View Full Version : Da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine - Classical Layered Method

02-07-2014, 06:00 PM
Below is my attempt at reproducing Leonardo DaVinci's masterpiece Lady with an Ermine. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_with_an_Ermine)

I transfer the drawing onto canvas using carbon paper. I then go over the transfer good with an ink pen. After the ink dries, I paint a very thin greenish (the color doesn't matter) wash of paint over the entire canvas. The drawing should still be visible beneath this layer afterwards.

Next, I begin to paint in thin layers using burnt umber - concentrating on shadows. At this stage, I paint almost as though I am painting watercolors. I thin using copious amounts of odorless mineral spirits and a little Liquin. At this point, I'm still not too concerned with details as each subsequent layer will be be a refining of accuracy.

After the painting dries over night, I go back and darken shadows even more. I'm still keeping the paint very thin at this point and concentrating on shadows.

After the above layer is good and dry, I mix up a value scale of 7 shades of grey and paint the picture in black and white. My goal at this stage is to begin to paint a picture which corresponds to reality with regards to value. The goal is to accurately portray the relationship between light and shadow without the color.

Another session of refining details on the grey scale layer. I'm almost ready for color. After completing this stage (and this is true for every stage), I allow the painting to dry thoroughly. Liquin helps with this process. Otherwise, I would be waiting weeks before each stage.

Next, I put a couch on to surface of painting. This means I rub the surface I want to paint with a mixture of odorless mineral spirit, Damar varnish, linseed oil, and Liquin. I cover the surface thorough, then I use a soft makeup sponge and wipe off excess medium. The idea is to have a thin sheen of paint on the surface so that when I glaze color onto surface I can use very little and spread it out. And that's exactly what I've done in this layer - I've used titanium white, raw umber, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, cadmium red deep, Payne's Grey, ultramarine blue. Again, I'm keeping things very thin (slightly thicker in the lighter areas) using sable round and filbert brushes. The painting at this point reminds me of an old-timey tainted photograph and that's exactly what I'm looking for at this point.

After the first color session dries thoroughly, I basically go back and repeat the process - putting on "couch" of medium (using a mixture with a tad bit more linseed oil) wiping off, and glazing color onto surface.

On this final stage, I paint with slightly thicker stokes, especially in the areas with strongest highlights, concentrating on details. And here's the finished work. I'm not sure if DaVinci's used this exact same method but it works for me. Thank you for allowing me to share my process with you. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

02-08-2014, 12:57 AM
It looks great. Thanks for explaining each step. My only question is when you glazed, say the first color layer, did you use just one shade of each transparent color and apply it evenly or a few shades for each color?

02-08-2014, 08:33 AM
Thank you. I mix paints prior to putting them in the canvas in a normal painterly fashion but I initially glaze color onto the surface in thin layers.