Digital Basics TRACK: Lesson 4, Oil Refinery


Create a painting using our reference photos of an oil refinery. Aim to balance between showing a convincing sense of structure with a broad range of textures in the forms and surfaces.

Oil Refinery Reference #183
Flickr album: Oil Refinery


@pandapufkin, Steen, Trent


Blocking patches of color in the negative space around the oil refinery can often times be faster than trying to draw individual parts one at a time.

Begin by knocking in the largest shapes and incrementally move to the smallest shapes.

Try to forget that you are drawing an oil refinery, instead, squint at the reference photo and break it down into a series of abstract shapes.\

Oil Refinery Reference #105
Flickr album: Oil Refinery

Transforming the reference photos

Think of the oil refinery reference photos as “raw” materials that you manipulate and dramatically transform. You can take this in ANY direction you want: invent a narrative, create a world, make the image your own.

Oil Refinery Reference #175
Flickr album: Oil Refinery

Visual Style

Do you want the image to have a sci-fi look, a foreboding atmosphere, a quirky and playful style? Try to avoid a direct copy of the reference photo, that’s not what this prompt is about.

While technique is part of the process, this is your chance to really show us what you want to say as an artist! Feel free to add other imagery as well, you don’t have to stick with only the oil refinery photos.

The reference photos have very high resolution, we recommend zooming in and so you can really investigate what the photo has to offer.

Oil Refinery Reference #122
Flickr album: Oil Refinery


The oil refinery is constructed of many rigid materials like metal, how will you distinguish the metal visually compared to something made of wood

Texture is often what gives an object “character,” draw from the experience you had in week 3 with the Texture Cubes.

Digital Basics Premium Track

Recommended software

ProcreateKritaAdobe PhotoshopClip Studio PaintPaint Tool SAIAdobe FrescoMediBang Paint, Gimp


Sidney Hurwitz, Frederick Mershimer, Ezra Jack Keats

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Drawing an Oil Refinery in Adobe Fresco

This video demonstrates techniques for drawing manmade structures, focusing on an oil refinery. Media used in this tutorial are Adobe Fresco and brush pen markers with a water brush.

Explored in the video is how to tackle large, complex structures in a drawing, what to focus on, and how to compose the piece in a way that balances the larger shapes with the details.

Demo by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Guest Teaching Artist Mia Rozear.

Elements of Art: Space

This video explores Space in 2D artworks, one of the Elements of Art. Topics include how to create the illusion of space in a 2D artwork, ways to create depth through atmospheric perspective, point of view, and articulation.

Discussion led by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artist Lauryn Welch.

Show us what you make!

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