Lorna Vanparys

The Classical Oil Painting Technique

In this study of the Old Master’s technique of oil painting, the painter will take a still-life subject through a multiple layer method from priming the canvas to a luminous, varnished, finished work. The course consists of the following sections : charcoal drawing, “Imprimatura” layer, “Grisaille” layer, Dead layer, color layers, glazes and varnishes. There will be short lectures during the course on related subjects . The use of rabbit glue, the palette of Reubens or the layer method of abstract Japanese oil painting are three examples. The classical technique of the Old Master’s provides a fundamental understanding of oil painting, it’s properties, it’s heritage and it’s possibilities for contemporary art making.
This course is useful for beginner painters who seek a basic understanding of oil painting or established artists who seek to integrate oil paint in their work.

Course Outline

Introduction to the method

The secret of Van Eyck

Preparation of the canvas

rabbit glue on raw linen.
gesso and sandpaper.
Comments : various supports, (cotton, linen, rayon), animal glues, history and demonstration of their use, gesso recipes – 14th c. to present.

Drawing the subject

pencil, charcoal, composition.
Comments :
  • Camera Obscura – Vermeer
  • Camera Lucida – Hockney

Composition :
  • triangle – da Vinci
  • round – Rubens
  • square – Mondrian

Grisaille – “underpainting”, “Penumbra”, “Imprimatura”

Light and shadow study in a thin layer with turpentine, no details.
Palette : black.
Comments : brushes, their uses, care, shapes, different bristles.

Dead layer

Shape study and tones.
Add tone to main masses in thin layers with turpentine, add details mixing greys.
Palette : white, black, yellow ochre, red ocher, cerulean blue.
Comments : canvas, different weaves, repair.

Colors layers

mixing colors with turpentine and oil, paint in the details.
Palette : ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, prussian blue, burnt umber, burnt sienna, cadmium yellow, cadmium orange, cadmium green, cadmium red, transparent brown, ocher, black, white.
Comments : bistre, empatement, mixing skin colors, perspective of color, various palettes (Rubens, Dali and others).
Palettes, materials and maintenence.

Glazing :

transparent and semi-transparent colors with oil, add highlights.
Comments : oils linseed, poppy seed oil, fixatives, siccatif, amber.

Varnish :

use of retouching varnish in layers, as a fixative, use with oil, use with turpentine, when not to use, final protection.
Comments : workable and Damar varnish, recipes, 14th c. to present signing and framing.

Oil paints and contemporary mediums and styles

How to use oil paints with acrylics, with collage, with leaf metals, encaustics
Oil paints in abstract work (examples : Zao Wou-Ki, Chu Teh-Chun).
This intensive, two week private course is given at the studio Lorna Vanparys in southern France.
Back to Top