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Old 06-15-2006, 07:42 AM   #21
Paul Foxton Paul Foxton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Budig
The point is, I keep fiddling, looking for odd ways to texture the gesso, which, as you know by now, sometimes makes for a very interesting painting surface.
It certainly does, sometimes a bit too interesting! In the Lemon and Bottle painting I think overdid it.

One thing that strikes me about this is that it would be very nice to be able to apply texture to the ground depending on the subject, or perhaps the desired feel, of the painting. But since the panels need preparing ahead of time and the ground needs to be dry, it would perhaps take some of the spontanaiety out the painting.

By the way Richard, I love your idea of painting kids in the local library. Their parents must love you.

P.S. I'd love to see some of those oil sketches, if you have any pics.
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Old 06-15-2006, 10:43 AM   #22
Michele Rushworth Michele Rushworth is offline
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Paul, thanks for that detailed and interesting post about transparency in shadow areas. I've never read such a thorough explanation before. I've always painted alla prima and have never tried it before. Maybe I'll try a little still life painting, as you did, to see how I like it.
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Old 06-16-2006, 01:28 PM   #23
Paul Foxton Paul Foxton is offline
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Thanks Michele, I'm glad you found it interesting. Actually I'm just glad you made it through the post!

I'm really hoping that we both mean something slightly different by "alla prima." Please don't tell me you do those beautiful, highly finished portraits in one sitting, or I'm about ready to give up altogether. Perhaps you just don't sleep for days on end until you've finished?

I'm guessing that you are referring to painting wet into wet - pretty much the same thing I guess in terms of technique.

One thing I forgot to mention is that I have a 'no white paint in shadows' rule at the moment, although I confess I do break it sometimes. I find that white is too opaque and spoils the translucency, if I need to lighten a shadow I wipe off some paint with my finger to let more ground show through.
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Old 06-16-2006, 02:37 PM   #24
Michele Rushworth Michele Rushworth is offline
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I think alla prima means a lot of different things to different people, and no, I don't paint my portraits in one sitting (I wish!) They take me about a month each, on average.

What I mean is that I don't use transparent glazes and I try to lay down only one opaque layer on a given part of the painting. Doesn't always work out that way and some areas have three, four or five layers until I get them right, but I don't do layered glazes intentionally.
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Old 06-16-2006, 03:39 PM   #25
Richard Bingham Richard Bingham is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Foxton
I find that white is too opaque and spoils the translucency, if I need to lighten a shadow I wipe off some paint with my finger to let more ground show through.
What whites do you use, Paul? Titanium is certainly opaque, and altering the tonality of colors mixed with it, is responsible for the "chalky" look of some amateur paintings. Flake white is truly the "Secret of the Old Masters" and is relatively transparent. Zinc white has a cool caste, and is perhaps a bit more transparent than flake white, but offers none of the wonderful possibilities in handling of lead white (including impasto effects under glazing).

It's interesting how "glazing" as you described, over the ground or an underpainted passage, results in a color value much "warmer" than the same color brought to that same lighter value by adding white.

Reading through this thread, it seems we could benefit from "standard" definitions of the terms we use. Alla prima is used interchangeably to describe painting to completion within a single sitting (a primer coup) as well as painting wet-in-wet through an extended period as Michele describes. This as opposed to using a "planned" layered approach, where underpainted passages may not show what "local color" a passage will be when over-painted, glazed and completed.

"Lead gesso" is a misnomer probably originating in the use of "acrylic gessos" for priming raw canvas, which has become widespread the last 40 years or so. "Gesso" has thus become synonymous with "primer" or "ground"

"Real gesso" is compounded with hide glue, gypsum and whiting. A brittle material, it's great for panels, completely inappropriate on a stretched canvas. Acrylic "gesso" is acrylic co-polymer and "marble dust" (aka whiting), but a lead ground is not gesso, and remains the best priming for stretched canvases in my opinion.
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Old 06-17-2006, 12:32 PM   #26
Paul Foxton Paul Foxton is offline
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I think the thread is veering off course a bit now, which I'm responsible for, so I'll be brief:

Richard, I use flake white almost exclusively now, occasionally titanium but usually on it's own when I want a bright opaque white. For shadows, I currently try to keep anything remotely opaque out of them as much as I can, including cadmiums.

Yes, acrylic gesso isn't really gesso, but nonetheless that's what Robersons call it. To be fair to them, they put the word "gesso" in quotation marks on the lable, I should have done the same. Interesting info there though, thanks.
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Old 06-18-2006, 11:54 AM   #27
Paul Foxton Paul Foxton is offline
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I've just dug out a passage on the toning of grounds in "The Materials of the Artist and Their Use in Painting," written by Max Doerner, a professor in the Academy of the Finer Arts in Munich, first published in 1921. His comments touch on a lot which has been covered in this thread.

I'll post a few quotes which may be relevant here:

"The Gothic masters and those of the early Renaissance toned their white gypsum grounds with thin reddish or yellowish, also greenish coats of earth colours (so called imprimatura), which reduced the absorbent quality of the ground. They were also used as middle tones in the picture."

And on Rubens's technique:

"Rubens went over his dazzling white gypsum grounds, laid on wood, with a mixture of ground hard charcoal, some white colour, and some binding medium (probably glue). This coat was applied quickly with a sponge and had a striped silvery grey tone which gave to the subsequent thin coats of colour an unusually loose, pleasing, and live appearance. If a sponge or brush is passed back and forth over such a coat, the latter quickly dissolves, and the tone becomes uniformly grey and like an ordinary coat of paint. On the other hand, there are to be found solidly painted coats of grey ground on canvases by Rubens, Van Dyck, and many other masters."

Some general comments on toned grounds:

"This much may be said in a general way concerning the effects of coloured grounds upon a painting: white grounds permit the greatest degree of colourfulness-all colours look well on white. On the other hand, the proper relating of colours on a white ground is more difficult; the picture may easily become too cold and flat. The well-trained painter knows how to combat the danger of too high colouring through the proper and free use of cold, warm, and contrasting colour tones. It is possible to work both in glazes and opaquely on a white ground. On a toned ground only an opaque technique is possible, that is to say, the darker the ground the more opaque should be the technique. Through a semi-opaque technique which allows the ground to be active result the "optical greys" which were used by the old masters Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and many others. These greys have a more charming quality than painted greys."

Some more comments on how grounds effect the subsequent layers, specifically for portraiture:

"On light grey grounds, as on grey underpainting, the colour becomes more dull and earthy. This is desired by many painters and has a good effect in the painting of flesh, especially when the ground is used to help the effect. Grey-green tones of Veronese green earth are effective for flesh tones, as well as for the all pervading tone of the picture. On coloured grounds such as light ochre, or, for example, on red, the colour range of the picture is reduced, for the contrasting tones of blue or green are weakened or even broken; but the harmony of the picture as a whole is heightened."

"Umber grounds are not to be recommended; on umber all light colours change and become dark."

And a nice final quote:

"It is certain that all sorts of fine effects as yet unexploited may be achieved on coloured grounds."

The book can be found on Amazon here .
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Old 06-18-2006, 01:46 PM   #28
Richard Bingham Richard Bingham is offline
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A-Yup. Doerner didn't mention Tiepolo's ochre grounds ? They're interesting to see in his small scale proposals, and they lent special verve to those "blue heaven" skies in his ceilings.

The interesting thing about toning a ground is that applied over an initial white base, the mechanics of reflection through transparent layers remains the same. There's no question it's much easier and pleasant to work on a toned ground than "stark white".
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Old 06-18-2006, 05:40 PM   #29
Paul Foxton Paul Foxton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Bingham
Doerner didn't mention Tiepolo's ochre grounds ?
Unfortunately not. Tiepolo is one of my favourite painters, mainly for his colour - It was partly seeing his work in Venice that got me painting again
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Old 08-25-2006, 04:24 AM   #30
Bianca Berends Bianca Berends is offline
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I prefer the white of the canvas as a starting point. I don't paint thin layers, but try to paint a face in one session. The thickness of the paint is mostly the same in the shadows, midtones as in the light areas. I like the white of the canvas because it corresponds with the white of my pallet, so I know the colors I mix will come out exactly the same on the canvas.
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