Traditional oil painting 2

piambura 2

piambura 2

Here are my other two piambura studies (please pardon the dreadful and inconsistent photography). I was hesitant to post them, because I needed so much help from my instructor that I hardly felt they were my work any longer. But I decided to go ahead and post them anyway, since they show the process fairly well. As a reminder, piambura is the third layer of an essentially five-layer traditional painting process: imprimatura, disegno, piambura, verdaccio and velatura. (Whew! Going Italian…) The imprimatura is the toning of the canvas; the disegno is the drawing (design); and the piambura is the building up of light areas using only whites. These examples represent those first three stages. Next quarter two of these three that I’ve posted (don’t know which two yet) will be continued with the verdaccio stage, which is working green and red into the skin tones, plus any other opaque colors in the painting. Finally the velatura is the glazes; some sort of yellow will glazed over the green and red of the verdaccio layer to complete the skin tones.

piambura 3

piambura 3

So far I’m enjoying the intellectual part of the process well enough; what I don’t care for so much is the tightness that seems to be required, at least according to my instructor. I’m trying to loosen up right now! Spending my time picking tiny brush strokes is not the direction I want to go. In fact, I’m purposely trying to “isolate” myself, as a colleague put it, from any really tightly rendered artwork that might influence me in the other direction. There was a fantastic Gerome exhibit a few hours away at the Getty, somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty paintings of his, a collection that apparently will never happen again. I even had a ride up there. I didn’t go. I don’t want to see it. I have a bad habit of being bowled over by great art, especially when I see it in person, and then having a hard time recovering and painting the way I want to again. Instead, I’m looking at painters like Cezanne, and Degas, and Gauguin. That stuff is much closer to what I’d like to be doing; I wonder if this verdaccio technique I’m learning and impressionism can’t learn to make friends somehow? All you can bet on is that I’ll be trying it…

I will definitely post the verdaccio and velatura stages when they happen. In the meantime, a last followup to the discussion of non-toxic pigments, and then I’ll let it go: In the last post, I had listed chromium oxide green as a non-toxic material; but since then I have read that it can cause skin irritation for some people. So, as I wrote before, don’t take my word for this stuff. If you’re working in egg tempera, or pastels, and need to be on a first-name basis with powdered pigments, then do your own research and find out for sure. The past couple of posts have been meant merely as a conversation opener.

Here’s a recent discussion on the topic of art materials: this post in the Tiny Choices blog. This is a great blog that discusses, among other things, ways of using simpler and more natural materials in our lives, with an emphasis on rooting out some of the ubiquitous petroleum-derived products. I immediately like, of course. In this post, the author had made the effort to use homemade milk paint as an interior wall paint, rather than simply grabbing a nice-looking acrylic color from Home Depot. An excellent Tiny Choice – and now, when it eventually comes time for me to paint my own interiors: can I do any less? I made some recommendations in a reply, concerning the definition of a lake pigment (the author had attempted to make a colored paint by simply mixing a natural dye in with the filler and binder, but the natural dye would first have to be laked onto an insoluble substrate in order to work – I will definitely write a post soon on how to make a lake pigment), and also a recommendation for commercial green pigments that might be considered less toxic that some others, and which are not made directly from petroleum stock. I’m going to post a link to the Tiny Choices blog in my blogroll, I think they’re doing some good stuff there.


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7 Responses to “Traditional oil painting 2”

  1. Albert Loewy Says:

    If their’s a mailing list, please update me.

  2. sunsikell Says:

    Hi Albert,

    Thanks for your interest and request. I don’t yet have a mailing list set up (shame on me!), but I will get on that quickly. There are a few different choices there, and I want to choose one that will be simple and reliable. In the meantime, you can subscribe to the rss feed for this blog here:

    Thanks again!

  3. sunsikell Says:

    Chris wrote:

    hellothere .just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to post this .as over the the last 12 years i’ve been trying to teach my self to paint in the style of the old masters using countless books and dvds but for some reason the books and dvd or magazine articles always have chunks of information missing so i have always been left trying to fill in the gaps –and so far have never really found those missing pieces .so to find this post charting all the different stages is priceless.i cant wait to start putting all this together thanks again and if you have time i would be most gratefull if you could answer a few questions please. thanks again all the best chris

    Is the white layer done in one go. is the white paint thinned at all

    Do i need a smooth surface

    When do you think your next post will be. Please please don’t forget !

  4. Verdaccio layer – beginning « Sunsikell Says:

    […] wrote some questions about the piambura layer examples in this post here. Chris, thanks for the interest and questions. Sorry it took a few days to get back to you, […]

  5. jasondelezen Says:

    Very nice work! However, there is a slight error in the terms you used about the stages. Imprimatura, piambura, and verdaccio are all methods in their own right, though they can be intermixed. Imprimatura, as you say, is toning the canvas and then either wiping out the light masses or adding additional layers for the darks, while leaving the toned wash as a mid-tone. Piambura is a word coined by Adrian Gottlieb. It starts as imprimatura, but then whites are layered on to model the form. Verdaccio is a completely separate technique, most akin to grisaille, but with a greenish browb hue, thus the name verdaccio (referring to the green).

    • llawrence Says:

      Hi Jason! I absolutely agree with you: verdaccio is something different. But my understanding is that the “Gottlieb technique” has made its own use of this term as well, and that is why I used it here. As another commenter pointed out, for the origins of the true verdaccio technique, one can look to “Il Libro dell’Arte” by Cennino Cennini. Thanks for the comment!

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