One of the traditional rules of oil painting is to work from the background to the foreground. While this doesn't always make sense, it usually does, and this painting is no exception.
The background in this case is a solid black. While I have several blacks available, for large unvaried passages like this, I like to use Ivory Black. It has a beauty, depth, and glow to it that the other black pigments seem to lack, and it gives some liveliness even to a background area.
Unfortunately, it's strength is also a weakness; it's a transparent paint. Even as I was laying in the background, I knew I'd have to apply a second layer. I usually mix a bit of walnut alkyd medium with my paint to improve the handling. It also speeds the drying, and thin layers are often dry to the touch the next day. For some reason, however, it still took days and days for this thin layer to dry. It finally has, though, and I can apply the second layer today.
Up to now, I've basically been laying the foundation for the painting. Starting with the next post, I'll be getting into the meat of the work.