Glazing is a wonderful method of painting for the artist who is not in a hurry.
Painting alla prima is fast and satisfying. The student artist will most likely begin his course of studying by learning how paints behave on a support and what he is capable of producing.
After he is comfortable with his tools and how to use them, he expands his skills with additional techniques.
Glazing is procedure that the artist will find most useful, even if he does not use it extensively.
Glazing builds up transparent color in thin layers. Each layer must be dry before painting another. For the watercolorist and acrylic painter, the wait is minimal. However, the oil painter may have significant delays, depending on the ambient atmosphere of the studio and the ratio of oil used to create the glaze.
Each glaze of color affects the layers beneath it. Light reflects through the layers to the support and bounces back. The eye mixes the colors and perceives the final hue. This luminosity and depth of color is unique to this style of painting and cannot be achieved by mixing paint on the palette.
All Paints Are Not Created Equally
Not all paints are translucent, and there are degrees of transparency that must be taken into consideration when selecting colors for the palette. The student should learn the transparency of the colors in his paint box. Paints are either transparent, semi-transparent or opaque. Reading labels and manufacturer’s descriptions help, but painting a color chart is the best method for learning about the characteristics of the paints the artist is planning to use.
If the artist wishes to use an opaque paint in a painting that will be glazed, he should use it in the initial layer of his painting. In this way, he will get the benefit from the use of the color, and it will not interfere with the glazing process.
Patience Is A Virtue
If the student is not patient and insists on adding a layer of paint before the first is dry, he will be mixing the paints on the support. He will lose the effect that glazing creates and the whole exercise will be pointless. Watercolor and acrylic painters may speed up drying using a hair dryer, but the oil painter has little opportunity to enhance the drying process. This technique is not for the twitchy nail biters among us and is better left to the calm and tolerant artist who does not have a deadline to meet.
To make up for the down time, an artist may opt for multiple projects, so there is another painting to work on while a layer dries. This cuts down on the fidget factor.
The beginning artist, contemplating learning this method, may wish to begin with smaller canvases to minimize the time involved with the exercise.
Smooth As Glass
Impasto painting is not going to work here. It is a satisfying experience to glop a nice brush full of paint on the canvas and stand back to enjoy the texture just created. This does not work with glazing. Light reflects best through a smooth surface, so the artist will avoid anything that even remotely feels like texture. The watercolorist will find hot pressed paper an excellent support for glazing. Acrylic and oil painters may elect to use Masonite board or fine canvas that has been coated smoothly with gesso to remove traces of fabric texture.
White As The Driven Snow
The student should also use a white or very light ground for his support. A dark underpainting will detract from the reflective quality of the glazing technique and minimize the effect. Light will not be reflected back from a dark base color, so the depth and intensity of color is lost.
The Medium Is The Key
Watercolor glazing is merely a matter of adding water to the pigment to achieve the desired strength and carefully painting the subsequent layer.
With acrylic, one may use water or acrylic medium. It is important to learn how much water or medium to use for the desired effect. The artist must use caution when diluting acrylic paint as too much water can cause the paint to lift or peel away. Medium does not have that problem as it contains resin, which acts as an adherent.
Oil painters will use a combination of solvent and oil for their layers. An artist using oil paints follows the rule of fat over lean. Simply put, the initial layers of paint will use solvent to thin the paint. Subsequent layers will incorporate oil as a glazing medium, and may include the addition of Liquin, which is a medium that speeds drying time.
Soft As A Spring Breeze
When an artist is glazing, his goal is to add color without adding texture. To this end, he will use soft bristle brushes to eliminate brush strokes. Visible brush strokes may be reduced by lightly stroking a dry, clean fan brush over the offending marks.
All Together Now
When the artist has added as many layers as he believes necessary to complete his painting, he may elect to add one final step. A unifying final glaze may be applied over the entire picture. This helps coalesce the elements and colors in a pleasant and eye appealing manner.
Glazing is a time consuming method that gives a luminous appearance to a painting. The depth of color and richness that can be achieved is spectacular in skilled hands.
Although this style of painting requires practice, patience is the most important trait required by the artist to master this skill.