Glazing skin tones like Caravaggio

After Caravaggio, 1st glaze with original copy

I don’t want to seem like I’m making any grand claims but I hope to show in a new video what for me is something like the process of glazing that Caravaggio used. I’m coming to this based on trial and error. How nice it would be to travel back in time to watch him at work! But from looking carefully at his paintings and having a go myself I think this may be fairly close to it. I thought I had lost the video but it turned up in an imovie folder I made! It looks as rough as it does because of time limitations on the videos I make, but I think you can see how you would proceed and continue to refine the modelling, chroma etc. with a bit more work. Its all on my Patreon page but you can see the first installment on youtube.

The palette for the skin tones is mainly:

Titanium White
Vermillion
Yellow Ochre

And also:
Burnt and Raw Umber
Black – I use Ivory Black and I’m personally not fussed which black you use.

I had a lot of fun doing this copy. Please let me know what you think about it. In hindsight the colours are quite light but I’m just getting used to this process. Also its useful not to commit too much in the beginning and deepen the colours as you go. I will work into them in the next glaze as I did in the Rubens copy.

The point is I feel I have come closer to seeing how Caravaggio achieved his painterly effects, and learned more about his process. I hope I have learned through this example how it is possible to paint using a similar process to Caravaggio.

Happy painting! Matt

Posthumous portrait

I have painted a number of these over the years but haven’t shown any until now. I thought this one worked well with the glazing process.

posthumous portrait by UK portrait painter and artist Matt Harvey

Posthumous portrait, oil on board

I obviously stuck closely to the photo reference I was sent, and I painted the face using a Raw Umber and Titanium White underpainting, or grisaille and then followed this with glazes and halfpastes of Titanium White, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Yellow Ochre, Brilliant Yellow, Burnt Umber and Ivory Black

I felt it demonstrates the glazing process as you can see how the glazes went on to the surface and some brushstrokes are still visible. I like the way you can conjure details, like the teeth, with just a few strokes of the brush. I always like to have a ‘truth to materials’ approach to painting, where as well as depicting something real you are aware that it is an illusion, and just paint on the surface.

Figurative in felt tip

Drawing of a ballerina by Matt Harvey in felt tip pen. Figure drawing in colour, using rose madder, blue, yellow, orange and purple

Ballet Dancer in Rose, 60x75cm, pen on card

I feel I have finally found a way to bring all the elements of my practice together at the same time and from now will be embarking on a new series of work in pen. As a sculptor by training I have always love drawing first and foremost and specifically drawing from the figure. Figure drawing in itself is more like a technical exercise for me and so for inspiration I have looked to dance in various forms.

I have also made a lot of abstract (strictly non-figurative) work in the past and investigated making some large images with pen over 10 years ago. I like the way I can build up colour and tone in an image by repeated scribbling, creating richer and deeper colours the more I work. The image comes into focus slowly, the line is built up by many other smaller lines. To me this parallels the process of stone carving which I suppose is my first love in art. I also like the fact that wherever you look the process is revealed and is exactly the same: single lines of pen that interweave in a tapestry of lines. But I’ll share more of what I think about this in further posts.

Portrait of a peasant girl after Velazquez

Velasquez peasant girl 50x64 copy

Portrait of a peasant girl by Velazquez

This is a project by matt harvey to try and use the same technique as Velazquez in his portrait painting. I used a limited colour palette of vermilion, yellow ochre, white, black and burnt umber

This is the first of a number of Velazquez paintings I would like to try and copy. You can see the video in real time on my patreon channel, see the link here on my website.
I was interested in what palette he used and also in his use of the imprimatura and how that was left for some of the middle tones and her clothes.
He may have painted this in 1 or 2 sittings and I show that it is possible to achieve it in 1 sitting, although how he did it in a single sitting with such breathtaking technique is anybody’s guess.
The point of the video is to gain an understanding of the technique so that I or anybody else will be able to use it in their own paintings. There are a number of things that I feel could be worked on a little more but due to the fact I was filming it I stopped working here after 1hr 10 minutes. The technique comes with practice and I think something anyone can do, but of course I mean A LOT of practice. Personally it was very enlightening to make this copy. One thing I did struggle with was not being able to see it all properly, for example the area around her left eye is very dark and difficult to make out. Because of this I think I’ll leave it here, because I don’t know how I can improve it so that it looks more like the original.

I love Velazquez because I think he was a great human being as well as a great artist, as well as being obsessed by status! When he painted various ‘outsiders’ like his bonded slave (who’s freedom he later bought) or peasants, or the jesters and dwarves in the royal court, obviously some would have been the result of royal patronage as well as his own interest. But he painted these people with what I would describe as empathy because he still respected them for their humanity. I wonder about the girl in this portrait, and differences in their ‘status’ notwithstanding, Velazquez does paint her with a sensitivity and tenderness that make this an outstanding portrait painting. She is not sentimentalised like Bouguereau would have painted her, and you can see in this portrait a precursor to Manet’s modernist portraits of people in his everyday world. For this project my main interest is the technique he used, but I still find this a touching portrait that also demonstrates Velazquez’s profound empathy.

The colours I used, and I am pretty sure Velazquez also used, were:
Titanium White
Ivory Black
Burnt Umber
Vermilion
Yellow Ochre

Of course mine are modern equivalents

Portrait of a young girl after Rubens, 2nd glaze!

Hi there, I’ve been looking forward to doing this for a while, and now I’ve completed the films of both the glazes. Here is a photo of before and after the 2nd glaze.

showing the difference between glazes on portrait painting of a young girl after Rubens, by Matt Harvey Art

from the 1st to 2nd glaze

So this is the painting again showing the change from the 1st to the 2nd glaze, and then following on from that you can see the 2nd glaze next to the original. The 2nd glaze took about 90 minutes, and you can see it in real time on Patreon, and off camera I spent another 10 minutes painting in the dark lines around her eyelids and some details of eyelashes. I feel this is close to the working method of Rubens, and now I’ve done it I think I can get even closer and work even more efficiently. I’m really looking forward to making some more copies from Rubens, Van Dyck, Velasquez and Caravaggio. Each time is an amazing learning experience and I have gained so much from it. I will still work on this painting a bit more but have to stop for now due to time restrictions. I didn’t really do much to the mouth which is OK, but I would model some of the transitions around there next time. In terms of the film I’ll leave it for now because I think it shows you how to achieve these results. It has been a revelation for me just working in this very limited palette, and I’m looking forward to using it in my own work in the future. If you would like to see how I did it in real time you can see it all on patreon.

After filming 2nd glaze over the grisaille underpainting, using hogs hair, sable and synthetic brushes.

about 6 hours work to get to this point. I painted the underpainting in 2 passes in Raw Umber, then 3rd pass using more Ivory black, and then 2 separate colour glazes using Vermillion, Yellow Ochre, Black and White, and some Burnt Umber

New Caravaggio technique video – underpainting stage

This is a copy of a Caravaggio at the underpainting stage where I have painted the grisaille and used Raw Umber and Burnt Umber to create the shadows

Underpainting stage for Boy Bitten by a Lizard, after Caravaggio

Hi there, I’ve just posted this on youtube. Its going to be one of 2 videos there but 6 in total on patreon where they are also unedited and in real time. This video is cobbled together from 3 real time films, about 3 hours painting in all. I loved copying this painting and learned so much. Looking forward to the next one! I still have to finish the Rubens copy I’m doing as well. And the glazing for this painting. After that Velasquez and Van Dyck.. all the Baroque greats. Thank you for looking!

Portrait of a young girl after Rubens, 1st glaze

Art demonstration showing the techniques of the old masters. Portrait of a young girl after Peter Paul Rubens, by Matt Harvey, filmed in real time over 1 hour 15 minutes painting the glaze in 3 colours, Titanium White, Vermillion and Yellow Ochre

Portrait of a young girl after Rubens 1st glaze from patreon.com/mattharveyart

Here is an image of the 1st glaze as I finished filming. The real time video will be on Patreon but there is a taster on youtube. One amazing thing I discovered doing this glaze was that I only used 3 colours; Titanium White, Vermilion and Yellow Ochre. I feel now that I may have been a bit stubborn in my pursuit of authenticity in the process here. Looking at the original I am sure that these are the only colours Rubens used, although the fact remains that there are deeper shadows in the original. Usually I would have painted the shadows in first and worked the highlights into them, and I am sure I would have got closer to it if I had. I have read that Rubens used Burnt Umber and Alizarin Crimson as well as Ultramarine Blue, and all these would have helped create shadows in the first glaze. I will correct it in the 2nd glaze but honestly I would have liked to get closer to the original painting. Comparing them here I can see that Rubens’ colours were a lot darker, or richer. I don’t know for sure if he used further glazes, and my initial guess is he finished it in the 1st. Having said that though, when you look at it the paint looks as if it has been built up in layers, but its hard to tell.  I might try and do it again from a print of my underpainting.

I say I think he finished it in one go after underpainting because his paintings generally have that effortless spontaneity in the brushwork and the handling of paint. He worked quickly, and relished the magical effects of glazing over grisaille underpainting and the efficiency of this process. His large studio and many commissions encouraged this way of working – prizing brevity and clarity and the swashbuckling technique that is so characteristic of Baroque painting.

The shadows are simply the underpainting showing through and possibly the underpainting was in quite high contrast, or certainly more than you would usually expect. Look at the cool areas around her mouth. These are created only by the raw umber underpainting showing through the glaze above. But then maybe the shadow under her right eye is made with a cheeky bit of Burnt Umber and Vermilion? Its fun to try and find out. Fun and agonising at the same time. When teams lose a rugby match the captain always says something like ‘It’s really hurting! The lads just wish they could go out there and play them again now!’ Painting always feels like that. Especially when you’re waiting for the thing to dry so you can just get out there again and make it right.