I have expressed the importance of “seeing” value before color in previous blogs. Now, I would like to reveal how this concept can be used as an under-painting and develop, through the process of glazes, into a full color painting. I have documented the progress of one of my original works to demonstrate this point.
Before I begin, it is important for me to stress that the techniques being used here are based on tradition, not confined to it. I have taken some liberties (only after thorough study of the more traditional approaches) to realize my vision for this particular image. Art should never be limited to one technique or another; it should always be evolving. Tradition is a great way to learn a particular style or approach, but it is important for an artist to mold those ideologies into his own practice otherwise his work will become stagnant.
I am using several different techniques in this painting. The first technique is a modified grisaille which will be glazed over. This is referred to as an in-direct painting method. The second approach is a direct painting method, painted directly onto the white ground in full color. Each approach will create different chromatic effects.
In the Northern Renaissance prior to the fourteenth century, artist’s worked primarily in egg tempera. Most of the painted subjects were religious scenes composed of many figures. Flesh tones were underpainted in green, which added a certain degree of brilliance to the final colors. The selection of pigments at that time were much more limited. Terre Verte was a natural green pigment made from the earth and commonly used for that reason. It is still available today but very transparent, making it hard to work with. I have substituted this color with Viridian Green which has a little bit more body. In addition to Viridian Green, I will be using Ivory Black, and Flake White to create a green grisaille.
Below are two scales. One is made up of greys only, and the other is made up of tints and shades of green. They are identical in value. The green scale is simulated to look like paint mixtures of the three colors mentioned above. Value #5 is closest to a true Viridian Green without the addition of black or white. It is slightly darker than a mid-tone. Notice how the lighter green values appear to be cooler (leaning more towards a blue-green) and the darker values appear to be warmer (leaning more towards a yellow-green). This is true when the colors are mixed directly on the palette as well. White will make the green more opaque and eliminate some of the natural yellow influence in the pigment, whereas black will do the opposite, making the pigment appear warmer. This display will actually give the grisaille a warm/cool appearance without any additional colors.
Once I completely filled in my shadow masses, I began to work into my light masses. I am now looking for the subtle variations of tone, particularly half tones (the area where shadow transitions into light). I decided not to apply any tone on the left side of her cheek. This area will be glazed over with translucent layers of paint, which will give more luminosity to the final colors.