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Solving a painting problem with a velatura

White Shirt

Here’s where the “White Shirt” paint­ing is at. What I’ve done is fin­ish ini­tial ren­der­ing of each area of the shirt. I found that the hues were uneven—I am still learn­ing to man­age near-neutrals across rel­a­tively large areas of a paint­ing. What I tried was to glaze trans­par­ent yel­low oxide across bluer shadow areas, which evened out hues some­what, but the over­all paint­ing was uncon­vinc­ingly yellow-orange. I had also over-rendered much of the shirt, with too broad a range in value between darks and lights.

This was a per­fect time to apply a velatura.

Tak­ing a hint from Tad Spur­geon, I mixed up a batch of putty. This was cal­cite (ground mar­ble dust) mulled with wal­nut oil and a bit of stand oil. The result­ing mix­ture was a dull grey with the con­sis­tency of, well, oil paint. Putty is a medium used to increase the trans­parency of paint, since the cal­cite is essen­tially invis­i­ble in an oil vehi­cle. This is bet­ter than adding a lot of oil or resin, as the calcite/oil mix­ture is as strong and as resis­tant to dis­col­oration as oil paint.

I mixed the putty with lead white (Doak’s flake 1C) in approx­i­mately equal amounts. Then I added a very small amount of neu­tral gray paint (ivory black and burnt umber) which I had pre­vi­ously tubed. I now had a very light gray, rel­a­tively translu­cent mixture.

I oiled out the sur­face of the paint­ing with a thin layer of wal­nut oil, which is very slip­pery and less yel­low­ing than lin­seed. I applied the gray mix­ture to the sur­face. Ini­tially, it looked awful—my care­ful paint­ing was cov­ered with flat gray. With a stiff bris­tle flat, I started work­ing at adjust­ing the thick­ness of the velatura layer, pulling the under­paint­ing out. I found that it was effec­tive to moisten the brush with a bit of wal­nut oil. It took awhile, but even­tu­ally the under­paint­ing began to show through, with the value range com­pressed toward the gray value of the velatura and the hue pulled toward neutral.

It needs a bit of work once the velatura layer has dried to restate a few high­lights and dark accents, but over­all this was a suc­cess­ful exercise.

Posted in art materials, art technique, demo/in progress.

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3 Responses

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  1. Veroccio says

    i like your paint­ing, but those shad­ows are too chalky, use pure pig­ment for some parts in those shad­ows (if you havent done it yet) darker darks that is. That will also give more relief into your work. The ren­der­ing is great.
    Nice site too good luck!

    • David says


      Thanks. I’ll take a look at the paint­ing and think about your sug­ges­tion. Darker darks may or may not be appro­pri­ate for shad­ows on a white wall.

  2. George Hammerstein says

    T too like your paint­ing. It’s really a mat­ter of the inten­si­tiy of the light that you want the image to have, how­ever if I were to nit pick, I would sug­gest very small dark exageraions where there is less light. That will give the image more punch, and you can start to play with where you want the eye to move to next.

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