Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Glazing an Oil Painting



A favorite oil painting technique that I use is known as glazing. It has been a technique used since oil painting was first invented, yet it seems many contemporary artists have abandoned it. The glazing effect can be likened to placing thin pieces of colored glass on top of each other. So in painting terms, it is the process of stacking up thin layers of translucent color.

The glazing technique has several advantages, one my favorites being that it creates a glass-like plane while creating the illusion that the surface is further away. This works well, for example, when I want the color brown to have a luster rather than the simple flat brown created by mixing opaque colors from the tube. While glazing can be accomplished with any pigment, I prefer some more than others -- colors that are inherently translucent as opposed to those which are opaque. For example, translucent colors include burnt sienna, veridian, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, and payne's gray; opaque colors include titanium white, cadmium red, and yellow ochre.

Once the pigment is selected, it is important to then dilute it with a medium. Typically, I use one of two different methods: 1) my "trade-secret" mix of galkyd, linseed oil, and [secret]; or 2) straight liquin. Once the correct viscosity is mixed, the pigment can be applied to the canvas in various ways using different types of brushes, such as those for scumbling, wiping, or detail. And, once the layer dries, it may be ready for another "pane of glass"!

Examples of glazing can be seen in my pictures below where paint is applied over text -- this allows the text to be readable underneath different colors. However, more complex examples can be seen in the work of Jan Vermeer here.