Fine art, painting and research

“Trenta, quaranta velature!” (glazes, thirty to forty) -Titian

For our workshop ahead its handy if we prepare ourselves, both in terms of dwelling in the energies we would like to bring forth through our art, and also through acquiring the right tools and materials to help us express ourselves.

Materials List

The difference between sable, hog, and synthetic brushes are easy to spot in the art shop. Sable are very expensive, natural brushes (that come from a weasel-like creature…). Hogs are bristly, course haired brushes. Synthetics vary in quality and price.

If you go for synthetic, do yourself a favour and pick up good quality ones. The difference between a natural hair brush and a synthetic is that natural hairs will hold more paint due to the hair being rough and irregular on a microscopic level, whereas synthetics are smooth plastic.

Liner brush – a long haired brush- acquiring a few very fine liner brushes will be useful for your tempera work, because the long hairs allow for long smooth lines or hatching with paint without needing to dip your brush every other stroke.

Filbert brushes – This refers to the shape, like a cat tongue. I find these the most versatile, because they can be used on their broadside or edge. The rounded edges of the brush shape avoid the ‘chops’ that ‘flat’ or ‘bright’ brushes give.

Sable rounds – a few of these can be handy for detailed work.

Hog brushes – usually the cheapest of the brushes but also useful if you like expressive brushwork because they dig into the paint. Rounds or filberts in a variety of sizes can be very handy. A soak in water the night before makes them pretty supple.

Mop brush – a mop brush resembles a makeup blusher brush. It is very handy for dappling at areas to produce soft glows, evenness and transitions. A small one and medium one are very handy.

Glazing brush – smooth, broad synthetic brush will be handy for laying down brushstroke-free layers of paint.


I follow a traditional basis where the workhorses and 80% or more of our work can be done with natural earth pigments.

I recommend the following. These arn’t essential for the workshop itself, but make for a very solid base kit from which to follow the technique we’ll be practising :

Earth Pigments
raw umber, burnt umber,
raw sienna, burnt sienna,
van dyke brown,
terra verde (green earth)
Bohemian green earth

Iron oxide Pigments:
transparent red iron oxide,
transparent yellow iron oxide,
sinopia (violet haematite ore) or caput mortum,
mars black
old holland baroque red

Blues – Mineral Pigment substitutes:
Ultramarine blue (substitutes Lapiz Lazuli)
Cobalt blue (substitutes azurite)
Cerulean blue – beautiful sky pigment

Alchemical pigments:
Cadmium Red (substitutes vermillion)
Naples Yellow Genuine
Lead white (lead white is only now available to the restoration community. After induction in safety of handling this beautiful but toxic pigment, and demonstrating mindful handling of paint, I will make some lead white available for purchase)

Pigments for shading
Van dyke brown
Neutral Tint
Paynes Grey

Often more of an intuitive selection – pick the colors you are instinctually attracted to. Because we are using a glazing process, it is helpful to buy TRANSPARENT colours so your underpainting work shines through. Look on the tube to see if it indicates how transparent vs opaque it is.

Other Materials

If possible – small containers that have lids
A palette and palette knife
HB pencil
Tracing paper


If you wish to paint a very specific design rather than following a set study, then size them to this, giving a good space of several cm from the border areas so that the important aspects of your composition do not edge up to the boundary of the panel.

Principles of Study

  • Imprimatura : Working from a midtone value rather than white.
  • Optical greys or Optical grisaille underpainting : The use of transparent white to create the value study that comprises the underpainting
  • Optical color mixing : The use of glazes necessitates consideration of how transparent colors will interact with each other.
  • Making and handling of paint
  • Focus of values, temperature and harmonic colors

In summary :

“As a reminder, piambura is the third layer of an essentially five-layer traditional painting process: imprimatura, disegno, piambura, verdaccio and velatura. (Whew! Going Italian…) The imprimatura is the toning of the canvas; the disegno is the drawing (design); and the piambura is the building up of light areas using only whites. These examples represent those first three stages… continued with the verdaccio stage, which is working green and red into the skin tones, plus any other opaque colors in the painting. Finally the velatura is the glazes; some sort of yellow will glazed over the green and red of the verdaccio layer to complete the skin tones.” – Sunsikell

The Imprimatura layer is just the initial underpainting wash of thin color – either a warm or cool tone. A gray tone is used for the grisaille method, while other methods use a warm brown or reddish tone. It may be rendered ontop of an indian ink disegno, where it will show through.

Imprimatura, then drawing and shadows, then modeling the lights using white paints (lead white for halftones, titanium white for more opaque highlights, and perhaps a very small amount of yellow ochre in halftones further from the light source). It’s to be followed by verdaccio greens and reds, then finally yellow and rose glazes – so it’s part of a five-layer process. Piambura is similar to grisaille except that all your shadows can remain transparent through the entire painting process

The “piambura” layer (the lead-white base that gives the subject greater luminosity) is when You work Lead white into the Verdaccio underpainting where there is flesh or areas where you want luminosity. The appearance should be like the figure is bathed in moonlight. The intent is to provide a white base for light rays to bounce off and back up through the color layers above it, creating luminosity. In traditional indirect painting this layer is also sometimes called the “dead” layer.

After the imprimatura, designio, piambura, verdaccio, is the velatura, or glazing.


“Scumbling is a dry-brush effect used to add subtlety to paint layers. A velatura is a type of translucent milky glaze that can create optical grays and illusions of layers glowing through one another. A traditional transparent glaze most often is used to adjust the color or value of an area of a painting as a final layer.”- Al Gury

“When large surfaces were to be glazed, the colour was frequently rubbed on with all the fingers or the flat of the hand, so as to fill the interstices left by the brush, and to cover the surface thinly and evenly…” – Merrifield, Medieval and Renaissance Treatises on the Arts of Painting