Thursday, August 14, 2008

Under the Underpainting

Thought it would be nice to give a flavor of the grisaille while in progress. The first step of course is the drawing. Depending on the complexity of the composition, it can be simple, or highly detailed. Since this particular painting is not overly complicated (at least by my recent standards), the drawing did not need to be very involved.

You'll notice the hatched areas of the drawing indicating dark masses and shadows. I only recently started doing this. Especially with complicated compositions, I found it incredibly difficult to look at 10 roughly parallel lines, count in from the edge, and try to remember the pattern of shadows, highlights, and middle tones I needed to capture. I don't need to make things any harder than they already are...

Anyway, after finishing the drawing, I apply a damar retouch. When working on the grisaille, the paints are heavily thinned with turpentine. This dissolves some of the damar layer, and the entire surface dries to a beautiful, almost enamel-like finish.


Katherine said...

What's damar, Jeff? Gum Arabic or something? When I do a google search all I get is a mythical land or a New Zealand industrial company... :-)

Jeff Hayes said...

Hi Katherine - it's actually a form of resin that dissolves in turpentine and dries to a very hard layer. It's been the tradition oil painting varnish for centuries. Because of a tendency to yellow as it ages, it's somewhat controversial now for a final varnish.

However, I think it's indispensible for a retouch varnish; it "wets" the previously dried layers of paint, and it also promotes adhesion of the paint layers. By applying retouch over a drawing layer, the charcoal is isolated, and won't be lifted up by the brushstrokes when it's time to apply the paint.

It smells nice too :)

Katherine said...

Thanks Jeff.