Winter Session Oil Painting: Glazing: Part 1

Here is a visual demonstration of the steps we covered in class of a multi stepped process used by today’s traditional painters, developed during the Renaissance.

You can produce a drawing  or cartoon of practically anything. I am looking at a mask and practicing drawing from observation.

To start the drawing, I use a piece of vine charcoal which is easily erased. I make a line drawing and then fill in the light and dark values by shading. This step is a very important part of the glazing process as you will need to spend some time finding the appropriate values. It will save you a lot of time (and tears) if you figure this out at the very beginning.

To see values better, take a black and white photo of your subject and a black and white photo of your drawing and compare the two. Do the values match up? Squint!

As you work on the drawing, have fun! Pretend that this is going to be the final piece. Include everything you want to see, experiment.  You may want to add more layers of charcoal and colored pastel. To do this you’ll need to fix the layers beneath so that they do not smear into the top layers.

I use non-toxic Spectra Fix. As you can see, it tends to squirt out unevenly. Just dab up the excess with a paper towel.

After you are satisfied with your drawing. Transfer it onto your canvas.

Here are the steps:

Trace the drawing on transfer paper. Tape the transfer paper to the drawing so it will not shift.

Flip over the paper and coat with dark chalk.

Flip back onto canvas exactly where you want it. Tape down to canvas so it won’t move.

Press over traced lines with sharp pencil. Check to make sure the transfer is happening.


You don’t need to make it detailed, just a map of shape and light changes. Chances are you may need to augment the canvas drawing.

In the next step we tone the canvas a warm semi-transparent color. I am using Yellow Ochre.

Our drawing is made of charcoal which will smudge away if we paint over it at this stage. To secure the drawing onto the canvas I use a water soluble walnut drawing ink. You can use any ink. I paint over the traced lines. This ink will wash off with water, so I could change the lines if necessary. It will not wash away with oil, however, so when we paint over it, after it has dried, if will remain visible.

If your paint is too thick, mix in a little linseed or walnut oil to make it spread more easily. Avoid mixing in mineral spirits as this will dull the surface.

Let the paint dry over night. Make sure the paint is dry before you begin the next step. You may want to start another drawing and transfer while waiting!

In the next step we make a grayscale painting. This is where the value drawing comes in handy. Reference your drawing and the observable object (if you are working from observation).


Mix up a grayscale for your palette.

I am using a paper plate with a barrier surface. I start with Ivory Black and Lead White (you can use Titanium White). I make several shades of gray. I will not be using pure white or pure black in my painting. I am using a medium called Neo Megilp which has been formulated to perform like an “Old Masters” painting medium which allows you eliminate the appearance of brushstrokes and blend easily.

Neo Megilp is a glazing medium. I put a blob in the middle of my palette and will pull it into the values as I need them. I use soft bristle brushes for the glazing process.

I make a grayscale or “grissaile” painting first, before adding any color. I keep the paint thinned with the medium. I make sure this paint layer remains smooth without texture. Tuexture comes much later.

This concludes Part 1. I will let this first pass dry to the touch, about 12-16 hours. With “fresh eyes” I will reevaluate it and correct  areas and layer more if necessary. I want to get the grayscale just right.

This process takes time! Please enjoy the slowness of it. It will allow you to think more and change more as you proceed.

Part 2 will cover the next step, color!

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