What is oil painting? Oil paints on the canvas. It's an indisputable definition.
I think though that oil painting is more than that. From the 16th century
to the beginning of the 20th century artists used the seven layer technique.
Like music where there are seven notes, seven keys, and within each there
are seven more. 7 days in a week. 7 Layers of Paint. Each layer in oil
painting must dry for seven weeks. The energy which we receive from old
paintings in museums, like ghosts in old castles with old paintings, is
related to this magic figure.
looking at modern art and stop loving it. Modern bright colors and hue
contrasts destroy the subtle vision of the painter who risks to study
classical painting in our time.
2. Many painters get an energy charge from music. Stop listening to any
modern music and begin listening only to classical music. Try to begin
3. Brushes. You should have many brushes so that not to lose time washing
them while working. Take a new brush for every new mix. Use round kolinsky
brushes, #1 to #10. To cover larger surfaces, you will need a few #20
to #35 brushes. For final strokes Priplavleniye (final blending)
you will need a few very soft round and flat average size squirrel brushes.
Brushes should be treated very carefully. After every session they should
be washed in turpentine and after that in warm water with soap.
4. The palette must be made of hard dark wood, best of all, of pear. After
work wash the palette with turpentine and scrape it with a razor. Before
work wipe the palette with linseed oil.
5. The canvas should be primed additionally a few more times and in conclusion
it should be ground with fine sandpaper. After that the canvas should
be scraped with a razor to remove the canvas texture till smooth dead
surface similar to the egg's surface is achieved.
6. It is very important to have objects for still lifes in the studio.
Don't be stingy at garage sales and flea markets, you may regret it later.
7. The drawing is made on paper life-size to the smallest details. Then
it is transferred to the canvas by carbon-paper. After that the drawing
is outlined with brown ink because the first oil layer - Imprimatura
(transparent coat that is equal to the middle tone of largest, lightest
object in painting) - will wash away the pencil, but the ink will remain
visible almost through the last layers.
8. Before each new layer the canvas (ideally dried during 7 weeks) is
carefully wiped with a half of an onion (in order to prepare the dried
surface to absorb better) and then with linseed oil. After that the canvas
is wiped with a soft piece of cloth.
9. The lacquer for Imprimatura is made of 2% of dry Damar Crystals
and 98% of turpentine. The lacquer for painting is made of 5-10% of dry
resin and 90-95 % of turpentine. A couple of lavender oil drops are added
directly to the oil-can. Scientists say lavender oil stimulates the brain.
However, I think that old masters added it to eliminate the heavy turpentine
smell. The lacquer for the final step consists of 30% of Damar Crystals,
3% of linseed oil, and 67% of turpentine.
10. The basic set of paints is the following: "Rembrandt" oil colors:
Flake White, Yellow Ochre Light, Red Ochre, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber Ivory
and Lamp Black (7 Basic Colors), and 4 extra colors (when necessary) which
I use in the last layers: Flake Yellow (instead of it also can be used
Cadmium Yellow Deep), Madder Lake Deep, Chinese Vermilion, Prussian Blue.
But be careful, use these last 4 colors very sparingly.
11. Imprimatura, or the first paint layer. The canvas is covered
with a liquid mixture based on Red Ochre, Yellow Ochre Light and Ivory
Black (the mixture should have an olive hue).
12. The shadow Podmalyovok (the process of creating intermediate
layers) is made with Burnt Umber in two layers (2nd and 3rd layers). In
the second layer all details are made excluding the texture. In the third
layer LESSIROVKA of the main tone masses is made with a big brush.
13. The dead layer - the fourth Podmalyovok - is made with white
lead, light ocher, red ocher, and burnt bone. The aim of this Podmalyovok
is penumbra. The picture must look as if its objects were lit with moonlight
- olive cold gray color. Colors are applied thickly, half a tone higher,
shadows are very transparent, half a tone lower.
14. The first and the second Tel'nii (flesh tones: main life colors)
Podmalyovok (5th and 6th layers). The first Tel'nii Podmalyovok
is made half a tone lighter and two tones lighter in colors; and half
a tone darker and two tones lighter in shadows. The same is true of the
second Tel'nii (?body?) Podmalyovok.
15. Lessirovka - the seventh layer: details of textures, thickly
applied highlights, bright reflections, and signature. In this layer you
may use additional paints: Prussian blue, red cinnabar, yellow flake (cadmium
yellow deep), madder lake deep.
Observation is a very important aspect of learning to paint in the classical
style. To master the technique, it is best to watch a master paint for
long periods of time. In the the contemporary system of teaching, the
student sits down right off with a handful of brushes and a palette of
paint, and starts slapping it on the canvas, while the instructor looks
on and makes comments or suggestions now and then. It is therefore, very
important for those wishing to seriously pursue classical technique to
just watch for a while.