Sunday, January 31, 2010

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.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Renee,
    Can I ask you please if for any chance you know where Odd Nerdrum got his idea for the ground (the Blanc de Meudon with refined linseed oil)This type of "putty" is used by restorers (framers, art conservators, etc.) But also is the basis of Louis Velasquez's CSO technology as it changes the oil paints' rheology when mixed with commercial oil colours.

    Thanks for your time and help


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