Painting on Location
by Donald A. Jusko

Pictura Translucida in Alkyd

Transparent Painting, the 'Lost Art'

Different light sources

48x36 Alkyd Oil on Aluminum Panel
First I coated the whole support with alkyd oil medium. Gamblin's Alkyd Oil is very good and dries quickly.
This will protect the surface from accidents and give me some erasing room.
When this dried I drew on it with white chalk.

Here are the two of the six boxes of strawberries
I used during this painting.
Only the first box had stems on them.
Flash photo
This is a flash photo of the support.

I was shooting  days 1 and 2 on video and have no still images  :(

Day 3, 100 % coverage. The background is cyan, the opposite color to the red in the strawberries. Grumbacher Thalo Blue, transparent. I found this brand using the perfect neutral cyan color choice.  It's used in the background both transparently and opaquely by just adding white.
The red is both; Permanent Pigments Cadmium Red Light and Rembrandt Chinese Vermilion Extra Translucent. The yellow is Old Holland Indian Yellow-Orange Lake Extra. Brown is Rembrandt's Burnt Umber.
The green is Transparent Mussini Golden Green Genuine. The blue is Blocks French Ultramarine.
There is no Ultramarine Blue in this background.
Transparent Cyan darkens to Ultramarine Blue as you subtract light, as you can see in this un-retouched image. This color change is in the Real Color Wheel.

Day 3

Day 4, with the source light from different directions I can see the variations of the background.
The thickness of the transparent paint and the angle of the source light is most important in pictura translucida.


Day 5, look at the bright yellow-green in the leaves
with reflected light behind them,
it's translucent pigment and powerful.

This light angle shows the translucent and opaque areas. The direction of the source light is stronger then the omni light reflecting off the opaque pigments. The reflection is brighter. That makes all opaque passages darker then the translucent areas. Opaque has no relationship to the lightness or darkness of the color in strong light conditions. Opaque is the addition of white to transparent colors or it's complement color making a dark.The opposite of black is clear.

no glare

Day 6, shows the chalk grid I drew on the dry paint to find the seeds.
Look how dark the translucent yellow-green leaves are without reflected light.

day 6

TIP: Brushes are very important as is paint consistancy. 
Control is everything.
The lettering artists of the industry are gone now and have been replaced by the few good sign painters still left. They are the only ones who could can still tell you about lettering brush control. They will tell you how valuable a brush with a round ferrule and a flat end hairs is for precise lettering. It spreads out from a thin sideways stroke to flat out for a wide stroke. This is the style of brush every fine artist should have as the basic stroking brush in every medium. Indispensable control for 1/4 inch brush strokes and under. That would be a brush with the I/4, 1/8, 1/16 and 1/32 inch round ferrule.
Here are the brushes I'm using; Dick Blick, Mastercraft, Series 66, Germany. The the old Langnickel Series 65, 167, 150, Shorty 55. Delta Series # 134. There are a few more, but they don't get any advertising space. 
You won't find one brush of this type in Daniel Smiths 2003 catalog. Most artists don't know to expect this style of brush and the sellers don't know that the artist needs it.. Not that rags and fingers aren't important :) And sponges, air brush guns are nice to have also if your working big.
Day 8, Today I must even out the reflected gloss coming off the finished surface. This should be an unobtrusive gloss allowing the refraction gloss  through pigment to occur. Today I'm really paying attention while painting the translucent transitions. The basic large brush for this painting is the Richeson Series 9000 #10.

Day 8

TIP: Using the Real Color Wheel.
Red and Cyan are the two main opposite colors in this painting.
Yellow-Green is the warm side half-way point between Red and Cyan. My using that harmonious combination of colors will be powerful.

TIP: Save some precious "first strokes" while you are over painting and save the important transparent areas. The left leaf of the middle strawberry show what were the original three strokes.

Day 10, Finished. The final protective gloss is by Gamblin.
These photos were all made in the same half hour with the same white balance setting.



This is photographed in the studio with flat lighting, one light on each side with no reflections back to the camera. This image shows reflections off the silver as dark.
That's why the background at the top left is dark.

Studio photo

The history of transparent pigment painting.

A/D 700 CONSTANTINOPLE, The Lucca Manuscript describes some little known forms of art... one called Pictura Translucida. "At the time when artists were making paintings more beautiful then ever seen today."
This is the only reference in all of time of this painting technique and was used in the Dark Age.

They had not only a complete opaque palette, but a complete transparent palette as well. By today's standards the colors were not as permanent. They made a halo or face glow by adding reflectance to the surface support. They, the Byzantines, painted on a shinny tin plate. To give you an idea of how this works, raw sandracca resin can have a yellow transparent color, and when painted on shinny tin it gives the appearance of gold. 

Here is a tip if you are going to try painting in this transparent style on a shinny support such as silver, zinc, tin, aluminum, chrome or silver plastic. A mirror will not work as the clear glass has thickness. Treat the unpainted areas as a dark color. Use Opaque white as highlights.

They did have some advantages back then, their lead whites were hand ground thicker and courser so they painted more opaque and dried faster. Also they had their favorite color, Naples Yellow in tints from a cooler green-side pale yellow-brown, to a warmer red-side. Higher calcimined antimony lead colors were lightest. 

Another 200 A.D. medium written about in 700 A.D.  was called Cera Colla, which is emulsified wax. Bees wax from the "honey mountain" in Greece, emulsified with ammonia from the city of Ammonium, in Egypt. The Egyptian's painted their walls with it, buff it up and it would radiate reflecting light, passageways would glow with this ammonia and water based wax paint. Casein can be added to this water based medium. Other mediums talked about were, stic-lac and borax mixed, this made an India water-based paint, gilding gums, alum, as used in dyeing, egg and wax emulsions, and the exceptional Chios resin paintings. None of these paintings survived either.

100 B/C, HERCULANEUM and POMPEII, high art painting, natural and realistic, fresco figures show solid form without resorting to outlines. Pompeii has a lot of great glue paintings protected by wax, there not hot encaustic as some historians believe.  Cara Colla was also practiced and when dry only the wax and pigment are left behind. Painting Art will become scarce again, destroyed, making the second Dark Age of painting after the Vesuvius eruption in A/D 79, until its resurrected by Cimabue, in A/D 1300, Giotto, Duccio and finally, the great Masaccio a hundred years later in 1420. Twelve hundred years of paintings work was destroyed by the Iconoclasts of A/D 842.

Pictura Translucida, 200 A.D. was the highest in the high art of painting.

Here is a supplier of Aluminum panels. Museum Services Corporation, 1107 E. Cliff Road, Burnsville, MN 55337 USA, 952/895-5199 =voice= 800/672-1107, fax= 952/895-5298

In addition to the standard honeycomb aluminum panels, they also carry a panel called DiBond, which is aluminum skin over a poly core, and one called ArtePlex Artist Board made of an inert, composite, rigid panel (the DiBond). 2mm (1/8 inch) thick, lightweight, and covered with sun-resistant, non-stretch, linen colored, polyester fabric. Ready for acrylic gesso and transparent paint.
Here is an link to a list of some of the items they carry.  You can order by the sq ft too instead of having to purchase larger sheets cutting it yourself!

We packed the painting between two sheets of
1/4 inch plywood and shipped it today. I saw the painting while I was in N.J. at John Loyer's house.

More transparent alkyd paintings (out of order, new window)

NEXT PAINTING Cuban Bananas, W/C
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