Sunday, September 16, 2012

Finishing layers

Posted by: Dave

The last layer, known as second painting, introduces medium and a thin, blended application of paint. As some of you know, this layer deals with subtlety and smooth transitions.  It isn't needed everywhere, simply for more detailed or volumetric forms.  Not all artists bother with a stage like this, as it is a preference determined by how you want your finished painting to appear.   Sometimes I feel like skipping this stage as it causes people to walk up to my painting and tell me how much it looks like a photograph.  I know they mean it as a compliment, but it's the equivalent of telling a fat person they look healthy or telling an ugly person they have beautiful eyes. 

Before I begin the final layer, a thin application of medium is applied with a makeup sponge, which I will paint into with pure paint using small round brushes (like the one below).

The medium has been applied and re-saturated the colors.  In addition, it will allow the pure paint I add to it to move more fluidly.

bam, done(ish) with the mask (minus green thingy, hose, and straps).

A couple painting tips.

1) Lead white #2 from Natural Pigments is so ropey, you can actually have a small string of paint hanging off of your brush which can be laid down as a long highlight.  Keep in mind highlights are a variety of colors and shapes.  I will also sometimes shape my highlights after they have been laid down with a clean brush loaded with oil.

2) To get thin crisp  dark lines, like those found in wood cracks etc, I use mineral spirits to dilute the paint to an inky consistency, even though this breaks the fat over lean rule.

3)  When starting with second painting, keep your colors the most vibrant in the beginning as they will grey down the more they mix.

I was too tired to write anything else witty, so here is a picture of a squirrel suplexing his friend.

p.s. Nobody can post a comment about how healthy I look with my pretty eyes.


  1. Are you sure those aren't little monkeys?

  2. Very pretty eyes... on the mask.
    Good post. I feel the same about what you were saying about the finishing layer, is it to prove for myself that I can do it, make it look really real or is it for everyone else. Talk about internal struggle. I remember seeing Repins painting of the Cossacks and that really screwed up my view on what a finish really is. Is it the emotion and the strike force of a painting or is it the result of the craft and the accuracy of the painter. And now days it feels like the hardest and most important question to ask to get to the finish of a painting. (And waking up in a different mood, can be enough to change those answers.)

    Anyway, good post David.

    ...and I think that those squrriels actually are monkeys.

    1. I know what you mean. People seem to be getting praise for either extremely tightly executed paintings or extremely "Sargeantest" loose paintings. It's hard to find a balance, though I will say I am loosening up if anything. The biggest thing with artists like Repin, and others for that matter, is that they really knew how to use paint quality, color, and value to create such amazing realism over things like using detail and blending. I too had a similar experience with a Repin portrait at the Met where I was surprised just how the finished surface looked.

      ps. I really like your work and feel like you seem to be trying to achieve a lot of the same things as me.

    2. ...and yes, they could be monkeys, I really wasn't paying attention.

    3. I should also say how much this all ties back to my mixed feelings over contemporary academies having students spend 3-4 months on a drawing exercise filling in the weave of the paper. These places praise rendering way too much.

    4. I don't recall the source (it was a Rembrandt-book, I think), but it was said that students were cautioned against starting rough. That is, they were directed towards high finish. The reasoning was simple, as trying for a high finish gave them a set standard against which to judge the work for accuracy, etc. Granted, the high finish they were referring to was not the 3-4 month paper-pore filling exercises of some of today's ateliers.

      It comes back to the old question of abstraction - is it by choice, or consequence (of inability)?

      Looking at Ingres or someone makes me want to really tighten up, but then you see Nerdrum and it's like a kick in the pants when you realize how much can be done with the paint, while still holding the image. Internal struggle, indeed.

  3. Hey David,

    Awesome post as always! Thank you for sharing these.
    Out of curiosity, what type of gloves are you wearing in the photo above? And am I right in assuming that you are wearing these gloves both to prevent skin exposure to chemicals/paint and for fashion correct?

    1. I have on Nitral Gloves because I work with Lead White and Vermillion. They also go great with my gimp suit.