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July 18, 2023

Adventures in imprimatura painting

Today I practiced using raw sienna (similar to yellow ochre but more transparent) and titanium white. It got me thinking: couldn’t I use any pair of colors to tone my painting? Heck, I could use dioxazine purple and cadmium yellow if I wanted to. There are so many different combinations. Why stick with what the old masters liked? It’s good fundamental knowledge, but I am curious how I could take this in a different direction later on.

There are different combinations of colors, but why stop there: why not do more complicated colors? Mixing a new color for the white, like light blue. Or, a large painting that uses a wider range of tones. The most prominent subject gets the lightest highlights, background objects in shadow get something darker. 

Does it HAVE to be toned in oil paint? Why not tone it with acrylic? Especially if it’s covering a large surface. I want to try the toning technique with layers of color mixed with primer. Each primary color gets its own layer. They stack up to produce a natural and realistic light. I could tone the canvas with acrylic paint like yellow, brown, or green; then do the imprimatura with a dark oil paint color like burnt sienna, payne’s gray, etc. Then for the opaque light color use titanium white or naples yellow. 

I want to paint so many different things using this technique. How would it look on a realistic portrait? A while back, I tried to paint some nude figure studies with unfortunate results. When the lighter paint dried, it started to crack. I am hoping that the imprimatura and sfumato technique works out much better, especially since it is effective for painting realistic flesh.

I really hope that my painting practice takes me somewhere great. I am excited for all the possibilities ahead. Character art? Flowers, landscapes, animals, and objects? I could paint on a large surface that immerses you in the scene. Beatrice would look Bea-utiful in this technique! Maybe this is what I needed all along!

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