Years ago I took a Renaissance Painting class. What do I mean by “Renaissance Painting”? First, it has nothing to do with subject matter, it was purely a class about technique.
I’ll give a brief rundown on this technique. First, the artist needs a very smooth surface. Many Renaissance paintings are done on panel for this reason. For the canvas paintings we put layer after layer of gesso on and sanded between layers. Then the picture is painted in black and white. Well, it is greyscale, like a black and white photo. We could add a little blue or red (not much!) to the paint to make the final warmer or cooler. The last step is to put a color glaze over the black and white under painting. If something is green, you use a green glaze and the underpainting will take care of the different shades and highlights.
When you look at a Renaissance era painting it almost seems to glow from an inner light. Well, in ways it does – you are seeing the shapes and shading through a layer of colored glaze. Continue reading