The following images show the process of a cool glaze. At this point, one of the most difficult things to do was to keep the entire painting advancing at the same time. It was challenging to not work one area again and again, creating a lop-sided painting.
Figuring out how to make brushes fit behind the relief areas of the sculpture was another obstacle. Eventually, after trying to break and re-tape fine brushes to fit into the crevices, I decided on a combination of things. I found a brush that had a pre-constructed bend in the ferrule, creating an easier way to reach awkward areas. I also decided to give over and work with the sculpture, rather than fight with it. Chadwick and I agreed that some of the final area was to be left as it was cast (white), and I painted in the remaining areas that I could reach. This is similar to the body paintings. Obviously, I can reach any area in a body painting, because all areas can move, but typically when Chadwick’s arms fold over his body, they are hiding unpainted flesh.
I was really enjoying painting in the landscape areas in the background. I loved the tree, the dirt mound under the tree, and the light beginning to illuminate from the top right corner. I was still trying to work out how to paint the figure on the bottom left, the leg looked weird. The perspective on the leg was perplexing and both Chadwick and I spent a good deal of time looking at the image online that I was working from and guessing what it could be doing by assuming various postures. It was a happy moment, like winning a prize, when we finally figured it out.
Around this stage of painting, I found an article on the actual artwork I was recreating. The article had a photo of the original painting which was re-discovered in Scotland. Experts were trying to figure out if the work was created by Da Vinci. There were red dots, numbered 1-5, on top of the painting, which were supposed to be specific points of interest which experts used to determine that the painting was in fact an actual Da Vinci, and not a fake or a student work. However, of the nearly dozen articles I found on this painting online, none mentioned what the five numbered dots meant. I wrote the author of one of these articles from Yahoo news. His article was among the many ill-written, regurgitated articles rehashed filling web-content. I asked for his help to either inform me of what the red dots meant, or to give me a lead to an original article that included this particular content. I never heard back from him. So much for Internet journalism. 😉
The following are some emails back and forth between myself and Tad Spurgeon, who by the way, is still continuing to help guide me on the current painting I am working on.
Note: Some of this correspondence is edited and it doesn’t accurately reflect where I was with the painting in the images above.
June 4, 2012
I hope you are well. I’ve been wanting to contact you for a while, but have had a handful of freelance jobs (mainly photography gigs), which have required way too much attention. I edited my last photos and am now on the trail of making some new art – or, at least experimenting with some new materials.
One gig I did a few weeks ago, was to demo Charvin oil paints for Jerry’s Artarama. As a result, I got to take home all the tubes of paint that were used during the demo. I have been enjoying the paint and have been playing around with their oils and mixing in marble dust (Frederix) to see how it looks. Their reds and oranges are beautiful – they glow all on their own.
I will admit, I haven’t gotten to the recipes of mixing in the marble dust – I just was playing around with it and put in varying degrees into the paint to get it out of my system and see what it does. I can see a slight difference with one glaze. I’m wondering how different it looks after several glazes?
I met the (a?) chemist from Gamblin. We spoke a bit and it turns out he was the same guy I used to write to from time to time while I was living in Thailand. Small world. It’s odd, I’m not sure if he’s just touting the paint – or, if he’s a chemist and not a painter….but, he told me he never recommends creating an underpainting of any sort. Obviously, to each his own – however, I was truly surprised to hear him say that. He didn’t feel that any sort of underpainting would later be an asset in helping to preserve a painting or create additional luminosity in the work. I don’t know how anyone can argue with the luminosity – or subtle variations for a more complex painting – or, just an easier time of creating a painting? I feel like I can obviously see the difference of a painting with or without an underpainting… We also spoke about their Turret (sp?) grey paint. Once a year, they clean out their turrets – which spin the paint with oils. Apparently, a lot of powdered pigment is leftover which they mix with oil and put in tubes to give out to retail stores on Earth Day. Each year, the paint is a bit different. I’m so interested to try it out. Sounds like it could be a great neutral color. Have you seen this?
In other news, I have continued casting. (Photo attached). The lighter white casts are nearly ready to be primed. I’m thinking about trying to add in marble dust to the plaster to see if I can get any more “glow” from the plaster before I add a prime coat.
June 6, 2012
Marble dust is going to be a little more opaque than chalk. If you use either one alone the paint will thicken, and get a little brighter. If you use them with thin oil, the paint will be more see-through, especially with chalk, but still dry matte. It can be saturated on top, though, with thicker oil. Or, you can use a putty made with thicker oil, a small amount, say ten percent, this will saturate the paint from within, making it glow more.
So, there are lots of things that you can do that depend on the type of stone dust, and the oil mix.
I don’t know about alginates. The only thing I was thinking about with the plaster was adding PVA or an acrylic medium to make it more stable over time. There are lots of things cast this way now, even with plain stone dust mixed with acrylic or PVA binder.
I love the casts, and the idea, can’t wait to see what happens.
One of my favorite things at the Met is the Cycladic harpist, a sculpture on the first floor, on the right as you head to the Pompeii frescoes. I love this guy, alabaster I think, really simple and goofy, kind of Mayan looking in a way. They also have some great Vermeers, if you stand with your hands behind your back you can get closer before the guards get nervous. In the American wing, they have a very nice big Twachtman landscape, very simple, and I also love Eaton’s Neck by Kensett. Sort of dwarfed by the work around it, but a very cosmic landscape. They may have changed things, it’s been a while since I was there. You might also look over their Rembrandts for some putty ideas.
It’s hard that there is so much dumb art. But America is visually pretty backward still. I was rereading Diderot the other day and was again struck by how evolved the concept of a painting was at the time. The same with the early Renaissance, someone like Piero della Francesca, these people were really thinking about images in the greater context of life. Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living, but really, they get lived all the time. And the unexamined life wants to see unexamined art!
August 5, 2012
It’s been ages since I’ve caught up with you. I hope you had a great summer – very productive.
I think since last time I wrote, I visited NYC and have been immersed in my photography day job. Which, is taking an interesting turn as I’ve become very interested in medical photography as a great resource for future paintings. I’ve been speaking with physicians to see if they’d be interested in trading photos for allowing me to document surgical procedures. They’re all very excited about the idea, I just need to now convince the Medical Directors of various hospitals to get paperwork in motion.
I’ve never been an “emotional” painter, or one that relays dreams on canvas…nor narratives..I’ve never really fit into the more esoteric, subjective world of painters. I always wished I did…but, on the flipside, I’m grateful to have found a subject I love working from, which includes all of those types of paintings. But, I have a feeling I could do something with the world of medicine. I love photographing doctors – and, I suspect surgeries are fascinating (as long as it isn’t me having one!). I love the environment doctors work in – it’s mesmerizing. My favorite doctors so far have been the spine surgeons – I’ve photographed 6 of them so far. I’m still hoping to photograph a brain surgeon. And, I’m really hoping to see one of their surgeries first hand. They usually last upwards of 16 hours. I can’t help but think of Thomas Eakins – who has always been one of my favorites. To my knowledge, not many people are painting doctors or surgeries these days…probably because of so many privacy laws.
And, imagine the color palette!!!!
NYC was blissful. We caught the last few days of perfect weather and met up with some friends we knew from Thailand. The 8 hours at the Met flew by and felt more like 8 minutes. They have a German Renaissance show up with one of my favorites, Lucas Cranach (Kranach). It was wonderful. And, my favorite El Greco (his self portrait) was back in it’s place. Last time I was there, it was on loan. I took the opportunity to look closely at paint. The application, the structure, the colors…It was the best place to study. I love that museum.
During the summer, I’ve continued experimenting with making casts with Chadwick. Our largest one was a full leg with foot. We have about 8 of these so far. They were primed two weeks ago, and we have adhered one to a primed board tonight using a resin epoxy. It has to cure for 24 hours, then we’ll drill pilot holes and screw it in place from behind. This will finally…finally…be where I get to put my painting knowledge to the test. I’m still reading through your book…bookmarking pages and sorting out recipes to start this very big test. I’m really excited about it.
A few weeks back, we did one of our paintings on the body – I felt so out of practice. It goes to show that all the talking, reading and writing about painting will never be a substitute for just putting paintbrush to surface and practicing. Lesson learned. So, I’ve been doing anything I can to find reasons to dip a brush into paint and just go through the motions.
I’ve attached what I know is a kind of embarrassing painting – though, a decent-enough practice sketch. 😉 My goal was to create a fast oil sketch just to try to recalibrate my eyes to my hand. I gave myself 4 hours and whatever colors of paint I had in front of me – no searching for colors.
Kind of a silly way to start a painting….but, It was good to get it out of my system. The result is an “oil sketch” of a psychiatrist I photographed for work. As I was photographing him, I was thinking his face was made more for paint than for a camera. I plan on giving it to him this week. He has no idea I did this. And, we only met briefly. Should be kind of a freaky, wonderful surprise for him. Then again, since he’s a Psychiatrist, he’ll probably try to determine what’s wrong with me for doing this. 😉 Back story on the Dr. – he’s an old art collector (not of my style of work, but of Pop art – so, the terrible colors I used will work perfectly for his aesthetic! 😉 ).
Painting is attached. I debated sending it to you, but thought at least you may get a kick out of it on some level.
I hope you’re doing well. I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to. Are you working on anything new these days? By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask, how many canvases do you have going at the same time while you’re glazing? And, how long do you wait between layers of glaze?
Tonight, I’m projecting the next few paintings on Chadwick’s body. I’ll let you know how it goes.
August 7, 2012
Dear Laura —
It is great to hear from you.
The surgery idea is very interesting, and of course goes back to Rembrandt as well. Doctors tend to like painting, also be able to pay for it, and you’d have all kinds of interest critically. I think it’s sort of important to be both passionate and dispassionate at once. I know what you mean about subjective and esoteric, it can get to be a code with no meaning, a hall of mirrors. Having tried all kinds of things, now I just want to understand clouds and trees. Are these prosaic items? Well, they can be taken for granted, but that doesn’t mean they are comprehended. And I feel a passion for this, similar to what you’re describing about the world of surgery. Also, they are very therapeutic, outside the self, not within it.
I like that painting, it is more modern for you, kind of a Marsden Hartley feel. The off-center face is great, and he’s looking to the left too, very nervy! I think you did a great job with the time constraints of capturing a personality, it feels honest, not merely flattering. I think you just have this quality of penetration to the real, but it is not something everybody has. The truth is a very powerful communication tool! He seems both compassionate but more than somewhat disturbed by all he has heard. I like the idea of working different ways, different methods seem to inform one another. You may well find a market for this type of work, but also may not want it, that has happened to me a few times.
When you get to the point of painting, we can talk in detail about what you want to do. I think the major issue is how many layers, and what you want to accomplish in each one. But, you are organized, and this will be a huge help. Since you talked about glowing and glazing, the key here is to keep the initial layers a little light or airy. Then the last layers have some thicker oil to keep them glowing. If you use walnut oil this will stay open longer, which you might like for finishing. I have lots of thicker walnut oil and would be glad to contribute some to the effort. Burnt plate oil does this too, but even a little takes forever to dry, so would need to be used with a fast drying linseed oil. Or, you could develop the same final layer all week, which can be interesting.
I’ve been working on an emulsion putty, oil with fumed silica and chalk, then something thick in water, a small amount. It is similar to mayonnaise, and can be done with egg yolk on panel. This is something that started for me with an addition of gum Arabic gel. Then I went to starch, a little in water. Now it’s methyl cellulose, because this is the most thixotropic.
So, this stuff moves but stays put, has apparent density but also mobility. It is a non-toxic substitute for a thicker leaded oil or a mastic gel. The idea is that adding a little water makes the putty seize, and putting the water in something stretchy makes things more lively. I like it for the more charismatic approach to realism, it’s nice for keeping landscapes from getting too finicky. You might like it at some point thinned down, once you get a system going. Photo below of the medium, it gets made in a food processor 🙂
You can have lots of work going at once working in layers. Um, lots 🙂 I got fed up with finishing things to order but am now trying to address “finished” again. It seems to move around a lot for me, but I do know it when I see it. Something real, but with meaning. Using quality oil, you don’;t have to wait too long between layers, they are thin. Just long enough so that what’s underneath will not be dissolved again. If you have a several pieces going, you can do a layer on one or two a day, then cycle back to the first after a week or so. Even three or four days is enough. But, the day after it dries can semi-dissolve what’s underneath.
August 15, 2012
I hope you are well.
I’m getting ready to write you back, but wanted to send you a photo of my primed canvas.
Sorry for the separate email, I’m sending it from my iPad and there’s no way to attach a photo to a “reply” email.
What you are looking at in the photo:
The foot and hands are actual size, cast from Chadwick. The final casts are plaster that has been set out to dry for about 3 months. The panel,(also an experiment), is a Pre-made gessoed board by a local company. We spoke with the maker of the board (also the owner of the company), so we could match our primer.
The cast was primed with about 4 layers of gesso and lightly sanded/wiped down between each layer, trying to preserve details.
A 2-in-1 epoxy was used to cement the plaster cast to the board. All glue is under the surface of the cast, with no accidents/glue to paint over…very tidy job. As an old professor used to say in class, “Nobody wants to see your sloppy glue work.” A statement stamped in my brain for eternity.
We contacted the manufacturers of both the plaster and the alginate to see about drilling through the back of the board and into the plaster for a more secure mount. Both gave the same reply, “not necessary with the glue we’re using, and very tricky”. So, we just stuck to glue. (no pun intended;) ).
All primed, dry and ready for paint. That’s the next email.
Also, I just went to Ikea, and for $50 bought the cutest steel paint cart I’ve ever seen. It was disguised as a kitchen cart, but it really was made to hold oil paint, mediums and brushes in its 3 shelves on coaster wheels. I’ll send a picture later.
August 15, 2012
Hi Laura —
That cast is amazing, I love the look it has, thanks so much. I really think it’s stunning.
So, what kind of gesso did you use? Will the paint slide, or stick?
I’ve been rummaging around trying to get more organized too, spent a fruitless morning at the unpainted furniture store. What I need is wide shelves to put work on, I’m going to have to make them.
Excited to hear more about the next step,
August 18, 2012
First of all, thank you so much for responding with such kind words to my painting of the Dr. I appreciated what you had to say. I did a series of “3-hour portraits” when I was in Thailand, focusing on authors and journalists. They came into my studio and I painted them. I had an exhibition of 20 of these works at The Writers Pub in Thailand and everyone I painted showed up. They all remarked how I made them look a bit older, but they all said the paintings “felt” like them. Their friends also said the same thing. They’re not the greatest paintings. Which is just as well, since termites ate them before I moved. I’m sure I would execute them very differently if I were to do that same project again. Here’s a link to what they looked like: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.61146068523.88567.715593523&type=3&l=3b9dd15e6e
I miss my factory studio space, (the first photo of the link), which was $150 a month. UGH!
I also have interesting news…I was called by a surgeons office last week and it looks like I’ll be photographing my first surgery next Wednesday. I’ll let you know how that goes. I’m terrified I’m going to pass out at the first cut. I need to beckon Joseph Wright and Thomas Eakins! (Bigger fan of Wright)
I ran across this guy’s work yesterday. It’s vaguely similar to what I have in mind: http://hifructose.com/2012/08/17/the-art-of-jonathan-yeo/
And, thank you for your kind words about the mounted cast. Now, I need to try not to screw up the rest of it…meaning, the painting. I’m keeping in mind that this is all a test. It could go terribly awry, but I’d rather find out now than 20 years from now. I’ve already spent since December corresponding with you, and reading your book. And, since January casting the body with different materials…I’ve already spent a lot of time and research, and haven’t even gotten to the meat of the creation yet! Patience may prove to be a good virtue for the sake of a solid work of art!
Needless to say, I am ready to paint!
I think the gesso will stick the paint. How can I tell? I’ve tried to sand it down to a smooth surface, and naturally the plaster cast has a bit of a different feel/grit to it than the panel below. I didn’t make the gesso, but it came highly recommended from the folks at Jerry’s and from the guy who made the panel. I’m going to trust them, if for nothing else, that I can just start moving forward with the experiment. Of course, I know that I may want to change the gesso out in later casts, but for now, I’m going to trust this will do the trick.
I had a look at the paintings at The Blanton Art Museum last week. Not my favorite museum by any stretch of the imagination. (Perhaps one of the worst I’ve been to come to think of it.) Many of the paintings in their collection are mainly sketches or still under paintings that are starting to become color blocked.
Most painters were making tonal paintings. I couldn’t tell if it was oil paint or egg tempera. The color was earthy…burnt siennas/burnt umbers. Very dark. Then, it looked like they made outlines/sketches using burnt umber and built out color blocking with neutralized paints from there. Most were not finished, so it’s hard to tell where they would have gone with it in final layers of glaze.
BTW, the Lucas Kranach (Cranach?) paintings I saw at the Met, had really bright colors. Does this mean he didn’t neutralize his paint? Or, have they just been better restored? They weren’t neon-looking like some restored paintings, (Which I think look as if their final glaze was removed and not restored. Why would they spend so much time working on a painting to just leave the fine flesh details off? Makes me think the restoration team didn’t complete the final layer)
Last time you wrote, you recommended I start with a light underpainting. What colors would you recommend for a palette to lay down the underpainting?
I think I’m going to start directly with oils instead of egg tempera, mainly for the sake of time with this first experiment. There will be plenty of opportunities for me to work with egg tempera. (Today, I’m casting Chadwick’s head and that will ultimately turn into another painting.)
I think for this first painting, I want to focus on experimenting with putty, oils and whatever I add in the final layers – whether marble dust, calcite or chalk…
I’m still not sure about which painting I’ll be recreating onto the cast just yet.
I’ll start with the underpainting and then would love to work with you on this layer by layer to see what will work with this combination on both plaster and panel. That is, if you’re up for it?
If so, I’ll try to work as closely as I can to what you recommend. I have Gamblin, Charvin (only the extra-fine paints in this brand are good) and Williamsburg paints to start with. If this first experiment goes well, I can look into investing into higher-quality handmade paints from the websites you recommended to me a while back. I’ll also be interested in purchasing pigments for egg tempera at that time as well.
I’ll send you a photo of the image I’ll be recreating once it’s chosen. I plan on carving out time starting on Wednesday to begin the underpainting.
You mentioned you had some extra walnut oil you might be able to send my way? I’d be super-grateful and would love to use it/test it out.
Thanks so much for all of your guidance and help with this so far. I’m truly appreciative. I’ve been telling a lot of people about you and what you do. I’ve sent many people to your website as well. And, have mentioned on more than one occasion to peers and students that I consider you my painting mentor. I hope that’s ok with you? 😉
August 21, 2012
I hope you are well.
I’ve attached a photo of the painting I think we’ll be recreating onto the cast/panel.
I thought this would help with ideas and communication.
For future cast paintings, I have a good mind to recreate some really whacked out Biblical-ish stories I’ve been reading about coming from textbooks in Louisiana public schools…the kinds where dinosaurs walked with man and dragons may have existed. There’s even one which says there’s scientific evidence for the Loch Ness monster. Have you heard about these?
They’d all make fantastic allegorical paintings created in a classical style.
Anyhow, for now the one attached is what we’ll be using for the test subject. It’s intimidating, but I’m ready to go.
August 22, 2012
Dear Laura —
That painting will be tremendously elegant on that cast, can be done with a very small palette.
I had no idea about the special curriculum, thank you. It is a different world!
How do you want to approach the painting part now in terms of layers and ingredients?
August 23, 2012
Dear Laura —
Sorry to be late, this one got a little buried!
That’s wild that you get to photograph a surgery. Wow, hope it’s the start of a great direction.
Boy, those paintings on Hi Fructose are intense. Yikes. Really well done but absolutely terrifying.
The gesso from Jerry’s is probably non-absorbent. This is the only thing to be concerned about: will be initial layer of paint move, or will it stick. Since you sanded it, it will be a little grippier, but not much. So, the paint itself can be a little thick, with chalk or marble dust, so it holds better.
For the painting you chose, the logical underpainting would be cool, because the painting itself is so warm. So, you could just do it in black and white, make pale grays. But, this is pretty chilly! So, you might want to do the red earth, yellow earth, black and white approach. This is the tetrachromatikon of ancient Greek painting, this is what inspired Rembrandt to use these colours. But again, I’d keep it pale, just map it accurately, so you can deepen the colours as you go to give that great optical quality. You could also do black and white first, then the tetrachromatikon, then the real colours. That would be very OM! If you like the overall feel of it, you can always glaze it down, making the colour deeper and brighter. I think you like this look…
With this painting, because it is somewhat lower chroma, you want to be able to emphasize the colours you’ve got. That painting can be done with a very small palette: black, phthalo or prussian blue, burnt sienna, maybe a little mars red, but you might like Pyrol red better, raw Sienna or Trans Mars Yellow, maybe yellow ochre, and white. You might want to use lead white to begin, then cut it with titanium to finish.
If you do egg tempera, do it with rabbit skin glue gesso underneath. You might also be able to paint directly on the plaster. This would be utterly unforgiving, until the plaster was covered, but very fast.
There were tons of older ways of making paintings, it was so compartmentalized by location. Cranach was early enough that he was making everything himself. This generation of work from northern Europe always looks great, sparkles, I saw a Bosch that looked like it had just left the easel. And this can’t be restoration, there wasn’t enough paint on it to begin with. The great longevity is partly the panels, but it is also that they are operating outside the great financial constraints that slowly crept in later. They are usually entranced by pure colour because it was so rare and so riveting. They are also painting very thinly with a thicker oil because the pure colour is expensive. So, it is a different feeling, perhaps Holbein is the last of these painters. With restoration, it depends on who did it and when. It is getting so much better, but the best restorers are working for the best museums.
With the idea of chalk, marble dust, etc, I recently had an interesting experience. Put a very full layer of paint on a sky study, just tried to finish it. Then, went back in and glazed over this ever so slightly textured paint. The look was very nice, because the glaze layer wasn’t flat, it behaved differently according to the topography underneath it. This is tricky, you don’t want too much texture, just a little.
Yes, I’d be very happy to work with you on this layer by layer. It is such an elegant idea. I am appreciative that you are doing something this interesting!
I will send you a package of stuff with explanations. You are still at the same address as before?
I know you are going to document this stage by stage, but, please do! When you are ready I would like to talk about what you are doing. Maybe when this one is done, maybe the next one, whenever it feels okay.
August 24, 2012
Thank you so much for all of this information and your willingness to walk me through this.
I just searched through all of my paint tubes and was amazed at what my vast collection is lacking!
I have set aside the ones that are on your list that I already own, they are either made by Gamblin or are the Super Fine Oil by Charvin.
I have a couple of questions regarding color. But, first after reading what you wrote and digging around more in your book, this is what I think I want to do…
1. Draw out the image on the cast in light pencil 6H
2. Underpaint in a cool grayscale, staying toward the light side of things – mixing marble dust (because I already have it…) into the paint to make sure it sticks to the gesso used. (How much marble dust?/Consistency of what it should look like? Not sure.
3. I love the idea of the tetrachromatikon and will go with that method for color blocking/developing the painting
4. Glazing to get the real colors
My color questions so far:
1. For black to use in the gray scale…Should I use a chromatic black? (ultramarine blue + burnt umber)? Or, do you suggest a specific black? In this case, I think Ivory or Mars? I have a gorgeous black made by Williamsburg “Cold Black” that I can also use. Or, I have Payne’s Gray, which isn’t black, but sticking with the theory of a light value scale, this may serve a purpose for an underpainting?
2. I am missing Pyrol and Mars Red from my collection. And, they are not on the list brochure for either Gamblin or Charvin. Which means it’s doubtful my local paint store (Jerry’s Artarama) carries it. Any idea of a place I can order it from?
3. Same problem with Trans Mars Yellow. Nowhere to be found.
4. I have Titanium, but am missing lead white. I do have flake, which I read was used in paintings from that time period, though it apparently is more transparent but keeps it’s brightness. Any thoughts on Flake?
5. These are colors I came across which I’m not sure if they can be used:
6. Gamblin makes a mixture called, “Titanium Zinc White” any thoughts on what this is used for?
7. Hansa Yellow Deep by Gamblin – Gamblin says it makes a more intense secondary color than Cadmiums. Is this something I could use in lieu of Trans Mars Yellow?
8. Finally, I have Quinacridone Red from Gambline. I think I purchased this about 2 years ago after reading it was used in Italian Renaissance paintings. Do you know anything about this, or if it will be useful for this particular painting?
I think that’s all my questions so far. Just trying to organize the palette.
Would you ever mix more than one powder in one painting? I’m defaulting to marble dust because I have 2 gigantic bags of Frederix dust that I have on hand. I’m not opposed to getting more powder – especially if it won’t be used until glazing layers. (I’ll have time for it to be delivered while I work).
THANK YOU!! I’m very excited to start on this and your encouragement and help is priceless.
August 24, 2012
Dear Laura —
You may or may not want or need marble dust for the first pass. You might have it available and dip the brush into it if the paint is sliding around too much.
1. The bluest black is good, I like ivory, the Williamsburg might be good for this too. Not a huge deal, but Mars black varies, can be on the brown side. Umber has a tendency to darken over time, you can get a good dark neutral with ultramarine and burnt Sienna. Another good combination is ultramarine, pyrol red, and trans mars yellow. This is nice because you can vary it so much.
2&3. If Jerry’s has Blockx, they have a trans mars yellow and a pyrol crimson they call red lake. Sorry, you don’t want pyrol red, that’s like cadmium red. The crimson is more like alizarin. You can use alizarin if you have it.
4. Flake is lead white, so you’re set there. It may need to be thinned a little, can be dense depending on who makes it. Flake will hold the next layer better.
5. Zinc makes a brittle paint film over time but this will not be an issue for the cast.
6. Quinacradone Red is modern, very similar to Rose Madder except quite hot and pure. You could use this instead of Pyrol Red, knock it back with a little burnt sienna or trans mars brown.
7. You could use that Hansa Yellow but it will need to be knocked back a lot. You might look on the side of the tube for the pigment. Some of these yellows are more permanent than others.
This place above has amazing pigment info, everything.
Yes, you can mix all kinds of stuff up 🙂 but it typically isn’t necessary. The most important thing here is getting a system set up and fine tuned that you like. If you have a really good raw Sienna you can substitute that for the Trans Mars Yellow, but TMY is a very important colour, the darkest yellow and transparent, a lion colour, great for shadows.
August 25, 2012
Thanks for the info. I’m going to purchase the two colors I’m missing: Trans Mars Yellow and Pyrol Alizarin. I do have Alizarin, but not sure how old it is or who the actual manufacturer was (I think I picked it up in Bali and it has a bunch of Chinese writing on the tube…probably made with deadly chemicals).
I’ll use the Cold Black by Williamsburg for the underpainting, along with the Flake white and stay more towards the light end of things.
Do you recommend using any turps to thin out the paint for the underpainting?
Do you recommend starting with a broad color wash over the entire primed surface before starting? If so, which color would you recommend?
One question i have for you is if you’ve ever worked with Verdaccio for the underpainting?
I’ve been reading up on this method instead of grisaille. And, I’m curious to know your take on this. It seems that it was used mainly on Frescos during the Italian Renaissance, which is the time period the painting I’m recreating comes from. Though, this was a panel painting, not a fresco.
I know Bouguereau championed this technique. And, I also know you’ve told me it’s a good idea to switch back and forth between cool and warm.
Should this be a technique I should look into? Or, in your opinion should I stick to the plan of a cool black and white underpainting?
BTW, the recipe I have for Verdaccio is Yellow Ochre mixed with Ivory Black to get a scale of flesh greens. Of course, used on a value scale with I guess…Flake white?
August 25, 2012
Dear Laura —
Wow, Chinese oil paint. I corresponded with someone in Shanghai once about making paint. They were hugely confident, hugely in a hurry, hugely in need of basic information, it was pretty funny.
I think the colour wash is going to screw things up in terms of efficiency. There are Titians and Rembrandts on midtone grounds, but these paintings have either lots of layers, lots of paint, or both. This approach juxtaposes warm and cool from the beginning, so the dialogue between warm and cool is inherent. But, it takes a lot of paint, or a lot of layers. Your original is painted thinly and finely, the logical way to approach this is with thin layers on a white ground, one expanding movement from cool to warm in the layers. It’s also logical for the paint to be thin and fine since you have such an animated ground.
Verdaccio is a way of making the underpainting less cool, more applicable to portraits. Trans Mars Yellow is good for this instead of yellow ochre, darker and transparent. Bouguereau was involved with that cool cobalt sfumato thing so it’s logical he would want something warmer underneath. You will be able to warm it up in layer two, but verdaccio is easier to look at, more natural looking. On the other hand, the painting itself is so warm that a cooler underpainting seems like a good idea. Starting with burnt Sienna and white would not work for this, things would clog chromatically. I don’t think this is a big deal one way or the other. The main thing is to keep the whole thing on the light and cool side so that you can glaze it down in the final layer. Glazing is also inherently warm.
You are a very good technical painter and you have good instincts for this. The more you do it, the more you’ll see ways to tweak each layer for the layer that goes on top. But it’s hard to see all this from the beginning, only so much can be on the floor plan, the building has a different set of issues.
I’ll get that oil off to you on Monday morning.
August 27, 2012
Hi Laura —
I sent some oils out to you today, a relatively thick walnut oil and some of the linseed oil that I refine, exposed to the air so it’s just a little thicker. The linseed oil will dry pretty quickly. The walnut oil will create saturation in small amounts, maybe 5 to 10% added to the paint before painting, then thin with regular oil. There’s enough walnut oil to play around with it, it makes the paint set or tug more, and gives a great gloss. You might want to thin the thick walnut oil with thin walnut oil so it stays open longer for the finbal layer. Of course, the final layer doesn’t have to be final, but a second day of working the same paint can be very nice.
I’ve been thinking that you can make the final layer of that painting with three colours: trans mars yellow, pyrol crimson, and phthalo or Prussian blue, and a little white. A real earth colour like burnt sienna might be good too, more grounding.