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The Techniques of the Renaissance

Jesus Underpainting

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:

"The Lost Sheep" Underpainting

Glazing Tehnique Beginning

Glazing Technique in Progress


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