Generally there are two techniques to paint with oils.
2)Painting by layers.
In alla prima, one paints a finished artwork straight away with confident brush strokes. The strokes must be done precisely, with just the right colour. The finished piece may look completely abstract on closer observation, but (if desired) photographic, when viewed from further away.
When one is painting by layers, layers of paint thinned to translucency are applied one on top of another. More oil medium is added to the paint mixture by each subsequent layer. So, in the beginning one uses ”drier” paint, and in the end more oily paint. Thus the lower layers absorb some of the oil, but the higher layers are always more oily and elastic, and will dry (and shrink) the last. The surface of the paint will dry later than the layers beneath it, and thus will not crack.
First paint layer (of course) the canvas is applied with is gesso, the base paint. First ”real” layer of paint is called imprimatura, witch is neutral by it’s value. A common imprimatura is burnt umber mixed with white, thinned to milky consistency. Imprimatura (aka staining the canvas) is a very substantial phase, as white paint will then lighten and dark paint darken the painting.
As the imprimatura has dried, the next layer is painted. It’s called a grisaille. Grisaille (traditionally) is also made monochromatically (with one colour). It’s sole purpose is to set the darks and lights of the painting. Think of it as a black and white photograph (or sepia, for that matter).
Painting from a model (or especially from a photograph) is not inherently difficult, as the content of the picture is known, and the guide to mix the paints is straight in front of your eyes. You can even compare the paint straight from the tip of your palette knife! Getting the proportions right is even easier: Use a projector to project the image to the canvas!
If one desires to create new imaginery systematically, without a model, a first solid step is to make a sketch (or a “cartone” in fresco). The sketch is then transferred (with one mean or another) to the canvas.
It is challenging to start making a piece systematically, without any prior knowledge of the end result! To find a new image with a coherent technique, is a journey where a great confidence to ones intuition is a necessity. One must trust, that the piece will make sense in the end. To me, it is the only way to ”find” new images. I use the term find, as it describes the creative process (IMHO) well.
I made the grisaille of this painting on top of a neutral imprimatura only with burnt umber and white.
First the pyramids appeared, and then the general mood and the dynamics of the directions. I found the basic idea and composition of this painting in a couple of hours (this time). Then I started working on the illusion of depth and distance with white. Then I started to see skulls in the painting. Apparently I was getting too tired, so I headed to bed.
In the morning I saw very interesting subjects in the painting. The distances were not far enough, so I had to continue with white layers. To substantiate the pyramids to the background.
After some hours of work, the painting was starting to take shape. The only problem was that the painting started to look like SciFi / Fantasy -genre. So it’s a time off again, until I see more interesting, hopefully abstract elements in the painting.
The idea of the work is of the highest importance. So I’ll stay in the grisaille phase (at least) one more session, until I feel that I can move to the next step. Then I’ll find the main colors of the elements. These colours aren’t applied straight away, but their complementary colours are applied to the shadows, one layer at a time. Finally the colour scheme sets it’s place, and the last strokes are made to the highlights.
6-12 months after the last stroke the painting is coated with vernissa.
I’ll post more of the progress later. Now I started to learn to play the 10 hole blues harp!
Oh yeah, and sorry about my English. Grammar cops can post to comments! 😉