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Working with layers and Verdaccio

Painting/study: Verdaccio, contrast (light/shadow, cold/warm), colour space...

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Untitled. (work-in-progress)
Top: state 1 (left), state 2 (right),
Bottom: state 3 (left), and state 4 (right).
Acrylics on paper. 2018 (wip). Around A3 size.

Before you say "my kid could do that, and better": This is not a painting, it is an experiment in painting techniques! Read on for the full story ...

The word "verdaccio" is Italian, derived from "verde" which means "green". It is technical jargon for a specific technique used by medieval painters, mainly in portraits and religious fantasies (taken together, these two groups constitute the vast majority of medieval painting.)

Verdaccio, in brief, is a specific kind of underpainting using a mixture of black and ochre (yellow-ish) paint, applied in several layers atop each other.

When viewing a medieval painting you may not see the "verdaccio" part of it at all, even though several layers of the painting may be just that and nothing else. The photos above show layers that will normally be hidden below the finished painting, and hence invisible to the viewer.

State one is pure verdaccio (left): The darkest layer was painted in quick movements using a painters spatula (palette knife). The lighter layer was applied using a sponge.

State two is state one with a more modern "high contrast" layer applied on top of the first verdaccio layer. This contrast layer is no more modern than still being inspired and guided by the medieval verdaccio technique: These colours (blue, green, white, black) were appplied using fingers only.

State three is state two with added earth colours (red, brown) plus white in abundance, and a tiny bit of black for the deep shadows. This state was done using fingers only, no brush.

State four is state three with yet another verdaccio layer on top, this layer having most yellow umber and very little black mixed in. Touches of red, blue (colour temperature contrast) was added too, and a few small adjustments in pure white. Pure black was not used for this state. Also, the paper ("canvas") has been manipulated. Still; no brush was used, only fingers.

In terms of anatomical properties, from state 3 on the painting is getting closer to "a real face". However, similarity has not been a priority and no reference photo was used; everything was painted from memory.

For this study focus is on the interaction of verdaccio-style underpaint with various types of other leyers and overlay effects: light/shadow, highlight/deep shadow, cold/warm hues... and, of course a "primitive" painting style using crude finger-paint in stead of brush strokes. This technique does not easily permit tiny details or smooth gradients, which makes all kinds of colour space interactions extra visible and pronounced.

For the study some kind of "well known object" was necessary, and in this case the object is a face/mask. The object is not the focus of the study, so no care has been taken to make it "look right". This may (or may not) change in future versions - if future versions are made.

Using artists jargon, this is "a study". A tool to examine and test properties of quite specific techniques. Normally only the painter will ever see studies like this. Usually they disappear under subsequent layers of paint, or they are discarded.

The purpose of this study was to examine specific properties of the verdacchio method of painting. To phrase it popularly: Does this thing still work? Is there a use for it? And, if so, which?

The conclusion must be: yes. Even with modifications, verdaccio still works!

2018.04.13 15:47 in Painting

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