ZERO-MAN: Maximalism Through Oil Painting. Chapter 6.


When preparing the individual elements of a canvas. A proficient painter will use a technique called a painter’s secret geometry. This develops the elements of the canvas into a cohesive ensemble. This effect is like the trails of an ice skater circling the rink dozens of times until all the paths & turns form a web-like layout of the skater’s direction and the viewer’s eye path. This path is not necessarily organic, as mainly the geometries are straight lines and measurements of the surface area. They are maps and directions to separate the space into geometric forms. Stars, rectangles, squares, and pyramids. This formula keeps the viewer’s eye moving along the canvas’s many elements, bringing harmony to the whole throughout the individual parts that divulge its story. They compose all the background into the foreground. They form vantage points in space. Drawing the eye farther into the distance.

The viewer’s eye has a concise attention span. When seeing things of no value, something that has been noticed quite often bears no use for additional attention. The point is to capture the viewers’ attention from the non-banal. Exciting & structured imagery that has departed from the incidental. If that make sense? Painting something that has not been seen before in a memorable way. An architectural map lays out your intentions before the observer can begin to see the subject. These studies are inherent inside the beginning layers of a painting. They are the paintings’ structures. Forming elements is the same as making paint not look like paint any longer. The trick when painting lifelike anatomical forms & perspective is to make them purposeful—placed within a plan, inside of a map that has been formed before you even begin to put color on the painting.

A secret geometry is not flippant. There is always a plan in forming the structure of the three elements. Foreground, midground, and background. Tying together the shadows with the light source. The figures to the landscapes. The land into the sea. The viewer into the story.


Structural perspective lines are drawn using these guides. Vantage points are an architectural tool. They are used to show three-dimensional drawings on a flat surface. They are mathematical tools used to build structures out of a painting. They often disappear into the horizon and align the building’s roof and foundation lines that show its perspective.

Vantage points are also used to draw human forms. However, they are mainly used for any element to show its volume. A utility to separate the shadows from the light. A means by which all substance of a painting is made to fit with one another.

These are elements that function as the connections between the map of the secret geometry. They all form the same spider web: the hidden geometry, vantage point, and the three elements: foreground, midground, and background.


When painting, you typically begin with the background, midground, and finally, the foreground. This has been how all expert painters have worked since the beginning. Sure, when doing a painting, you will design all the structures onto a map as described above. You will design the figure concerning the different elements. You then define the color and shadow areas and map out the color. All the components inside of the painting will be layered out to begin with.

The next step would be to draw out the form of the figure. The primary lines in pencil or pen give it the basic structure. Then the midground. A quick sketch of the terrain, maybe buildings forming the immediate horizon lines and the vantage points. Last would be the background. Labeling the sky or ocean colors and lightly adding all the map lines from phase one, the geometry. All three lessons will be performed almost backward. Beginning from the front of the canvas foreground to the background last.

The last and final part of the drawing, sketching, or light brushwork that details the layout is complete. You then pick up the pigment. Beginning from the background. All the backgrounds will be painted first—the midground second. Then, only when both of those have been finished, or at least the majority achieved. You will finally complete the foreground. The figure or prominent subject of the painting. This is done for the number-one reason. You do not ever want to have to go back to a background and re-color a sky behind a figure you have already completed. The sky on both sides of the face needs to match. The only way to do that is to create a single stroke flowing right over your foreground. It is a straightforward structural issue. One all painters learn—either the hard way or through the correct exercise.

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