As for technique, Sarah does not use much pressure and flicks upward to create the effect and movement of fur. Additionally, it's vital to keep a keen eye on the direction of fur in the reference photo so that you can recreate that movement. 

Over the cheetah's black spots, you'll also want to gently add fur details. To make the piece as realistic as possible, you don't want the spots to stick out; you want them to look layered. Sarah again mixes a light brown and white until she is happy with the shade and makes soft layers over the black spots. 

Since the base paint layer is darker, it's also important to leave gaps between fur strokes so you can see the dark base coat, which will result in creating a 3-D effect and depth to the painting. Lastly, Sarah adds various highlights with a mixture of light brown and white paint. This time it's 'alla prima' style (wet-on-wet), where she'll add finishing touches by painting a third layer of paint over the wet paint she just made.

Voila! Now you've learned how to paint realistic, layered fur with the help of Sarah Stribbling. We hope these tips and tricks have taught you how to take your paintings to the next level and inspired you to make your own animal paintings. Don't forget to share your oil paintings with us on Instagram.


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