MATERIALS AND METHODS:
For me, crafting a painting requires planning; planning often comes at the expense of spontaneity. Modern American art seems to me very spontaneous, but has largely abandoned the craftsmanship of its roots. Because of the availability of commercial painting materials and the development of the camera, Impressionism, Plein Aire, and Expressionistic painting became widespread. Consequently Alla Prima, mixed media, the incorporation of collage techniques into painting also became common. These wonderful movements and related techniques should not be dismissed as they can afford greater creative latitude. Even so, a well-crafted painting will last for many years beyond the life of the painter. One has only to see a painting by one the Old Masters such as Rembrandt (or a new master such as Odd Nerdrum) to see the incredible luminosity and attention to detail that can be achieved using traditional painting techniques. For these reasons alone having a firm grasps of craftsmanship is well worth the effort.
Drawing: Beginning with a detailed drawing is the actual size of the surface to be painted is optimal. This way you are aware of the proportions and the level of detail you intend early on, and it will more easily be transferred to the surface later.
Transferring the sketch: Transferring the sketch to the panel or canvas can be done in several ways.
Tracing paper: Transfer sketch to panel or canvas using tracing paper. Trace your drawing with the paper. Scribble conte on the reverse side of your traced lines. Place the paper, conte side onto the panel or canvas and redraw your traced lines. The image will appear on the surface in conte.
Pouncing: Pouncing technique can also be used by poking very small holes along the outline of the sketch of traced sketch. Place the paper with holes onto the panel or canvas and use a tissue or bundled rag with a powder pigment to gently pounce the along the holes. This will result in dots on the panel or canvas. These can be connected with conte. This technique is traditionally used with frescos.
Opaque Projectors: Projecting the sketch onto the panel or canvas and tracing it with conte can also be used.
Sketching Directly: It should be mentioned that many fine modern painters do not transfer, but sketch directly on the surface of the panel or canvas. This lends itself to immediacy, and often the corrections in the sketch show through to further emphasize spontaneity.
Ink Drawing: After transferred the sketch to the panel or canvas, draw it out in ink. If the surface is to be completely flat, use thinned sepia or India ink applied with a brush. The Imprimatura may wash away pencil but not conte. This will leave a faint ink drawing as the first layer of your painting.
Mediums and rules: There are various mediums that artist swear by thinking that they are what the old masters had used. These are topics for scholarly debate. Even so, I'm connecting a link to a list of recipes to check out.
Rule One: don't proceed to another layer until the previous one is sufficiently dried. If you do you'll know the terror of the new layer lifting the previous one creating globs of paint. This is definitely something to be avoided unless you are into this sort of thing. It is out side the realm of traditional painting but there is probably someone out there using this to great affect.
Setting up: Put a few drops of linseed oil on the pallet and rub it in. This will make for easier clean up later. Soften brushes by dipping them into Turpentine and wiping out the excess with a towel. This will make for easier clean up later.
Imprimatura: Imprimatura is the first oil layer in the traditional oil painting technique. Imprimatura most often has a neutral olive hue. The degree of darkness or lightness of imprimatura should be chosen in relation to the largest light area of the future painting.
Sometimes this initial layer is done in grays rather than with viridians (olive hue). This is called Grisaille (pr. greez-eye', or griz-eye'): A style of monochromatic painting in shades of gray, used especially for the representation of relief sculpture, or to simulate one. It is achromatic painting and refers to a gray underpainting, laid in for subsequent color glazing.
Umber Underlayer: (Definition: Umber means shadows). The Imprimatura is now dried. This next layer is used to define as the deeper shadows. The point here is to create the tonality. This can be further defined with the next layer, which can be called the Penumbra: (Definition: Latin paene , almost + Latin umbra, shadow). The Penumbra is the partial (almost) shadows between the deep shadows and the areas completely illuminated. These layers are often combined when a wet-on-wet techniques is used. The tonalities of these Dead Underlayers are malleable and corrections to them can be easily made prior to applying local color
Glazing: is a method of obtaining transparent vales of color to the surface of a painting. Local color refers to the color of an object. An object may have other colors too. These are often related to its lighting such as specular highlights and reflected colors from other objects. The glazing colored layers should be thin and done gradually with care not to over saturate with pigment. Care should be taken not to overload the brush with paint (unless you're after texture). When you add textures then you moving in direction of fatness, each successive layer must also be equal to or greater in flexibility/fatness. This is definitely not a crime, but it's easy to lose control of the texture resulting in huge globs of paint.
Scumbling is a method of obtaining a softened effect by applying a thin layer of opaque color to the surface of a painting. Alternately use of scumbling and glazing techniques can be used to achieve natural color and light. Certain colors are naturally transparent and other naturally opaque.
Varnish: After drying the painting for at least six months, you can apply a cover varnish. Cover the canvas with the regular non-thinned dammar varnish using a soft flat varnish brush. There are various recipes for varnishes geared towards various effects such as Matte, Satin and Glossy finishes.
Cleaning up: Observe the surface of the painting and remove any particles of dust, lint or stray fibers with tweezers. Clean the pallet with mineral spirits. Treat the surfaces of the pallet by rubbing in a few drops of linseed oil. Clean the brushes with mineral spirits. Dry with a rag and then wash with warm soapy water. Dry with a rag and leave them lying horizontally to completely dry so that water does not seep into the ferrule of the brush.