Practical Research
into Pre-Modern Art



I was going to explore techniques of fresco but realised it’s highly unlikely I will use such methods of working in my own practise so started to consider the use of glazes with working with oils. I have a number of old, incomplete paintings lying around my room and used some of these as grounds for making a few experiments. I looked back at the textural study and wanted to work from a few images of interest from Poussin and Giotto, informed somewhat in the way that contemporary artists interpret traditional works.


2This first piece, I did for fun, (nothing to do with glazing techniques). It’s not a copy of anything, but based on the interest I found looking at pre historic cave painting. The medium is oil paint, oil and chalk pastel on canvas glued to a board.



These are a few glaze test experiments on old oil painting grounds.

2 parts Grumbacher ZEC medium, 1 part mix Cadmium orange & permanent yellow medium, painted over whole surface. Certainly unifies the image, more work needed to bring out facial details. Original (left), gesso’d canvas glued to board.

2 parts Robertson mat glaze medium, 1 part mix Cadmium orange & permanent yellow medium, painted just over the face, 1 part turps. Good to get rid of white on the face, colour not right, need to find the highlights & contrasts. Original (left), gesso’d canvas glued to board.

2 parts Grumbacher ZEC medium, 1 part aliz. crimson, 1 part turps, painted just on the bottle. The original (left), dried to a rather dull finish, maybe because painted on cheap card. This mix makes interesting difference but also highlights the texture of the brush mark which in this case is not helpful.

9Glaze applied to red patch, (top left), 2.5 parts Grumbacher ZEC medium, 1 part aliz. crimson, 1 part turps, & blue patch, (bottom right), Grumbacher ZEC medium, 1 part phthalo blue, 2 parts turps. Painted on cheap shop canvas, original – dull uninteresting surface. I like these glaze finishes but better still I like the combination of the two, using part glazed, & part matt finish.


Above image painted with oils on red acrylic ground. On the left, 2 parts Semelier Medium Van Eyck, 1 part cadmium orange, 1 part turps. On right side, 2 parts Winsor & Newton Liquin Original, 1 part cadmium orange, 1 part turps. The centre section is the original. This reproduction is not so great, so difficult to see the differences. Both glazes enhances the colours, the one on the right has more matt finish which I prefer.


Having spent time on these exercises which I didn’t think were so successful, I continued to work in a way that was more intuitive for me. I continued to focus on working from sections of two paintings, Poussin’s Destruction and Sack of the Temple in Jerusalem and Giotto’s Lamentation fresco.

I intended to work in first in oils but because of the time factor, in the work drying, I started painting with gouache on paper. The interpretation or method of working evolved as I took prints from the originals, photographed them and further manipulated them to simplify the composition and find interesting colour. The design of the paintings are so well thought out that it’s not difficult finding an interesting composition from almost any section or crop. I intended to explore the images in a variety of media.

From my painting of the Giotto detail, I took another print, cut it up, collaged it somewhat, and further manipulated it into a more abstract lively image. Not sure where I am going with this but it is sustaining my interest.



One thing that was helpful with the experiments, stating the obvious, was to just start experimenting. I initially had a block and didn’t know what to do. It was when I started – rather than just thinking about it – that more ideas came. The textural research was like a well to draw from. The work of a few contemporary artists also informed my approach in exploring the Giotto and Poussin images, I enjoy the work of Ken Kewley, Cecily Brown and Janice Nowinski. I found, An Artists Handbook by Margaret Krug to be a very helpful resource.

As mentioned the glaze exercises were not so successful, probably because of the time constraint to get the project finished and the time allowed for each glaze layer to fully dry before proceeding to work on subsequent layers.

I realise now that I spent far too long thinking about composition and colour, not leaving myself enough time to explore different media. It could have been more beneficial to find ways of recreating the translucency of the paint, as in the Giotto image.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s