The Techniques of the Renaissance
The Renaissance, Rococo and Baroque styles
typically use a layering technique of painting. Most often, literal
dozens of preliminary drawings would be done before the painting would
even be started. This was to work out a pleasing composition utilizing
dynamic symmetry. After the composition was completed on paper, the
outline would be transferred to the primed painting surface using stenciling
techniques, or camera obscura.
Typically, the surface was a wood panel,
sanded to a smooth finish. Layers upon layers of thin chalk and animal
skin ground (gesso) would be coated onto the panel and the final layer
sanded to a perfect smoothness. It was not until the late Renaissance
in Venice that canvas was employed. Artists began to be experiment with
canvas due to the effects of the moisture in that city on the wood panels.
The next step, and one
of the most laborious is the creation of the "underpainting." Typically,
the underpainting for the human figures was created in a green color.
Other colors, or underdrawings were often used. Leonardo da Vinci used
a terra cotta underpainting for some of his paintings, such as the Virgin
of the Rocks. The results were surreal, ghost-like figures. I believe
the contrast of the green underpainting produces a warmer, more lifelike
flesh tone. This may account for the popularity of using the green as
the underpainting for the flesh tones. Below are the layering stages
of "The Lost Sheep" mural in the stages of painting. Once the underpainting
was completed using opaque color, the transparent colors were layered
on one at a time. The flesh tones had approximately 10 layers upon completion.
The other portions of the painting had 2-5 layers of paint. Check back
to see more paintings in progress! Click to see larger images: