MISCHTECHNIK – STEP BY STEP PROCESS
This method of painting combines the advantages of both the water-soluble egg tempera paint and those of oil painting. White egg tempera paint is used to gradually build up tonal values & then oil paint is applied in thin, semi-transparent glazes of luminous colour. The layers of egg tempera and oil glazes can be built up countless times, allowing for a great dimensionality within the artwork. The mische technique is useful if one wishes to create effects of transparency, luminosity, precision and rich, vivid colour. There are a number of variations in the mischtechnik and artists will gravitate towards the approach which is best suited to their needs. Historically this approach has it’s origins in the early Renaissance period when Flemish, Dutch & Italian painters combined the traditional tempera fresco painting techniques with those of the newly discovered oil paint.
In the book ‘Materials of the Artist’ the writer Max Doerner speculated as to how these possibilities could be employed using contemporary materials. Following Doerner’s descriptions a small group of Austrian artists known as the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism began to experiment and apply the technique. They attempted to revive the precise and luminous quality of works attained by the Van Eyck brothers, Durer, Memling, Grunevald and others. The Austrian artist Ernst Fuchs revived the technique and passed it on to many of his students.
Painting Method – Step by Step
The following is a short description of one possible approach to the mischtechnik. In most cases I either use this approach or a more alla prima oil painting method which is described by clicking here.
1. Drawing Phase
Usually the artwork will begin with a drawing, sometimes it is just better to work more intuitively, directly onto the panel.The inspiration can be sketched out roughly as a small thumbnail then translated into a drawing. Often the drawing will be the same size & format of the finished panel. At this stage the composition is worked out, the main elements of the artwork and the proportions as well as possible. The more problems one solves in the drawing stage, the better. The final drawing usually doesn’t necessarily need to include tonal values but is reduced to a clear and flowing outline.
2. Preparing the Panel
A panel is chosen matching the format of the intended vision. Wood panels are great, linen and canvas are also good. The panel is usually gessoed a few times and sanded between coats of gesso. This ensures that the paint will have a solid ground to sit on and adhere to.
2. Transfer of the Drawing
The drawing is transferred directly onto a wooden, canvas or linen panel.
The outlines are painted over with either sepia ink or a earth-based coloured oil paint very thinly. If oils are used then they are allowed to dry overnight.
The entire surface of the panel is painted over with a very thin and semi-transparent initial coat of oil paint – the imprimatura. This is often a warm colour, it may be red, brown, yellow, orange, etc. Earth pigments are generally used, this should be a mid-tone, and transparent enough to keep the drawing outline clearly visible. The paint is allowed to dry. Note: In some cases it is better to apply the drawing transfer and inked outlines on top of the imprimatura ground.
5. The 1st Whites
An egg tempera emulsion is mixed using the following formula:
1 x whole egg
1x dammar varnish
2x water (can be distilled)
This emulsion is kept in a bottle and is thoroughly mixed each time it is used. It can be kept in the fridge and can often last many months. Some artists add a few drops of 100% alcohol to extend it’s use. The egg acts as a binder and the damar extends and gives elasticity to the paint when it is applied.
A small amount of titanium white powdered pigment is mixed with enough emulsion to create a consistency similar to yogurt.This is mixed thoroughly.
This mixture becomes the base for creating our tonal values. Water is added to dilute the white tempera paint creating more transparency. The titanium white paint is generally very opaque on it’s own. The paint is then applied gradually & thinly, often with hatching techniques, sometimes with washes in a similar way to how one would draw with ink. Unlike most methods, with this approach it is the highlights not the shadows which are gradually built up.
6. 1st Oil Glaze
A glaze of oil paint is mixed using one’s preferred oil medium. I like to paint with one of the the following mediums:
50% balsam turpentine
1/3 purified linseed oil
1/3 balsam turpentine
1/3 dammar varnish
The colour of the glaze depends on the choice of the painter but at this stage is often warm, perhaps an earthy yellow or light brown. In the photo below I’ve chosen a violet glaze because the painting will be generally in cool tones. Glazes in most cases should be either transparent or semi-transparent. Many oil colours have a small square symbol on the tube to indicate the levels of transparency or opacity.
The oil paint brands I generally use are either: Old Holland, Senellier or Michael Harding
Using this technique the paint is applied so thinly that your oils will generally last a long time, it is a good idea to invest in the best brands available.
Click here for a post about choice of colours & old master paint palettes
So the glaze is applied thinly and globally or all over the panel, hiding any brushstrokes as one goes. It is allowed to dry in a dust free environment. Drying times vary according to the pigment used, to the thickness of the paint, the type of medium, the type of panel and the weather conditions. Often one or two days is sufficient.
7. Second Whites
During this stage the areas to be highlighted are rendered once again using the white egg tempera. Sometimes new elements within the composition can be added. It is important during these stages to have foresight as to which colour the next glaze will be as this colour will adhere to whites and be more or less transparent & darker over the areas where it is lacking. The idea is to create gradation, depth and volume and use the transparency in a way which will create optical greys and fascinating transitions of colour. There are colour effects which can be created using this technique which are very difficult to create using other methods of painting. The tempera is allowed to dry.
8. Second Oil Glaze
The next glaze is applied either globally (often with a colder colour at this stage) or else locally, within specific areas. Now that several layers of tempera whites and oil glazes have been added the artwork should have a level of depth & dimension.
The process of adding layers of oil glazes & layers of egg tempera whites can be continued virtually endlessly, as long as they are applied thinly and given ample time to dry in between layers. If a layer of oil paint has not yet dried and another is added over it there is a danger of it dissolving within seconds. This has happened to me many times when I wasn’t patient enough to give it ample time to dry.
9. Highlights & Shadows – Local Glazes
At this stage highlights are emphasized and the shadows are deepened. Depth & volume is stretched as much as needed along the value scale.
Final touches can be painted using oil paint directly or over small areas of tempera rendering.
After a period of a few months (6 months or more is best) the artwork is varnished with a high quality oil paint varnish.
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