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Maria (unfinished) by Joshua LaRock, during the window shading stage over top of ebauche

This is the stage in the painting where it all starts to come together.  In part six of this series of posts on how to paint like the masters, we left off when finishing the ebauche, a thin layer of paint and turpinoid with a few drops of oil mixed in, to set the tone of the painting.

Today, we will address layer two, using a thicker coat of paint, mixed with retouch varnish and oil (either poppy, walnut of linseed).  Later, we’ll discuss the glazing.

Start out by scumbling retouch varnish or oil over the ebauche.  The brings the full color to life again.  When choosing how to mix your lights, keep in mind that titanium white is stronger and colder, while flake white is more transparent and warmer.

Window shading is step two of painting in the classical 19th century French academic method.  They call it that because it is like pulling a shade down on a window, working in full detail from the top to the bottom of the canvas.  Finishing the painting is the goal for this stage.  Watch your model carefully for subsurface scattering–when light passes through and reflects inside the skin, like your hand in front of a flashlight.  Places common to seeing subsurface scattering are under the eyelids, the ears, the nose and hands.  Anywhere where your skin is thinner and more blood comes to the surface, you will see this subtle glowing effect.

After the window shading layer dries, you should have a completed painting.  If you would like to deepen the shadows more or add more transparency to the painting, consider a third layer, by glazing and scumbling.  Check out the detail from John Waterhouse’s Flora and the Zephyrs, where he used many layers of glaze to achieve a glowing look to her skin, fabric and roses.

Detail from Flora and the Zephyrs by John Waterhouse


Glazing: dark, thinned paint over lighter paint

Scumbling: Light paint, thicker and more opaque, over dark paint

In order to glaze and scumble, the painting must be completely dry, otherwise you risk rubbing out all your hard work.

To make something look glowing like oranges in a still life, glazing is the way to go.  If something looks transparent, paint it with transparent layers.  For the glazing layer, use GamVar, made by Gamblin, with a sponge brush.

Minneolas, by Joshua LaRock, oil on linen, 2009

That’s the final layer.  Congratulations on learning how to paint like the masters!