See what’s on the easel this month!

One of my paintings on the easel this March is a fruit still life. This painting is all about grapes, the old way: using the techniques painters used in 1600’s Holland. I’m also using the pigments that were available to the 17th century Dutch painter, starting with umber and lead white.

On the easel by Tanja Moderscheim

Grapes (in progress). Traditional oils on poplar, 30x30cm

Cyprus umber and Lead white

Process

After preparing the wood panel, which was typically made of Baltic oak (I use poplar from Italy), 17th century painters would apply a layer of lead white followed by a toned layer. The toned layer typically included lead white and an earth pigment such as umber and often a little bone black, to create a warm grey ground to start painting from. Once this was dry they set up the composition, often in charcoal (although some painters started without a drawing). I have used ordinary pencil for this painting.

Underpainting: the first couple of layers were reserved for the monochrome underpainting, also called dead layer due to the ‘absence’ of colour. This was for example just an umber and lead white, although many painters (especially flower painters) completed the underpainting of each element in their design in its local colour, ending up with a jigsaw effect. The underpainting, which confirms aspects such as the composition and the value landscape, serves as a map for the subsequent colour layers. The underpainting was excecuted to varying levels of detail: some painters moved on to colour quite soon, some painters finished this layer in high detail.

And this is where this painting is now- after two layers, I’d like it to be even more detailed so I’ll use another session to achieve that. Once this is dry, I’ll move on to colour.