Sunday, January 31, 2010



studio lighting

natural light

artificial light 
(making lightbox 'window' for winter)

Preparing copper for oil painting

Sand the surface with fine grit sandpaper in a circular motion, until the surface is matt. It should be well cleaned and degreased with denatured alcohol. Do NOT touch the cleaned copper surface, or your fingerprints will show up through your paint layers! After cleaning, the surface should be rubbed with garlic cloves, or better perhaps, the juice of crushed garlics, which could be brushed on and allow to dry. The acidic juice of garlic etches the copper surface and aid bonding of oil paint. You can start painting on copper directly, or, if preferred, on a thin layer of lead white. Always use a lead white bound in linseed oil for this. I rub it on the surface with the palm of my hand, wearing Nitrile gloves. I let it dry for a week, and apply another thin layer, this time using a blend of lead white, a bit of titanium and chalk. I also add a small amount of medium to this, made from 1 part balsam and 2 parts sun thickened oil. Again, I rub it onto the surface, then blend it with a large soft brush. The surface will be smooth. If you feel the need, you can sand it afterwards with very fine grit sandpaper, but be very careful; inhaling lead dust is VERY poisonous! Always wet-sand, but use oil instead of water. Wipe the surface dry and clean with a rag. I prefer to use another, ancient method; I scrape the surface after a few days of drying. I use a glass plate for this. The result is a very smooth surface. You probably need to scrape just one single time in one direction, it's quick, clean and perfect.

odd nerdrum's materials

1. The Canvas:
Odd uses a very heavy herringbone weave linen. This is not the secret to his texture, but it is incredibly durable and invaluable for his technique.
2. The Ground:
You can see the color and value in this image. This is very important, as this ground is like nothing I've ever painted on before. We mix the Blanc de Meudon with refined linseed oil (until it's the consistency of thick cake batter) and of course any pigment you like. Odd uses trans red oxide (or burnt sienna) and a little mars black to neutralize the color. But he also sometimes mixes mars black and yellow ochre to produce a nice green ground. You apply it straight to the canvas that has been sized with rabbit skin glue (or PVA sizing for an alternative) with a large palette knife. Scraping it smooth. Let that dry for two or three days and repeat. 2 or 3 layers should be fine. Essentially, gesso is a cheaper replacement for this. Gesso is chalk suspended in oil, but the stuff that you buy in the stores is not ground as finely, nor is it as absorbent as blanc de Meudon. I got it in Paris. I'll look into it and see if it's called by another name in the states. I'm sure someone has it.
It is composed of a very fine chalk and refined linseed oil. He, of course, uses the finest of both. But I have found that the chalk is more important than the linseed oil, so since I'm on a budget, I go for the good chalk and use merely decent refined linseed oil as opposed to the stuff that he uses, which he has specially made for him.
Blanc de meudon is composed of particles of calcium carbonate, also called Spanish white. It is the main component of limestone and chalk.
3. Brushes:
Odd uses anything and everything can find. So, there's little I can tell you here. He tends to like cheap brushes, but keeps a few nicer ones around.

4. The Palette:
Sennelier Titanium white
Mars yellow + white
Old Holland Brilliant Yellow
Old Holland Mars Yellow
Vermillion + Mars Yellow
Sennelier Chinese vermilion
Mars Black + white
Black + yellow
Old Holland Deep Ochre
Old Holland Mars Black]

Take note of the pre-mixed colors. He has chosen these specific values and tubed the mixtures in order to make modeling flesh faster and easier. This is one thing (as well as great skill and years of experience) that enables him to mix color right on the canvas as he goes without mixing on his palette.

The palette alone is also not the trick to great flesh tones. It has to do with nuances created in the process of painting between the palette, application of broken color, textural variations, and subtle layers of semi-opaques, glazes, velaturas, semi-transparents, etc... which makes the flesh look luminous, semi-transparent, and thus: lifelike and beautiful.


Odd, like all masters old and new, understands two different modes of temperature in painting flesh: local temperature and form temperature. Form temperature, I've detailed in the above link. As far as local temperature is concerned, a great example are the ear lobes, nostrils, hands, toes, and cheeks. The color of the flesh in these places tends to be warmer as blood vessels approach the surface of the skin. Conversely, in areas such as the forehead, where there is very little between the skin and bone, the color tends to be cooler in temperature. Take note of these while painting and you will notice a tremendous difference.
As if that wasn't enough to keep track of, Odd also uses another means of color shift on a large scale for both compositional, and illuminatory purposes. This is loosely based on optics, but is greatly exaggerated to exquisite effect. It's quite an interesting and beautiful concept: as light gets farther from the source it scales through the spectrum from yellow, closest to the light source, to orange, red, violet, and all the way to blue or sometimes green. You can see this particularly in his void paintings.

Now this is a general rule of thumb. If you look closely, he breaks and bends it all the time. Also, he takes into account local shifts in color and temperature as well as form shifts in color and temperature. Furthermore, there are changes in chroma related to the light, the angle of the planes of the form, local temperature and chromatic shifts in the skin, and some changes made purely for compositional purposes. As he moves into the shadow the color becomes cooler and more neutral.

5. The Medium:
It's actually quite simple. Like Rembrandt did, Odd uses primarily refined linseed oil which he lets stand in a jar... so it becomes essentially stand oil. That, mixed in various percentages with turpentine (he tends not to be particular about it), becomes a versatile medium.

sargent's painting notes

Painting is an interpretation of tone.

...Keep the planes free and simple, drawing a full brush down the whole contour of a cheek.

...Always paint one thing into another and not side by side until they touch.

...The thicker your paint—the more your color flows.

...Simplify, omit all but the most essential elements—values, especially the values. You must clarify the values.

...The secret of painting is in the half tone of each plane, in economizing the accents and in the handling of the lights.

...You begin with the middle tones and work up from it .... so that you deal last with your lightest lights and darkest darks, you avoid false accents.

...Paint in all the half tones and the generalized passages quite thick.

...It is impossible for a painter to try to repaint a head where the understructure was wrong.

Flake White
Naples Yellow
Yellow Ochre
English Red
Ivory Black
Prussian Blue

Margaret Carter Baumgaertner palette

Tube Paints 
Top Row On Palette: 
Cadmium Yellow
Cadmium Orange
Cadmium Scarlet
Cadmium Red
Quinacridone Rose
Alizarin Crimson
Dioxizine Purple (M Graham)
Cadmium Green Pale (W/N)
Permanent Green Light (W/N)
Sap Green
Kings Blue - Rembrandt
Cerulean Blue
Cobalt Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Ivory Black


Second Row On Palette:
Stil De Grain Yellow - Rembrandt
Yellow Ochre - Mussini Attish light ochre
Gold Ochre
English Red - (W/N)
Caput Mortum Violet - Rembrandt
Titanium White

Margaret's approach for this portrait in her video is to establish the light side and shadow side with a single color and value and then work on top of that rather than mixing on her palette.

Light Side - foundation: Cad Yellow and a touch of white (Or yellow ochre)

Shadow Side - foundation: Dioxazine Purple w/ white

Then, she adds/layers in cadmium scarlet wet into wet on each side to establish her basic flesh color.

Dani Dawson (an amazing colorist and outstanding painter) was just reviewing the same concept with me: Working the shadows using the colorist approach of establishing the Dioxazine Purple first followed by the other shadow colors (For example - Cad green pale, cad red light, cerulean blue). Following this colorist approach, paintings take on a wonderful pearly feeling in the skin.

Margaret also shows a perfect colorist exercise which is a great lesson for beginning portraiture. Lay out all of the following colors in 3x3 inch blocks next to each other (with a touch of white in each). When you're done - step back and see that they work together as one "color" like a pointillist painting because they are all the same value. Take a moment to really see the overall look of the many colors in a flesh tone.

Alizarin crimson & cadmium yellow light
Yellow Ochre
Quinocridone rose w/ permanent green light
Cadmium scarlet
Dioxazine purple
Cadmium Orange
Ivory black

Saturday, January 30, 2010

landscape workshop

"[Sara] also has a "keep it simple" approach to beginning a landscape painting and provided the following challenge to her students. Finish a small 5x7 painting with either a 3/4 inch flat brush (or palette knife) in 50 strokes or less.

"Below, I've provided a summery of my own interpretation of her guidelines during the demonstration. Of course, this may be my own view of her words colored by my own background. So, to reach into the mind of Sara directly, visit her website where sara shares some great tips on landscape painting.

- Start with a warm toned canvas and rough in your sketch with a tertiary color (they dry faster)
- Simplify your composition by selecting 4 or fewer elements (earth, water, grass, trees, mountains, sky, rock etc.)
- Use the golden triangle to find a sweet spot for your subject (again, remove any element details that don't support the subject)
- Block in color from lightest to darkest dark (sky and corresponding water are typically the lightest parts of a composition)
- Fall in love with all of the glorious shades of grey, they are your friend in a landscape painting
- Know when to step back and/or walk away (Expressive landscape paintings are often finished long before you add final details)

painting on copper

prepping copper for oil painting:
- Use fine grit sandpaper or wool to create a "tooth".
- Rub crushed onion juice on the copper an letting it dry (this seems to take forever)
- To create a strong bond, apply a thin layer of resin or mastic varnish

Begin your painting with 3 layers of a lead white ground letting them dry between layers. This is kind of like laying down your first layer on the slippery panel and then coming back the next day to continue.

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