Oil over Tempera in the method of Master Painter Patrick Beautider (1928-2008)
This is a method of painting that uses alternate layers of tempera (pigment in water based emulsion) and oil (pigment in an oil based medium).
1. For the canvas or panel:
Apply approximately three coats of acrylic Gesso. Sand between each coat, finishing with a fine grit sandpaper. The prepared canvas/panel should be very smooth.
2. The Subject:
An artist may work from life (still-life) or from a photograph of the subject. It is extremely important that you have great documents (photographs) of your subject. The goal is to make the drawing and painting process easier so rely on large (8.5x11inch) in-focus prints, with a good range in value. If your photograph is beautiful there is a greater chance your paint will be too!
3: The Drawing:
Artists may use a grid system to transfer their design on to the canvas. Frequently artists use an opaque projector or digital projector to project an image onto their canvas to trace. Tracing paper is always an option for a smaller work.
Only use charcoal pencils or any kind charcoal to finish your drawing. Do not use graphite pencil because fixative and paint will not stick to it. Use several coats of fixative to seal your drawing once done until no charcoal come off when you rub the surface.
4. The Imprimatura:
Cover the entire drawing with a mixture of 1 part of Dammar Varnish to 2 to 3 parts of turps (English Distilled turpentine), adding to this mixture any oil color pigment that would assist in the final effect of your composition (green earth, viridian, Prussian blue or any red earth color).
The quantity of pigment squeezed from a standard 1.4 ounce tube should be equivalent to the length of one or two inches. Stir until all oil color is diluted with the solvents. It is recommended to use Rembrandt brand oil colors or similarly high quality oil paint.
This mixture (imprematura) will be transparent and should allow the drawing to come through. The mixture should be applied with a wide bristle or nylon brush but be careful not to over brush thus disturbing the fixative layers. If your imprematura is streaky do not worry about it you will be painting over it anyway.
5. The Monochrome: Stage 1 - Emulsion and Powdered Pigment
A.) First create the Alcasit Mixture that is used in creating the Emulsion.
To 1 volume (one ounce may be used for a volume) of powdered Alcasit glue (methyl cellulose glue) add 25 volumes (25 ounces) distilled water. Leave this mixture to soak for one night (12 hours). After 12 or 15 hours this mixture looks like any other transparent glue.
B.) Creating the Emulsion:
1. Put 2 volumes of this Alcasit Mixture at the bottom of a glass container capable of holding about 20 times that amount of liquid.
The mixture should be whisked with an electric blender as each element is SLOWLY.
2. Add 2 volume Dammar Varnish
3. Add 1 volume Bleached Linseed Oil
4. Add 1 volume Stand Oil
5. Add 1/5 volume of Japan Drier
6. Add 2 volume turps (English distilled turpentine)
7. Last of all add 2 to 4 volumes of distilled water (the water should be
added drop by drop while whisking)
This proportion is variable: To make the mixture thicker, we add more water.
Historically tempera emulsions were created with egg (both white and yellow) or casein – both of those are natural emulsions. For this recipe the egg is replaced with the Alcasit (methyl cellulose glue). Egg has a short working time and will begin decomposing within hours. The Alcasit glue does not decay, does not crack, and renders the emulsion more stable.
C.) Set out the powdered pigment
The white powdered pigment is to be flake (lead) white. Flake white is silvery and transparent white essential to this oil painting technique. Unfortunately it is also very toxic and its handling should be done with the utmost care. Because of this it is become harder to find but look online for its availability. In the case that you do not want to work with this material or you can’t find it, you may substitute a combination of 50% Titanium Oxide dry pigment with 50% Zinc Oxide dry pigment).
If you are using the lead/flake white powdered pigment you may set out a second puddle of titanium white powdered pigment that you can add to the flake white when you want a very white area. Try to use as little titanium as possible. Titanium is opaque and very white.
D.) Mix the powdered pigment and emulsion with a palette knife until smooth and the consistency of yogurt. The proportion is approximately one-part pigment to two - parts emulsion.
E.) Set out a small quantity of emulsion to be used to make more transparent the white powder pigment tempered or mixed with the emulsion. Cover the highlights or the light parts of the forms: gradually thinning this out as you come to the shadows or dark tones of the form, going back to the whitest white as often as necessary until the desired effect is achieved.
6. The Monochrome: Stage 2 - The Veil
Having done this, the entire drawing should then be covered with a mixture of one part flake/lead white powder pigment to about ten parts of emulsion. The mixture must be more transparent than the previous mixtures. Again the painting should begin to appear as if it is seen through a veil, nothing is as yet clearly defined. Apply the veil with a hog-hair brush. It may be stippled on like with a stencil brush. You may do the veil as you go, making sure all areas of the painting have some white, rather than applying the veil after you finish bringing up your whites.
Note: This first layer of paint should have very well attached itself to the imprimatura, which in its turn would have penetrated right through to the support or ground. Leave this to dry. If all of the mixtures were well calculated, you may continue, if not the same day, then perhaps the following morning.
7. The Monochrome: Stage 3 - Oil out with Medium and work in raw umber mixed with emulsion in the shadow or dark areas of your composition.
a.) Medium Recipe:
1 volume Dammar Varnish
1/2 volume of Bleached Linseed oil
1/2 volume of Stand Oil
1/5 volume Japan Drier
1 volume of turps (English Distilled Turpentine)
This Medium is best used after having settled for at least 12 hours.
b.) Select the part of your painting that will begin your shadow side of your monochrome. First apply a very thin coat of the Medium to the part you are going to be treating. This is called “oiling out“. Attack the shadows with the raw umber tube oil paint mixed with the emulsion. Everything must be thin. The under painting should be done using raw umber from the darkest part of the shadows thinning out as you move back up into the lights, remembering always that the drawing will come through as the emulsion dries. If necessary you may add a little lamp black to the raw umbers to get the desired darkness.
8. The Monochrome: Stage 4 - Tube Flake white plus emulsion (oil out before starting as described in section 6b)
The procedure for Section 9 would be exactly the same as Section 6 only this time the pigment is no longer powder but tube white. A flake (lead) white would be the best white for this operation, noting of course that you may have to go back into your white (the whitest whites) several times, thinning back out as you go down into the shadows. A small amount of tube titanium white and emulsion may be used to get some area very white. This being done, and everything given some time to dry, the painting is now ready for the first glaze.
*Rembrandt does not make a tube flake white. Winsor Newton, Block & Williamsburg are good brands that do make flake white in a tube.
9. Color Glazing: It is recommended that you use Rembrandt brand oil paint. This technique requires that you use the most transparent oil colors possible. Rembrandt Oil Paints are marked as transparent, semi transparent or opaque. If possible obtain a Rembrandt oil paint color chart.
Now you are ready for the first glazing. The glaze should be made with an oil color mixed with a small amount of medium. It should be as close to the local color as possible. (by local color it is meant the actual color of the object to be painted – the red of an apple, the blue of a drape etc.) It usually takes three glazes to complete a color area.
Set out the color and tube flake white on your pallet. Mix a little emulsion into the tube flake white. Put out on your pallet other analogous/similar colors you may need to work in wet into wet on the local color. (you use complimentary colors on separate layers from local color)
You will be applying wet into wet the most tube flake on the first glaze, less tube flake wet into wet on the second glaze and very little or no tube flake wet into wet on the third glaze.
- Color Glazing Skin and other areas usually need three glazes. Each time you will create optical grays with the flake white. With each glaze you use less and less flake white. You may use actually lighter colors instead or in combination on the first glaze. For example . For a blue jean color you may use Kings blue for the first glaze, cobalt blue for the second glazes, and ultramarine blue for the third and final glaze. It enriches the painting to see though one glaze to an under glaze of a slightly different color.
When wanting the final glaze to be yellow use the raw umber in the monochrome as always but make sure it is very transparent. With each successive yellow glaze this will look less green. And finally glaze the shadows with a transparent Paynes gray that will neutralize the greenishness.
Glazes that separate may need you to be blended with your index finger while it is wet.
First apply a thin coat of the medium to the part of the painting you are going to be glazing (oiling out). This oily coat filters through to the interior coat (the coat of emulsion which should be called thin, the oil should be considered thick or “gras”).
The general rule of oil painting is that the thick or oily (or “gras”) paint layer infiltrates into the lean or thin layer under it. This rule differs in the “technique mixte” because the lean or thin emulsion layer, known as the interior coat, is always the layer in between the thick or oily layers.
Modulate the glaze in relation to its color and intensity. The passages are quite easily done. The glaze should always be thin, using a small amount of transparent color. The medium used for the glaze should always be of the same consistency (as delineated in recipe). The color, however, should always be much higher in intensity than the final result required.
Without waiting for drying, continue working wet into wet, paying special attention to the lightest areas. You may add various transparent colors to the glaze as indicated by your document. You may reinforce the whites by using the flake white tube paint mixed with a small amount of emulsion.
Always use a small amount of the emulsion with your white pigment when you go back into your whites making them whiter, and always use a small amount of the emulsion with your darks with raw umber and lampblack making them darker.
- Special instructions for skin color glazing. Once the monochrome is complete and dry, oil out and apply a transparent glaze of Green Earth or Prussian Blue into the cool shadow areas of the skin. (Green Earth is a good color for light skinned white people. Prussian blue is good for Mediterranean, Asian and African people. Your color document should show the cool shadow color.
- Once the cool shadow glaze is dry, apply a glaze of the local color over the skin. In a white person this may be Indian Red, or English Red. In a Black person this may be Transparent Oxide Brown mixed with a little Rose Madder Medium.
- In a white person you may need to add areas of yellow ochre, rose madder, Naples yellow into the glaze. In a Black person you may need to add Burnt Carmine, Vandyke Brown and Raw Sienna. Let your document be your guide.
- Reinforce your whites with tube flake white with a small amount of emulsion into the wet skin color glaze. This flake may need to be pulled over the entire skin creating an optical grey (our eye blends the light veil with the darker glaze) The optical grays are essential to getting the deep luminous effect of the technique mixte.
If you have for any reason interrupted your work and have allowed the glaze to
dry, then it is very important that you rewet the area that you are working in with
medium before going back into the painting with the pigment and medium and emulsion.
It will be seen that with this technique, we may go indefinitely, alternatively, from
thin to thick, and from thick to thin. The thick layer is oil based (medium); the thin layer is water based (emulsion). There is no technical limit imposed where the actual working of the painting becomes impossible or difficult.
This technique allows the painting to be continued indefinitely, it allows the artist to continue working on a painting that was started many years ago.
The process as it has been outlined above, does not necessarily require the artist to follow to the letter slavishly. Some areas of the painting can be finished with medium “thick” or some areas may be finished with the emulsion “thin”.
*Van Eyck was supposed to have painted in this way but during the course of many years, the technique would most certainly have gone through many changes.
10. Retouch Varnish: If an area of your painting has become less or more shinny than other parts use retouch varnish to even out the finish. Once dry you may go back and continue oiling out and glazing.
11. The Glazing System: For further information on glazing refers to
Methods & Materials of Painting of the Great Schools & Masters
By Sir Charles Lock Eastlake, Dover Publications, Inc. New York, 2001