USING PAINT: Layers and Transparency

Most iPad Painting Apps provide layers and transparency as part of the process of digital painting. It takes a little while to get your head around it but you can be sure it is much quicker than in traditional oil painting…..

Jar of Apricots: Chardin (1758)

Jar of Apricots: Chardin (1758)

Traditionally artists have used layers and transparency as they built up their artwork.  But it was a question of waiting till one layer dried before putting on the next part. Chardin (right) would have achieved that deep rich glowing effect of apricots in a glass jar and a steaming cup of  tea, by allowing layers to dry on the canvas. He would then load his paint with thinners perhaps and continue. Transparent layers allow one colour to glow through another changing both colours and their tones. Paint mixed on the canvas can merge one colour into another and gradations of tone (like the green wall above) are achieved by careful mixing of tones of paint.You can view this magnificent painting and details of Chardin’s  brush-work here on the Google art Project.

The Artist’s Signature

You will find when you visit the Google Art Project that photographs of the paintings have been taken in High Definition (HD). This allows us to examine in extreme close-up the way artists place the paint on the canvas.

Monet’s Water Lilies (left) demonstrates layers of transparent colour, paint texture, colour gradation, colour mixing on canvas etc. Click on the title and see it for yourself!

The 1956 painting “Climbing the Lantau Peak at Night” (Hong Kong Museum of Art) is worked in a very different way and is from a very different tradition in painting. The artist’s detailed build up of brush-work and the reduced tonal range are clearly visible in close-up in these HD photographs from the Google Art Project.

Huang Bore: 1956

Huang Bore: 1956

Whether it is oil or water colour you can really learn from these HD photographs. How to put paint on a surface…..not just one way ….but a huge variety of ways by different artists.

Style in Painting: zooming in

A style is a personal, sometimes habitual way of working in paint. The artist has created a process memory, rather like remembering how to tie a shoelace: this memory enables the artist to use paint and tools in his or her own particular way and adapt it to different subjects. Style is not only what he or she chooses to paint, the subject matter, but also the manner in which they paint, how they apply the paint to the surface.

So you need to find a style of applying paint that suits you…..that you like, and to help in your search you can always learn from other painters! Look very closely at the paintings that you like on the Google Art Project . There are thousands of them… Use the site’s zoom capacity and be open to different possibilities….that’s the creative part!


This entry was posted in Art History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to USING PAINT: Layers and Transparency

  1. margaretem says:

    Hello Pete
    Thanks for that! It was great to look at the work of Chinese artists…such a long tradition and so fluent! When I was drawing boats on holiday I thought of the fluid use of the brush in Chinese painting and the subtlety of light. ASKetch and the bright Australian light makes things almost harsh….I shall have to find a way to go beyond chiaroscuro and attempt sfumato!

  2. Pete says:

    Hi Margaret, thanks for including a painting from the Chinese tradition in your discussion, it helps illuminate commonalities across traditions and also raises interesting questions about differences in technique … By the way, when I was working exclusively in digital, I called my website “zooomingin . com” (well before Google highlighted this feature on Google Art), because when I study paintings I’m typically looking at a detail, and my eye “zooms in” on an area of interest…

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s