Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Oil Painting Techniques: Glazing

So, here I'll give you way too much information on glazing (or indirect painting). But you can pick out what you need and forget the rest. It'll be right here if you ever change your mind.

Here's the first rule (yes, in art rules are for breaking, but you have to understand the rule before you can break it most effectively)

Fat Over Lean

All mediums are fat, all opaque pigments without medium are lean. You want to paint opaquely first, with little or no medium. In subsequent layers you can move to using more medium because the oil will soak through to the first layer. Also, you don't want the under layer to dry slower than top layer as this will result in buckling and cracking.

The basic elements of glazing are pigment and medium. We'll start with the medium first.
Mediums can be as individual as your brush strokes, so there's no "true" formula. However, there are a few rules of thumb that you want to keep in mind.

  • Never use Damar Varnish in your medium. If your painting is ever restored, they will remove the final varnish, and in doing so all of the varnish in your piece will break down. Meaning each layer will separate and your painting will disintegrate.
  • Too much solvent in your medium will cause your pigment to break down, destroying your color and texture. One should never use more than 50% solvent.
  • Certain oils tend to yellow more over time, so you definitely don't want to use vegetable oil. Stick with refined oils: linseed, poppy seed, walnut, spike oil.
Here are a few formulas:
(I recommend Gamsol instead of turp as it is safer and has no odor)

Easy Formula: 1/2 Refined Linseed oil, 1/2 Turpentine (vary quantities according to viscosity that you want) This is pretty quick drying and good for sketching and painting fast. However, it's not great for layers of delicate color - too much solvent. 2/3 oil, 1/3 solvent is much better for that purpose.

Vincent Desiderio's formula: 1/3 Venetian Turpentine, 1/3 Sun-thickened Linseed Oil, 1/3 turpentine

Adrian Gottlieb (which he says was taught to him by "Scott" at Charles Cecil's Studio): 1/2 Sun-thickened walnut oil, 1/4 Canadian Balsam, 1/4 Turpentine

There are three basic types of glazes:

1. Traditional glaze: a transparent pigment diluted with medium, color will become warmer.
2. Velatura: a glaze with a color which is lighter in value than the under layer and is semi-transparent. More simply put: it has white in it. This will cool off the color

3. Scumbling: an opaque kind of glazing produced by loosely dry brushing one color over another so that the under color shows through. There is no set rule here for temperature change as this depends upon the pigments, but generally if the value of the pigment is lighter than the under layer it have a cooling effect, darker will have a warming effect. This is great for optical blending, where you do not actually blend colors to produce a third color, but they look blended from a distance.

Transparent Glaze Palette

It's important when glazing to know the transparency or opacity of the pigment, as this will affect your color temperature and how you work with it. Different pigments have different abilities. Due to the strength and intensity of these colors, painters only need to mix a small amount of color with a suitable painting medium to produce a rich and vibrant glaze.

Indian Yellow — warm yellow makes painting look lit by sunlight

Transparent Orange — warm orange

Perylene Red — cool red with yellow undertone

Quinacridone Red — cool red replacement for Alizarin and makes high key tints

Quinacridone Magenta — cooler high key red

Quinacridone Violet — clean, warm violet

Dioxazine Purple — cold purple that can be used for a black

Manganese Blue Hue — cool (leans toward green) transparent blue

Phthalo Blue — 20th century replacement for Prussian Blue (also slightly greenish)

Phthalo Green — cold, dark green with great transparency and tinting strength

Phthalo Emerald — warmer, more natural looking Phthalo Green

In addition to Transparent Glaze Palette, these colors provide the abstact painter with a unique set of visual possibilities:

Mono Orange — clean, bright semi-transparent color, masstone of Cadmium Orange

Mars Black — dense, strong mark making black

Black Spinel — only black with neutral masstone and tint, dries matte

Hansa Yellow Deep — golden yellow, semi-transparent

The beauty of oil paint as apposed to acrylic is it's flexibility. There are five basic paint consistencies that you can use that will dramatically change your results. The more medium you add to your pigment, the more transparent it will become.

Impasto - thick textured paint application (Lucien Freud)
opaque - flat, even paint
semi-opaque - slightly transparent

These relate to the visual effect you want to produce.
Most of the old masters stayed in the semi-transparent, semi-opaque range with areas of Impasto and limited glazes.
Alex Katz paints completely opaque - which reinforces the flatness of his paintings.

*For an old master technique, here's a good rule of thumb: Shadows lean towards transparency, light mass is more opaque. This helps to reinforce the way light functions.

Here's a great exercise that Stephen LaRose recommended:

The most successful lesson that I had in glazing went this way:

I handed out, as homework, swatches that the students had to match. I didn't tell them that the swatches had an order.

There was a uniform color swatch, much like a paint chip (here the students simply honed their mixing skills)

There was a swatch that was the first color scumbled with medium to show the white of the canvas peaking through in an organic and random way. This was a technique lesson.

There was a third swatch that had a warm glaze over a version of the second swatch.

Then a fourth swatch with a cool glaze over the third swatch.

Four levels of optical confusion is all that most rookies can handle.
And another great exercise from me:

Cover your entire canvas with a wash of any transparent pigment, Castle Earth, Transparent Red Oxide, Indian Yellow (I prefer more neutral colors, but chromatics like Pthalo Blue or Dioxazine Red work too). Paint into the "sauce" with only white to model the values. This is also great for beginners because it helps them to see how their alla prima technique relates to glazing and how a wet glaze will change their color.

Or a similar technique also from me:

Make a charcoal drawing. Dilute yellow shellac with denatured alcohol. Spread this mixture over the drawing with a large squeegie and let dry (should take around 30 min.) You can then cover this with a glaze and paint with oils into the glaze on top of the drawing (which is completely preserved) - this produces a very interesting effect.

Light Temperature and Form

You can find each of these above.

Highlight: cooler than light mass
Light Mass: warm
Turning: cooler
Shadow: Warmer than turning, but cooler than light mass
Core Shadow: cooler
Reflected Light: Always warmer than core shadow, but depends upon the color reflected.

*note - the color and temperature of the flesh is greatly dependent upon the color of the background. Also chromatic intensity in the background influences chromatic intensity in the flesh.

Vincent Desiderio likes to use a single unifying glaze over his whole painting. He feels that this helps to set a mood or atmosphere. Many artists use glazes for local color. Some leave them as is, and some modify them by painting back in wet into wet.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.


Jacques de Beaufort said...

er I meant to post my comment on this one..
I'm a little disoriented presently

Marc Dalessio said...

Great site.

However, the "Gottlieb" medium is very much Charles H. Cecil's medium (who Adrian studied with). Developed over years, from information from the de Mayerne manuscript (before it was available in translation).

Unknown said...

As Marc said, "my" medium was not invented by myself. It was taught to me by a teacher named Scott (if I remember correctly) at Charles Cecil Studios. -Adrian

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
New York City said...

Hi Marc, Adrian,

Thanks for the correction. I didn't say that you Adrian Gottlieb invented the medium. But if it's important for you that I make that distinction I'm happy to make the correction.

Unknown said...

Then again, if working with white, yellow ochre, vermilion and ivory black can be called the "Zorn Palette," why not call this the "Gottlieb Medium?"

New York City said...


Well, I like to point people in the direction of great contemporary painters as well as old masters. Knowing about the great work being made right now will really help us to break some long-standing stereo-types with the contemporary art world. And the resulting cohesion will give momentum to our collective movements. Instead of fighting for market share with each other, why not just expand our market by taking a bit of the Contemporary Art market?

Sorry, I'm rambling, I've got lots of work before my opening tonight, so I'll be off. Thanks for your comments.

Siir evrimi said...

i would like to know if you ahve any infortion on, what is the palette used by old masters and Odd, for Skin colors.
Thank you in advance

New York City said...

Hi Bushido,

Well, the Old Masters didn't all use the same palette. There's a great collection of several palettes in "The Art Forger's Handbook" by Eric Hebborn. I highly recommend this, not for making forgeries, but for understanding technique.

Even Odd doesn't use the same palette for all paintings, but I have one of his palettes here.


ArtPlusOne said...

Great piece of advice. Many thanks!!!!

ArtPlusOne said...

Many thanks for a very smart advice.

Veronica said...

Richard I just wanted to say thank you so much for bothering to post all this. I am self taught, and have started painting only recently. I quickly discovered who the best young contemporary artist are on the scene today. I love the works of Maria Kreyn, Helene Knoop, Shane wolf and you of course. You are all amazingly talented. And reading all your stuff on here is incredibly interesting. I am grateful for you sharing this as I doubt I will ever have the chance to encounter Odd or anyone else like that personally.
Thank you again.

Christopher McElhinney said...

hey Bushido just as a one of example of the many possibilites: the flesh paint used by Velazquez in his Crucifixion is Lead white,Iron Oxide,Azurite and a touch of Vermilion though after his youthfull paintings its important to note that he painted over a light ground.(ref-Garrido "Velazquez The Technique of Genius)the baffaling simplicity of which points out the vast importance of handling,the consistency of the paint,and the mental conception of how the artist will manipulate paint for any given effect.Basiclly all the subtle nuances that make a master a master and have to be learned through experience and experimentation.Although it would be certainly usefull if any living master made public on the internet any of this information.

Anonymous said...

This is great information. Thank you so much. It is very helpful. You mentioned Vincent Desiderio's use of medium and so I was wondering if you knew what Vincent Desiderio's palette was and how he used his paints to create his skin tones.
Also, I was wondering if you knew by any chance the palette of Antonio Lopez Garcia. I am currently in graduate school and looking into the most well-known current figurative painters.
Thanks again for all this info!
Greatly appreciated.

New York City said...

Hi MChris,
What I remember of Vincent's palette is that it was rather broad and he used several transparent pigments such as quinacridones to glaze down the entire painting and work back into while wet.

As for Antonio Lopez Garcia, he is well known for insisting that each painter find his own technique, so I've never been able to find any information on his palette. But, here's a video of him painting which might be helpful... especially the meter stick with the compass on the end that he uses for measuring scale his cityscapes.

Nicolle Baublitz said...

I just wante to say thank you so much for the posts

Unknown said...

Great info! Regarding your shellac ovr charcoal tip, is there a trick to making sure the squeegie doesnt smudge the drawing? Or is that the desired effect?

Thnx again! Mara

Unknown said...

Applying oil paint glazes can produce subtle shifts in colour and help you to unify a painting. Your tips are some of the best tips, I recommend adding this video tutorial to your post.

Unknown said...

hey i would to ask. i saw desiderio video of the painting and he said that as its get closer to the turning the color gets warmer. as i am looing very close to sargent paintings i cant see how the color is cooler next to the hightlight and warmer nest to the turning, i seems like it more warm (yellow) and lighter (white) next to the highlights which also look like warm white. what do you think?

New York City said...

Hi Guy Perl,

With further experience, I would expand upon this principle. I've noticed in Rembrandt's early portraits, that he uses green in the turning, while some paintings, as discussed earlier and Vincent Desiderio discusses, are warmer in the turning.

The commonality I've noticed is a higher saturation of chroma in the turning, whether it's warm or cool.