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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I have a new print release this week with the good folks at "The Pale"(below) is the first print from my show last Oct in NY and I'm really happy with how it came out. It's a little bigger than usual, and the edition is 100 this time -- but considering the last two releases sold out within a day (very cool), if you are interested, go to now and hit the "alert me" button. I really appreciate all the support, It means so much.

In other news, I will have a brand new piece in the Shooting Gallery's Winter Group show this Saturday, January 12th. I've been working on this one for the last few weeks and it's a little different -- which is fun. I was able to shoot Rosie again in LA, who modeled for much of the "Sovereign" show, and did some experiments with natural light as opposed to strobes. I'll have a picture up later this week (hopefully...I'm kind of pushing it here). until then!

From the press release:

Shooting Gallery is pleased to present the last Winter Group Show to be held in the current gallery at 839 Larkin, before our big move to a newly renovated building. Helping us go out with a bang will be a great lineup of many of our beloved artists, including Ferris Plock, Casey Gray, APEX, Michael Page, Aaron Nagel, John Felix Arnold, Hugh Leeman, Jet Martinez, C215, Ernesto Yerena, Morgan Slade, Spencer Keeton Cunningham, Adam Rozan, Lauren Napolitano and Bryan Schnelle. All of whom have shared a part in shaping the space into what it is today. The growth and success of the Shooting Gallery is a testament to the talent we’ve been honored to work alongside and the support that the incredible arts community of San Francisco has provided. Join us for the opening reception Saturday, January 12th, from 7-11pm. The exhibit will be open to the public for viewing through February 2nd, 2013.


I'm back in the studio and predominately working on studies for the time being, getting in some practice and starting to think about the next series. not much else to report, but I'm going to try my best to post as many in-progress and studio pictures as I can remember to take. Also, added a little instagram feed over to the right, so if you're not on that particular social network, it's there -- and I've been liking that one lately.


The paintings for "Sovereign" are on their way to New York -- and man am I glad they're en route. Now I just hope they get there in one piece. This was the first time I've had to crate and ship my own work across the country, and man was it stressful. getting all the pieces finished, prepped, and packed is one thing -- but a custom crate and shipping it to NY was a lot more involved and time-consuming than I was prepared for. I'll spare you the long version, but all culminated on Monday when the delivery truck showed up a block away from the crate (he refused to move it closer and we had to push the 250lb crate down a very bumpy alley) to find the truck was not equipped with a lift gate. I was ready to just lift the fucking thing up there, but the driver wouldn't risk his back (smart) - so I had to go door to door looking for someone with a forklift. I found a guy, who made me jump through hoops (I actually had to scribble him a release saying I wouldn't sue him if he dropped the crate) before eventually helping out. good times. so anyway, the pieces are out of my hands -- while I am immensely relieved, and now very much looking forward to the opening (October 11th, Lyons Wier Gallery), I will be fervently tracking the crate and crossing my fingers.

more very soon.


Another portrait study of new friend, Jessica Clark, whom I met down in LA last week.  I couldn't wait to do a quick portrait of her -- she's so unique looking and a fantastic model.  I did a bit of glazing after the initial painting, mostly just to knock that jaw shadow back a bit, and hit the highlights again. super fun one though.



Did this figure study the other day to warm up for a large painting of Chanon, from our black house shoot. I can't remember the last time I painted a figure this small - I usually avoid painting faces much smaller than life sized (which is why my paintings that include a full body end up giant). it's hard to get so much information down on the surface in so few strokes, without totally overworking things. anyway, it's certainly something I need to work much as I like painting huge. had a good time with this one though, and felt it was a good way to prepare for a much larger piece i'm currently in the middle of. some process shots of that new one coming soon.


Another quick portrait from last week, this time of new model, Chanon. I used a neutral grey ground again, instead of my usual warm tint, and I'm still really liking it. I'm not sure it makes the finished product look any different (aside from the areas I left sloppy), but it makes the process a lot different; painting flesh tones that contrast with the background vs. warms on top of warms.  more soon!


another little portrait study from this week. here are some incessant ramblings about it: I wanted to experiment with painting on a cool color, instead of the usual warm canvas tint I usually use -- so this one is on a piece of gesso board, that I lightly painted with a medium grey acrylic. I really liked it. not sure why it made such a difference, although with the ground showing, it certainly made it easier to make the flesh tone glow.  I also tried to experiment a little with dry brushing paint into the background...which I'm definitely going to need to work on, although I like where it's going.

I'm going to keep banging away at these small studies and practice pieces, and will hopefully be able to do more and more. I'm also slowly planning the next series of larger work; really mapping out concepts and composition this time around. I'm going to start shooting reference material this weekend, and I'll do my best document that process  since it's something I haven't much covered in the blog before.


Did this little experiment on vellum the other night. I had never painted on paper with oils, and always assumed I'd need some super high quality treated surface that would be expensive and a pain to deal with. Then I remembered vellum. although I usually have a harder time with smooth surfaces, I decided to give it a try. This is maybe a 3 or 4 hour study, which I painted mounted to a piece of cardboard tacked on the wall. the cardboard texture that came through was entirely unintentional, but I like it. maybe something to play around with in the future.


Painted my good friend Davey a few weeks back. I really tried to get the cool colors to pop a bit in the flesh tones as I feel I always fall short there. I'm happy with how it came out, especially as I was able to get things close enough in one sitting that I didn't feel like I needed to go back in for glazing. again, apologies for all the glare here -- I can't really afford to get all these studies shot by somebody that knows what they're doing, especially as I plan to keep cranking these out.


Now that I have some time to play around a little bit, I've been doing a lot of blog reading. I'm always looking for oil painters willing to talk about their process, especially those who have been classically (or otherwise) trained. It's a great resource to pick up tips and discover things I may not have stumbled upon on my own, and to hear what other artists are going through, who they're influenced by, etc.  there are a ton I read on a regular basis, and it's really been invaluable (it's the main reason I feel obligated to write about my own process so much, kind of a 'pay it forward' type situation, for lack of another stupid phrase). I'll do an entry on the blogs that I read sometime in the near future if you care to check them out (and you should), but for the time being, I told that story so I could tell this one: A lot of the blogs I follow are written by realist artists, and during a particularly long trip down the internets, I came across some really fantastic still-life paintings. i'm not huge on the still-life genre in general (is it a genre?), mainly because regardless of the execution, I need something interesting to look at. I can certainly appreciate the artistry of a painting of a bowl, and I admire the simplicity...but I tend to also get bored with it before any of that appreciation actually kicks in. so anyway, I found some nice ones...very well painted and of interesting subject matter that held my attention. It was then that it occurred to me that I have another glaring hole in my self-education, and a rather embarrassing one actually; I've never painted a still-life. not even for practice.  It seems totally neglectful of me, and while I know i'm being critical, and that I am a figurative painter,  I also know that I probably should have been experimenting with them for years. not because all oil painters need to paint still-life's, but because I'm fairly certain that most probably do at some point (and probably very early in their learning to boot). there has to be some reason for that right?.

so, given all that rambling you just suffered through, and the fact that painting anything outside of my comfort zone is generally a good idea, I started on my first still-life -- and you know what? totally fun. here is the final product (excuse the glare). I'm going to title this "Still Life #1", because I am the most creative guy on earth.


Another portrait study, this time of a model i've been wanting to work with for years. She's got a fantastic spooky look, and I'll definitely be doing some larger pieces with her in the future. This study took about 8 hours, and while I generally don't glaze these quick portrait studies, there were a few spots that I wasn't able to get dark enough during that first sitting, so I did maybe 5 minutes of glazing once things had dried. Below you can see the pre/post glazing shots. very subtle difference I know, but necessary this time around to get those shadows to sit right.

* as usual, I'm having a bitch of a time getting these shots to be color-accurate. you'll have to take my word for it that they are a lot cooler and less saturated than they appear here.


did this quick study the other day of Juliana, a young model I shot a few months ago. this sitting was only a little over 4 hours, mostly due to the angle of her face in this shot. I've found that painting a face posed past that 3/4 view and closer to profile generally goes much quicker than a more head-on pose. weird.


I worked on a new self-portrait study yesterday. With all the prep for Miami, driving paintings to LA, wandering around Chicago, etc. I hadn't actually painted in three weeks - so it felt good to get back into it. I'm going to mostly focus on practice for the next few weeks at least; lots of studies, and hopefully I can flush out some ideas for the next series. I'm very much looking forward to it.

This one was fun, although not without the usual strangeness that comes along with painting my own dumb face. I'm going to possibly do a few more with restrictions on time and pallet, in an attempt to loosen up a bit, and get faster. not necessarily for any reason other than to see what happens, and hopefully learn from it.

I leave for Miami on Wednesday and will be documenting the trip as always (last year's posts here & here). I'll have lots to post.


And once again I'm lagging with posts. I've been working non-stop the last month on one big piece that will be going to Miami for Art Basel w/ Corey Helford Gallery. Not only is this one extra big, but i'm playing with some new elements that are taking quite a while to execute in the way I want to, both due to the new territory, and to lots of detail. I think i'm happy with it though now finally...good thing too because a 68" tall canvas is real hard to work on in my tiny studio, I had to stand on a tool box to work on it tonight in fact. It's fun though, and now i'll stop talking about a painting I can't post yet, I realize how annoying that probably is.

anyway, I expect things to slow way down after the prep for Miami. I've had three photoshoots in the last 2 weeks so I have a lot of new faces and material to play around with. (a very big thank you to Brittany, Elena, and Juliana for modeling).  I'll also likely do a bunch of simple portrait studies and possibly another 'step-by-step' painting chronicle this Winter.

I'm getting together a ton of pictures to post on the blog in lieu of new ramblings, so check back for those entries soon.


Prepping paints for the trip South. I love how saturated colors get when the temp varnish is wet. too bad anything this glossy would be impossible to look at in a gallery. ah well. more soon!


Working on the last piece for Thinkspace (Sep 10th). This is the companion piece to a similar one (seen peeking through down there on the floor) and is about 6 or 7 hours in here. I was able to get the background done and do enough on this first pass so that I can start glazing right away once this initial layer is dry. It took about 8 or 9 hours in total, which means I'm getting a lot faster at this type of basic portrait-style pose - it also means that I have quite the painting hangover today.



I've two paintings finished for my show next month, with another three in various stages of completion. I hate having so many in progress, but it's really the only way I can stay on top of this deadline. anyway, I thought I'd post a few sneak peeks and progress shots here. I'll have final shot of the first of the new pieces up later this week. until then!


So I have been neglecting the blog big time since my solo in SF, just very much caught up in painting for the next show. due to some scheduling mishaps, I had less than 2.5 months to paint 5 new paintings for my show at Thinkspace (September) from the time of the Shooting Gallery opening -- and I'm almost half way through that now. 5 paintings in 2 months is already pushing it, but predictably I was also feeling like changing things up a little, trying some new things, etc. It's going well I think, albeit a little slowly, but I'm happy with the work and I have some new directions to expand on. (and some new directions that do not work at all...also very good to know). I've been in the studio and generally over-working myself pretty steadily for the last few weeks, but did get a chance to go down to LA at the end of June before I got too far into the new series. I planned the trip around a dinner thrown by Corey Helford Gallery for their 5 year anniversary, and spent a few additional days shooting some new models. Instead of just throwing a party for their own congratulations, Corey Helford Gallery invited something like 150 artists to dinner. It was fantastic and I am hugely thankful to have been invited and to have been present for what seemed pretty unprecedented. Being a Northern California guy who didn't go to art school, and who isn't the most social creature in the world, I often feel pretty detached from the art world outside of the fairly insular community here -- so it was a huge treat to be able to meet so many artists in such a short period of time, some of whom I've been fans of for years. some of the artists in attendance: Kent Williams, Sean Cheatham, Shawn Barber, Kim Saigh, D*Face, Tim Biskup, Sylvia Ji, Natalia Fabia, Gary Baseman, Colin and Sas Christensen, Adam Wallacavage, Dalek, Camille Rose Garcia, Joshua Petkar, and tons more. fun!