Thought I'd do a quick post about my glazing methods lately. It's become a really important and enjoyable step of the painting process for me, and I discovered a medium pretty recently that has drastically changed the way I approach it.  Being more confident with my glazing has also loosened up the way I do the first pass of a painting -- and takes a little bit of the pressure off, as I know I can go in once things are dry and have a good shot of bringing things to where I'd like them to be. Below are some shots of a small portrait study I did this week -- I tried my best to capture a few different stages of the glazing process. the piece is pretty tiny at 9" x 12", and fairly loose, but hopefully the progression is apparent (and possibly interesting and/or helpful).


1) This is what I started with. A few days after all the paint went down, things are looking pretty dull, and there is a lot of inconsistency in the sheen; matte areas, semi-glossy areas, etc. It took me years (literally), to learn that there was a thing called "oiling out" in oil painting -- which essentially is just applying a medium to a dry painting in order to re-saturate colors and bring everything to the same level. It's kind of a no-brainer, but one of those no-brainers that is really easy to miss. The concept of adding a medium (aside from varnish) to a dry painting to accomplish this didn't occur to me for years. [I did eventually figure it out on my own, only shortly before I discovered somebody had gone ahead and named it, and that it's most definitely a thing...but it took... a while.]

The medium I alluded to above and that I now use for both oiling out and glazing is called Oleogel. I saw an article David Gluck wrote in his Painting Stuff to Look Like Stuff blog (which is FANTASTIC by the way) where he mentioned he'd been using it so I decided to give it a shot. [I'd previously been using Liquin, which I still like -- but it doesn't work nearly as well for me with light colors...and i'm convinced that stuff is made of cancer]

trevor-glazing_progression22) So this is what the painting looks like with a thin layer of Oleogel (covering the whole thing) -- I just brush it on lightly with a clean brush. This is essentially oiling-out, and let's me see where everything actually is value-wise. This painting also cracked quite a bit in some areas -- probably because I didn't use enough paint, [the temperature in my studio is either freezing or way too toasty as well, which doesn't help] so the oiling-out really brings those out as well. I will try to cover those up as I go. If I wasn't planning to glaze, the painting would be done at this point -- i'd wait for the oil-out to dry (the "oiling out" effect will diminish a bit as it does), then hit the whole thing with a temp-varnish.

The main difference between Oleogel and old-favorite Liquin, is the consistency. Oleogel is a soft jelly, so it doesn't drip and is fairly slow-drying -- Liquin is...a goop, which can travel if you're not careful and dries a lot quicker. Liquin also dries glossy, which I was never a fan of..and like I said before, the stuff is super gnarly. Coating a painting with it would be pretty unbearable. [I've also read that it can potentially seal painted layers off from air entirely, which could lead to unstable paint -- but who knows... I got cracking paint here already so it wouldn't much matter in this case -- zing!]

trevor-glazing_progression33) I then add thin layers of paint directly onto the still very wet Oleogel. Unlike glazing with Liquin (where I mix pigment w/ the medium on the palette) I don't thin out the paint at all before it hits the surface. The Oleogel makes it pretty hard to over-apply paint, but is very forgiving -- so wiping away all or some of the paint I add is easy. For some reason, the difference between mixing a glaze (medium + paint) on the palette and this method of finding my colors without medium and adding it directly to the painting (where the medium is already waiting) is huge for me. I love it.

This shot is already pretty far into the glazing, all the darks (which I do first), and a few of the lighter values. I usually won't mess with the background on these studies, but because of the cracking and because it was a little too dark, I added some lighter values. For larger paintings, I'll often let darks dry before I start on the lighter stuff, just to make sure I don't get some unintentional muddiness in the glaze -- but generally the lighter lights and darker darks aren't right next to each other, so it's not hard to keep them separate.

trevor-glazing_progression44) Here is everything all glazed up. I added a bunch more lights here, making sure not to use too much white. [Adding light values to a dry painting has always been a challenge for me -- it's easy to go too light, which makes things kind of smokey looking and can make your subject look like they're wearing zombie make-up. White is a cool color, so for the most part, you'll never need straight up white on a figure painting -- even the eye reflections: never straight white.]

Glazing goes pretty fast and is really fun -- I have to actively try not to overdo it. It's super easy for me to zone out on whatever WWII audiobook i'm listening to and glaze a painting into oblivion; i'll loose all the brush strokes (which are rare enough) and end up with something doll-like, with very high-contrast, and ...not good.

That is the basics -- no idea how I managed to write so much. I hope that helps anybody looking for new things to try, and if you know what you're doing and have some tips for me, please send them my way!

also, while I'm being wordy -- I always feel the need to mention that I am not trained in the classical sense, this is just how I do things...lately. they will surely change, and there are likely better ways to do all of this, but I learned a ton from reading about how other artists work, so I will be forever trying to return the favor. thank you for reading!

PS. I'm considering re-naming this blog, "Ellipsis Abuse with Aaron Nagel"

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Step by Step 2010 – day 3 & 4

More of that fairly smooth sailing -- and a little auto-pilot, as I didn't do nearly as a good a job taking progress shots. my process here is more of the same though, working back to foreground on the torso, same approach to values. amazingly, I'm sticking with my light background idea, and adding in little swatches of background with each adjacent body part, allowing me to play with the edges with wet on wet paint.

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Step by Step 2010 – day 2

Now that the first pass on the face is done, the rest of the body is generally smooth sailing. I'll approach the body shape by shape, as if each area created by the sketch is a separate little painting. As I've said in the past, there are probably some huge advantages to working on the entire painting at the same time, slowly bringing all the elements toward the final product together,

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Step by Step 2010 – day 1

Lately I start all of my paintings the same way: a light sketch/line drawing in pencil, then a wash to tint the canvas. In this case, I'm covering only the figure loosely since I don't have my mind made up as to how I want the background. This [at left] is a mix of cad red and burnt umber I believe, cut with lots of Gamsol . I've experimented with a bunch of warm/dark color combinations for this initial wash, but it hasn't made much difference. anything darkish reddish brownish seems to work fine for me.

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Step by Step 2010 – preface

The idea of documenting the process and my thoughts on a painting from start to finish initially sounds exhausting, and as usual, I'm always wary of providing too much information. Not that I have some top secret painting techniques or anything, but more that it generally feels a little more personal than just posting a finished piece and allowing people to process it their own way.

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STEP by STEP – day 7 and some more

at this point, with everything down, i'm reworking areas I missed, and adding lots of glaze. I generally will start glazing my darks, this time with a mix of burnt and raw umber, alizarin crimson, and ultramarine blue...all cut with liquin. process10

here's how things are looking about halfway through the glazing. since glazing is pretty fast and I often have to wait around for a lot of drying time, I'll come and go with this piece until it's done...doing an hour or so once or twice a day. I'll have the final session up soon, and then hopefully some better pictures, sans glare. thank you for reading, and feel free to leave a comment so I know this isn't totally boring  (or just tell me it's totally boring).

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STEP by STEP – day 6

and down goes the hair, which you cannot see because of the glare and my shitty photography. I don't worry too much about the border between the hair and the skin at this point, it's a tricky area and is easier to execute with glazes. process8

and onto the poodle skull. I rented this from the Bone Room in Berkeley, and it came with a penis bone. I kid you not. the skull was actually kind of hard to paint so I plan on doing a lot more work on it in the coming days. something about the combination of very subtle warm and cold tones makes the color pretty hard to capture.


day 7 coming soon, no more lagging.

STEP by STEP – day 5

nskull (5)Started day 5 off with that right hand (at left). Probably should have done it with the rest of the flesh but my painting time has been erratic these days. This hand was actually really hard to get right, due to the weird angle of the fingers. this is one of those things that doesn't look weird in a photograph but when painted, no matter how realistically, always looks a little wonky. once the skull (it's a skull) is laid down, I'll try and tweak things a bit to get those fingers and fingernails pointed in the right direction. now that my figure is down loosely, I'll add the background before I try and re-work anything. I've always had better results adding the hair after the background is down, so I'm doing the same here.

below is a quick (and blurry) example of how i'll initially soften the edges between my figure and the background. because the figure is completely dry at this point, I'll get the edges close together, and then go in with a dry flat brush and blur them. I'm planning on reworking much of this side of the face with glazes, so I'm not too concerned with getting the edges perfect yet.

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STEP by STEP – day 4

and onto day four. I have most of the first pass of the flesh done now and it's been pretty smooth. having done this a few times, I know that while I should be pretty good on color, the contrast will be way off once the background is in. right now, the majority of the flesh tone is in range of the canvas tint, once it's replaced with a much darker color though, the whole figure will be kind of flat. at that point though I can go in and correct areas, and then start tinting, which should make everything more dramatic and realistic.


hands are probably the hardest body part for me to paint. they're super fun though and I enjoy the challenge. I've said before that it's often hard to apply enough darks and lights on the first pass, and I played this one very safe. right now this left hand is even more lacking in contrast then the rest of the body, but i'll fix it later. actually, it's a little too yellow too now that I think about it.


I'm going to lay the background in next, so I can start working to make everything look right.

STEP by STEP – day 3

day 3! more of the same. I'm not getting quite as much painting in this week due to some super lame family stuff, but here's a quick day 3...maybe 3 hours on the arm. i'm also doing finishing touches on two other pieces in my endless attempts to work on more than one painting at a time. I'll have all the skin done and onto the background this week... more blabbing next post I promise.


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STEP by STEP – day 2

I'm working from the top down with this piece, which is nice because I don't have to worry about bracing my hand in wet paint. I'll use a homemade mahlstick every so often, but I prefer to use a finger against the canvas, or hold the brush like a magic wand (which I'm sure has a name, and I think it's probably considered "proper"...but again, no school...). so this is going to get repetitive, but I'm following the same basic process a used for the face: 2 mid tones go down first, then darks and lights, then the gaps between them. extra darks and highlights to follow. Because of the model's flesh tones, I'm using a lot more burnt sienna than usual, and almost no yellow ochre.


the topography of this part of the human body, especially with this type of pose and lighting, is super interesting. it's easy to get lost in the different shapes and totally forget what part of the body i'm working on, and I actually get better results that way; not thinking about how it relates to the rest of the torso and limbs.


I'm going to try and get through the rest of the body in the next 2 or 3 sittings. back soon.

STEP by STEP – day 1

I always start with the face; It's the most inspiring and meaningful part of each piece, and if it's not happening, it's junk. This first sitting was about 5 or 6 hours, and I did my best to document as I went. this is the second time I've painted the model for this piece and I'm really enjoying it, she's got a great skin tone; much darker and warmer then most of the models I've worked with. I started with two shades of mid-tones, blocking in areas that have the least amount of detail and variation. this makes it easy to see where my defining features are, and really helps blending when I get into the darker and lighter colors. I'll then start adding some medium darks and medium lights, getting the flesh ironed out before I move onto the features. one of the most challenging aspects of painting faces is that before it's about %95 complete, it looks horrible (evidence below). It's really easy for me to get caught up on that and overwork things... but with every piece I have more confidence that it'll turn out ok, and try not to get distracted the first day.


once things are all in their place, I'll work on making everything sit right. then comes loose highlights and details. I used to be really uncomfortable working back into dry oil paint, so I always felt the need to get as close to finishing the face as I could in the first sitting. lately I've been able to rework and add to areas with no problem, so the process has become a lot more relaxing. there's a lot more work to be done to the face but i'll leave that until the body and background are laid down, that way I actually know how everything is looking.


I'm pretty happy with this first sitting, next i'll work my way down the torso. thanks for reading, and feel free to leaves comments with any questions or comments.


STEP by STEP – day 1 prep

Figured it was time to do another step by step process. This is the smallest canvas I've worked on in a while (24" x 36"), and I'm starting much like I do for every piece. Because of the relatively small area, I'm composing things a little differently, with the figure much bigger on the canvas than I would on a larger piece. something about a small canvas makes me want to really crop in tight and not leave too much background showing. So, after stretching the canvas to near breaking, i'll sketch out my figure, seal the sketch with Crystal Clear, and apply a tint; this time a thin mixture of gamsol, burnt umber, cad. red, and burnt sienna. Once that dries, I'm ready to go... day 1 face painting to follow.


STEP by STEP #2 on it’s way

I'm just finishing up a piece and getting ready to start the next one. I'm going to do another step by step in this journal, possibly a little more detailed than the last. I got a lot of good feedback from people last time around and I actually enjoy having to analyze my own process...Its too easy to go into auto-pilot every now and then. anyway, I'll have the first session on the next painting up within the next few days. lip glazing and a dirty pallet

A NEW ONE, DAY BY DAY – days 9 thru 14

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So i'm not sure if this painting actually took only 14 days. the last few have been short sessions, and by no means could be considered full days of painting...but there's no way this painting went that fast, they never do. but then again, it is on the internet as it must be true.

arrows (5)here's a few pictures of the finished piece, just after finishing the last of the glazing/detail. again, there's a bunch of glare and they're not terribly color accurate, but once things dry and I can apply a temporary varnish, I'll have it shot by a professional and will post right away.

In addition to all the dark and light glazing, I also added some white/light yellow glaze outside the lines, to get that glow flesh tones seem to generate under hard light. I'd like to experiment with more light and focus issues in the future; issues that aren't necessarily the result of a camera, but also the effects your eyes get from objects in the periphery, blown out areas, distance, etc.

so this one is done. a decent shot will follow in a few weeks so check back. a huge thank you to anybody keeping track of this 'step by step' journaling experiment, I hope it wasn't too boring.*

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*I had to restrain myself from writing a disclaimer before every post...something to the tune of: "my blogging does not indicate an assumption that people are interested or care about frequent updates from me, simply a blah blah blah...etc etc." but that would have been the ramblings of a self-conscious new "blogger"**, and I have to assume nobody wants to hear that either.