Oil Painting – Tips on Glazing

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Traditional oil paintings often began with a grisaille, which is a monochromatic version of the finished piece. When this dismissed, the painter began to add layers of glaze in different colors, allowing each layer to dry before adding the next one. This method, favored by Vermeer, afforded the painter more control over the development of the painting, while creating a luminescent, translucent surface. With even more glazing, the artist could further darken sections of the canvas, such as a figure or background, making them appear to recede.

Another time-tested method of the Old Masters involved using glazes over opaque colors. The under-glow of light coming through transparent glazes allowed for the creation of many special effects. Rembrandt, for example, was able to create remarkable three-dimensionality in his paintings through the use of glazing. His glazes, which he applied then wiped off while they were still wet, are clearly evident in the nooks and crannies of his paintings

Glazing, to put it simply, is the application of a transparent layer of paint over an opaque layer of paint which has been allowed to dry thoroughly. It can be compared to laying a sheet of colored acetate, or gel, over a photograph. However, while it sounds easy enough, glazing can be challenging at times.

First, you have to dilute the paint used for glazing with just the right amount of oil, or medium. Then, you have to figure out exactly how thin the glaze should be. Applying an overly thick layer could change the color or shade to an unwanted degree, forcing you to wipe it off. Too much paint added to the medium will also lessen the transparency of the glaze, depending on your color choices.

The secret to glazing, I personally discovered the hard way, is patience. You need to build your colors and tones slowly. In fact, with glazing, there really is no other way to do it. The paint must be kept extremely thin, even though you may think it is so thin that it is not doing anything. The first or second layer, or maybe even the third, may appear that way, but the key is to keep building the layers until you start to see a difference.

Like I said, I learned the hard way. I wanted to see immediate results, which caused me to constantly lay my glazes on too thick, or add too much paint to the medium. It was not until I forced myself to be patient that I began to get the results that I was looking for. That required using extremely thin and seemingly ineffective glazes, often as many as ten or twenty. But, in the end, I got it right. And so will you.



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