THOR : RIBBIT (Oil Painting Process)

Thor Poster Oil painting on watercolor paper mounted on hardboard ~14x21 inches
Thor : Ribbit
Oil painting on watercolor paper mounted on hardboard
~14×21 inches

Once upon a time I decided to paint a Thor poster, with the Norse God of Thunder as a frog! To be clear, I was thinking about the Marvel comics’ version of Thor, and not the mythological version. And in case you don’t know, there are a few versions of Frog-Thor in the comics. Actually, to be specific, the one I wanted to paint was more inspired by the Ultimate Spider Man cartoon series, in which Thor was turned into a frog mostly because of his own arrogance and stupidity. And that was all I had in mind when I started with the sketch.



So, I did this one sketch on the whiteboard, yeah, this detailed sketch, and that was it. I kinda decided to use this as the model. Usually this step includes a lot of different layout ideas, and I always get back to the initial design layout anyway; so this time I just saved myself some time.



The next step was to decide the dimensions and how was I going to paint this.

(Disclaimer: This painting was done in a span of about 1.5 year! Yeah, so when I started this, I didn’t know how to paint, let alone painting in oils. I was in fact experimenting with watercolors and gouache and had no intention try oils.)

So I thought I’d paint it in gouache. And sketched it on an 18×24 ” sheet of Fabriano hot pressed watercolor paper. This was how I marked the placements of the characters. (I’ve digitally added color to the shapes to make them discernible.)


Somewhere between the last step and this, I mounted the paper on MDF board to give it some rigidity. (I was not a fan of non-rigid support back then. Now I am kinda okay with it, but I still prefer rigid supports.)

Anyway, next I went on to drawing them in detail. I draw by eyeballing the measurements; there are more accurate ways of drawing, like using a measuring tool, proportional divider, by creating a grid, etc. But I just do it this way.

And I quickly got into the details. My bad. #ProTip: Don’t start detailing this quick, it is better to fix the proportions BEFORE you get into this beautification process.



It was pretty detailed for my taste, I don’t draw that much anymore, that is if I know I am going to paint it. But back then I was not very sure of the approach, plus it was kinda large piece. So, the drawing part was important.



I was also figuring out the details as I was drawing this. Again, it is what I do. Not a hard and fast rule. I’d say it is always better to have a vision of the final artwork, at least in your head, and if you are going to paint large, make sure you do at least a few small sketches of the painting, first.

I was happy with the sketch so I started with watercolors and added some washes to give me an idea of how to approach the values.
If you don’t understand value, or don’t have enough experience working in black and white, you might want to do a b-w grisaille underpainting or a few small value studies. The point is, if your values are wrong, your painting is screwed.

I kinda like to do a color study instead. Color is not just about hue, each color has its own value as well; so it does the trick, and saves some time as well. But I see the value in my head before adding colors.



Added another wash (this is the second pass) of watercolor to basically flesh it out more. And then I put it aside and forgot about it for about more than a year—my guess is because I was not satisfied with the paints or with the process.

I went on experimenting with different media, testing all sorts of paints and mediums and surfaces and stuff. And eventually tried oil paints. At first, I was not very interested in oils because of my allergies. I’d tested oils once before and the result was problematic at best. But then after about seven months, I re-researched and tested a few solvent-free mediums and tried oils without turps and aha! It kinda worked. And I liked it!



So fast forward 1.5 year from the last photo, and now I was painting in oils—exclusively.

I forgot to document the part where I prepared the watercolor paper for oil painting. But in short, I sealed the paper with Acrylic Matt Medium, at least 3 thick coats of that. If you’re using it diluted, make sure you do 7-8 coats. You can also sand between coats while doing it, this way the surface remains smooth.

ProTip: Avoid accelerating the drying process by using a hair dryer. Matt medium dries transparent, this is why it is suitable for sealing a drawing, however, sometimes, if you use some sort of dryer, the medium might get cloudy. Not good if you want to see the drawing underneath.

Now, in oils, I started with the clouds and painted the face. It was looking all good until I checked it against the reference photo. The likeness was way off! So, obviously, had to repaint the face. The photo above shows the difference.



Once that was done, I began with the lightning. (Because I do not draw stuff in detail beforehand, I am always “drawing” while I am painting.) The colors are not very good in this photo, but surprisingly the lightning was more pink-ish than blue-ish.



Then I started with the Frog-Thor. (Remember it is different than Throg, which is another frog who is Thor in Marvel comics, but I am digressing.) It took me some time to figure out the colors to paint the lightning behind the cape, that was a challenge. And I thought I knew what I was doing! Huh.



Anyway, so it was done. And I was kinda happy-ish with the progress. So I thought why not paint the text! Because I wanted it to be all traditional. That is fine, if you can do that. I sketched the text over the painting, with a pastel pencil (which kinda works over oil paints, in case you want to experiment there) but I rejected the idea because it was unnecessary work.
Moral? Don’t do unnecessary things.



Eventually I painted the stone, fixed the plants and the painting was finished! Well, almost. I signed it. And then I realized the highlight on the armor was kinda too distracting! -_-



So fixed that and the painting was done, after about 1.5 year! From watercolors to oils, this was a fascinating journey. And to be honest, it looks kinda good.  🙂


Thor Poster Oil painting on watercolor paper mounted on hardboard ~14x21 inches
(click to open)

Once I got this one photographed, edited the brightness, cropped the corners, and added text. It became the poster it is today.  And if you notice, the paper texture is kinda visible in most areas, which is giving it a bit eerie feel. But that’s cool!

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