View Full Version : Chiaroscuro-examples and method

11-05-2003, 12:15 AM
Chiaroscuro portrait example done last spring. This was a forty minute pose.

The method:
Step1: Mix a dark from burnt umber and ultramarine blue, add a very tiny bit of linseed oil and thin to a wash consistency (but not runny). Cover the entire canvas so a dark ground is formed. After covering, use a large soft brush with vertical strokes lightly to make a smooth even color but keeping it dark.

Step2: Take a paper towel or rag, SQUINT, and carefully wipe out the large shape of the light. If necessary moisten in turp. The object is to get back the white of the canvas for the lights in your painting. Pay no attention at this point to the values or color changes found in the lights.

Remember this: NO MORE TURP AFTER THIS POINT. Use only a bit of linseed to thin from now on.

Step 3: Mix a very light skintone in the and apply in the light area you just wiped out. Don't worry about changing values or colors at this point.

Step 4: Now mix up a large amount of background color and apply next to the light especially. This way as you work back into the lights you have your background indicated because all colors are relative to their adjacent color. You may also want to indicate the clothing color at this point for the same reason.

Step 5: You can now begin working back into the light with more color paying attention to value and whether it's warm or cool. The face generally cools as it gets toward the lower half. The nose and ears are usually warmest.

Step6: For the shadowed side keep values simple and dark, probably darker than you think. SQUINT! The darkness makes the lights pop. Some of the background color often works in the mixtures you make for the shadows.

Step 7: Where the form turns or planes change the color, value, temperature changes. Add halftones where the light meets the dark. Determine their warmth or coolness. Try to mix accurate color and place accurate shape and LEAVE IT ALONE. DO NOT BLEND.

Hope this helps any wishing to try chiaroscuro. Unfortunately I have no process photos.

11-05-2003, 12:22 AM
Here's another done with dual light source. Forgot to mention these are all oil. First on paper and this on this on canvas.

11-05-2003, 12:24 AM
And a profile, oil on canvas

11-05-2003, 10:15 AM

11-05-2003, 04:48 PM
oh, SUsan, thanks...I so want to try this.....do you think there would be any difference with Water solubles...other than not using turps??

11-05-2003, 05:05 PM
Pam, haven't used ws oils...don't know if you can wipe out the same...scott mattlart uses them...he might be able to answer this. OR just experiment on a scrap of canvas. Looking forward to your discoveries.

Craig Houghton
11-06-2003, 01:20 AM
Thanks for sharing this! You did a great job of reducing a complicated process to a number of easily digestible steps. I'd love to see more!


11-06-2003, 10:42 AM
Thanks, Arlene and Craig.

Actually something I forgot about with the first image I posted. For this one I used a dark green paper that was coated with acrylic matte medium on both sides and allowed to dry.

Then instead of wiping out the lights they were painted trying to get an accurate shape of the light as described above and the remaining steps continued.

This forum is a great addition to an already wonderful place:clap:

prairie painter
11-08-2003, 03:00 AM
Thanks for the step-by-step. I'm going to give that a go tomorrow.

11-09-2003, 07:33 AM
very interesting, thanks for showing!

11-23-2003, 07:03 PM
I'd love to see other examples. Do you have others, or would someone else like to share theirs?

11-23-2003, 09:03 PM
Here is my example. Some of you may have seen it in the October thread in the Oil Forum. My oil teacher is Jack Faragasso and this is the method he teaches. You don't have to paint a chiaroscuro with it. He showed us some high key paintings that were wonderful.


He mixes 9 values of grey, red, orange, and yellow and then mixes the skintones from those mixtures but other than that, its the same method.

This is 16x20 on stretched canvas painted in 5 3 hour classes.

11-25-2003, 07:22 AM
Dana, good work. This method can be used in other ways as you demonstrated. Chiaroscuro is light from the dark.
Here's one half done have another 2 hr session with the model next week

11-25-2003, 12:36 PM
Great sense of light on form with painterly strokes, Susan. I took a look at your website. You are very talented. :)

I'm very familiar with chiaroscuro, its my favorite style of painting. That's why I was surprised to find this method is good not only for chiaroscuro. It helps you analyze the lights and darks before you get into color but in a more intuitive way.

If I remember tonight, I'll take a digital camera to class and take a pic of my latest wash in. Oddly enough, I've found that the darks in the skintones are LIGHTER than I think but that may be because I'm so used to exaggerating the contrast for a chiaroscuro effect, that I make the contrast more than what is atually there.