(Post from Losina Art Center Blog, August 2014)

Each Saturday class a new model poses as Venus. As she gets in the pose, artists compose her onto their canvases and everyone paints her green. To an outsider it looks like all the artists have gone mad. But if you wait, you’ll see the group of beautiful paintings appearing, all being created in the technique of “glazing”. The artists are trained in the well-forgotten method used in Early Renaissance.

To add purposefulness to the project and make the assignment more meaningful, canvas is suggested to be “lanky” (as if we are looking at the model through a crack in the door). Paintings are created in one day. In 8-9 weeks artists will have made a series of standing figures, which can eventually be exhibited by each artist as a set or a series.

This Glazing Technique may seem strange at first. It is done over green underpainting. You need just three pigments: red, yellow and white. The versatility of this technique allows you to use the same 3 pigments for ALL skin tones – from pale, to tan, to very dark – by manipulating proportions.

Why green? Great Masters noticed that our skin has a subtle olive tint (just a suggestion to go look at the examples: Francisco Zurbaran, Hans Memling). When you work your reds over the green, you get a range of soft brown shadows (red + green = brown), while mixtures of red-and-white and yellow-red-white will create luminous “skin in the light”. Zinc White (that some artists consider “terrible quality”) is perfect for layering the translucent glazes.

You can try the Glazing Technique by following these steps:

  1. Make green underpainting (color the entire canvas green), let it dry;
  2. Sketch the figure (for extra speed, draw it using the “negative-shape technique”);
  3. Paint the background around the figure any color you want, but keep the silhouette of the body green;
  4. Apply layers of translucent pigments (glazes): a transparent red over the green – to achieve a brown tone of the shadows. For the areas of the body that are exposed to the light, use the glazing mixture of red and white (with some yellow, if you want to make the color of the skin warmer).
  5. Finish with highlights in zinc white.

Your painting will look like it belongs on museum walls!

There are many benefits in doing the same technique week after week: a. – to create “multiples” (i.e. a cohesive body of work), and b. – to get more practice to master the trick. Everyone in class thinks that the method is awesome: it provides realistic appearance almost effortlessly and FASTER than the direct “alla prima”. Old Masters techniques were created to get quick results! Glazing method is so fast that it gets easily overdone! Even after thorough instructions, beginners have to overwork their canvases before they realize that they are painting over the already glorious painting.

This method will help you transform your approach to portraiture and figure painting. If you try glazing, let us know how it worked for you!

If you love this technique, you will love Saturday class. Click this link to register. You can call me 619-630-9278 and I will explain what you need to bring. But hurry, only a few spots left. All the classes are getting pretty packed, because this is the year I am starting to train other teachers and cut down on my teaching.

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