For the Love of Glazes
As I'm working on this painting called "Saint Thecla and the Deer", I've bumped up to a chronic problem with the figure, namely, how to handle her skin tone. She's in shadow, and the reality of shadow is that its not black. There's a myriad of tone and color in a shadow, including reflective light, and I'm kind of flying blind a bit with this painting because the photo was shot indoors with a lot of ambient lighting. I finally had to convert the reference photo to grayscale to keep myself from getting confused with what I'm trying to do vs what I'm seeing in the photo. I'm using a Waterhouse painting for the palette reference at the moment.
The reality of the situation is that the painting needs to build up in glazes, which are transparent layers of paint, mostly medium based vs paint based, so the particles of pigment are suspended in the medium. This allows light to pass through and bounce back, giving paintings a luminosity, as well as allow the eye to "mix" the colors. Its also incredibly time consuming.
I naturally like to glaze, and often my paintings will have 8 or more layers of glazes on them. Its a slow process and I'm a slow painter, so when I am hitting a deadline, I start to panic a little, which was the case with this painting. I tried to cut corners and paint the figure opaquely, but I'm kind of a shitty impasto painter and it was coming out very garish. I had to wipe down hours of work more than once on this. A few days ago I had to resolve to just suck it up and build up the glaze layers, so I've applied a few of them, a glaze a day, to the figure of Thecla. I've been slowly warming up the shadows. I jumped the gun with the blush on her face but I'm glazing over that with some yellows and pinks later this week. I actually went over the whole figure with a greenish gray, just to bring the values back down so I can rebuild, so she's still a little grayish.
The only thing that's close to finished is the birch trees behind her. That has been glazed a few times and I'm happy with them. Don't they look happy, like they're saying "hooray!"? I didn't intend that, but it works. I'll be adding some brambles on the horizon, deepening the grass (and add some flowers) and of course keep working on Thecla and her deer. I've got about a month to work all this out -- her dress is complete fabrication, I'm adding a blue damask floral design to it based on a Fortuny dress, but ultimately its fantasy, all made up. Made-up folded, patterned fabric is no easy task, lemme tell ya.
Anyway, I have several glazes to go on this but I think its the only way I can safely traverse these waters to get where I want to go. I've tried the "other ways" and floundered. One of these days I'll improved with a more opaque, impasto approach, but I'm terribly out of practice, seeing as I've only put out three paintings in the last year that are full blown oils.
But its coming along!
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Julie Baroh is a US artist, entrepreneur, and chronic chatterbox.