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“Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communication, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.” —Ansel Adams
Studio Tech 4
How I compose and paint
I compose and shoot all of my reference images with a Canon G10 — a wonderful little digital camera for under $400. To the stock camera I have attached a Lensmate G10 hood and extension, 72mm UV filter and occasionally a Polarizing filter. Mostly I use the Auto settings but using the Program Mode set to an automatic one F-stop bracket over- and underexposure is the best way to collect all of the data necessary to composite an accurate reading of the subject. This can easily be done in Photoshop and will produce an image that more realistically mimics how our eyes perceive color and lighting conditions outdoors. After all of my post-image production is done in Photoshop, I convert the image to grayscale using the Channel Mixer function and/or channel-blending operations. (You can read all about how I compose my images in Photoshop by visiting the Resource pages on my website at http://baldassinifineart.com/resources1.html. There are many FREE Studio Notes that are available as downloadable .pdf files). The grayscale image is then scaled up to actual size and output to lightweight presentation paper on a large format inkjet printer. The print is then trimmed and attached to my panel with a large piece of Sally’s Graphite Transfer Paper sandwiched in between. I then trace the essential lines and shapes with a red ballpoint pen and my drawing is nicely transferred to the panel and ready to be underpainted.
For my underpainting I prefer a transparent monochrome value painting or imprimatura and draw directly with an earth-colored paint, usually Blockx Burnt Sienna Deep, although lately I have been underpainting with Sennelier Quinacridone Magenta and I really like it a lot. My overall painting technique is an eclectic mix developed after a long and continuing study of the great 16th century master Peter Paul Rubens and his contemporaries, the Antwerp School of Painting (Jacob Jordaens, Anthony van Dyck, Bartholomeus Spranger, to name a few), and contemporary painters too numerous to mention here.
Influenced and conditioned from many years of painting only in watermedia, my underpainting proceeds much as watercolor. A white-primed panel with the graphite transfer drawing replaces cold-press watercolor paper, and OMS and diluted oil paint replace water and diluted watercolor paint.
Using mostly flats, some small filberts for details, lots of OMS and rag at the ready for wiping out, I block in the entire composition. I paint as much with a rag over my fingers as I do with a brush. The oil paint stays fluid on the panel for hours and can be easily be wiped off without disturbing the graphite drawing and repainted, if I’m not satisifed with something. This combination of wiping out with a rag and controlled loose painting with a brush is a great way to establish a tonal underpainting. When done, you have a toned panel in which not only the composition has been fully realized in monochrome, but all shadow, highlight and value issues have been worked out. Below are underpaintings in Burnt Sienna Deep and Quinacridone Magenta.
With the composition and value study completed all thats left to do is apply color, using a combination of glazing, scumbling and direct painting. You can read much more about about this on many of my previous in-progress Blog postings.
The panel is allowed to dry for a couple of days before beginning the color overpainting. I won’t elaborate in great detail about that except to say that using my jelly medium (Old Masters Maroger Medium is the ONLY brand worth using), I first “oil up” the area I’m going be working on and then, using a combination of glazing, scumbling and direct painting proceed to paint over the entire panel a section at a time. The medium stays tacky and accepts pigment beautifully for hours and dries overnight, ready to repeat the process for another section of the painting the next day or whenever. I sometimes may have to apply a very light application of Retouch Varnish the next day if any colors have “sunk in” and dulled.
Lastly, after at least a month of drying I apply a protective varnish to the panels. I use Old Masters Mastic Varnish and occaisionally Dorland’s Wax medium, which buffs out to a lovely satin finish.
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