View Full Version : Chiaroscuro with OPs?

02-26-2008, 04:32 PM

I have found a very interesting article about Rembrandts technik here in wetcanvas(painting from the Masters). Is this possible to apply this technik with ops? (especially the light in shadow technik)

He used a chiaroscuro style based on the work Caravaggio. It’s a style that uses strong lights and heavy shadows to create depth and a center of interest in a painting. Most of his paintings use a kind of composition in which the center of interest, the figures of the most important players of the group, are illuminated by direct light, while the rest of the picture remains in partial shadow with only enough light to distinguish the forms and bodies in the shade.

He pushed to the limits the contrasts of transparencies and opacities, darks and lights, hard edges and sfumato edges, and warm colors and cool colors.

Rembrandt uses the light to direct our attention. He creates lighted areas not just with the contrast of values or intense colors. Intense colors didn’t create the sense of light. The solution consisted in clarifying the colors by illuminating them proportionally to the light received. With these ideas and a constant study of nature, Rembrandt managed to dominate the art of chiaroscuro like no other artist. This technique could be called “light in the shadow”. Illuminating the tenuous colors and lights the forms in the penumbra so that they are in the picture.

The dark areas are defined with thin layers of paint. In the illuminated areas. Rembrandt used thicker, more opaque impastos. (These areas were really thick in his later years!)


Pat Isaac
02-27-2008, 04:41 PM
I would think that would be quite possible, Nico, though I have never done a painting quite like that. I really don't see why you couldn't do it. In fact, it would seem that it would work in most media.


02-28-2008, 02:06 AM
Nico, "chiarooscurro" is how you make 3-dimensional objects look 3-dimensional on a flat surface (2-dimensional). The most basic exercise to demonstrate this is to draw an egg or a white sphere with a single light source. You will see several values of light and shadow. You can do this in any medium.

02-28-2008, 02:21 PM
Nico: I agree with Pat and Julie that there's really no reason you couldn't create a chiaroscuro effect with OPs. What you'd need is some very dark valued colors (Sennellier offers some good darks, and I understand Caran d'Ache does too), and a variety of light values too. You also would probably want to work on a surface that would allow you to create many layers. A sanded paper, such as Colorfix or Wallis, would probably be good, so that you could most easily build up some impasto.

I also agree with you that Rembrandt's paintings are especially beautiful - he's a favorite of mine. I hope you give chiaroscuro a try with OPs and show us your results. :)

02-28-2008, 03:48 PM

The problem with ops is that they no realy "dry" like oil and therefore you can't apply "clean" high light layers over dark layers as is possible with oil after they dry.

Maybe with locally fixing with fixative or varnish on the dark layers and then appling the lighting areas?

Annie, i had try this (without fixative) but with no so "clean" results....
mostly i had wait 2-3 days to "dry" the dark ops , But as mentioned before they really don't dry and "smuggle" the whole result.

I think this technik are reserved for oilpainting and therefore have the Masters prefer to paint with oil.

I don't think that even Rembrandt could archive such a stunning results, like in his painting, with Ops.


Pat Isaac
02-28-2008, 04:07 PM
I have actually had quite good luck with adding clean lights over darks as long as the OPs set up, even for several days. I wouldn't put fix or varnish between the layers of OPs because of their non drying quality. The top layer was using Senns the softest OP.
It's possible if Rembrandt had had OPs he might have achieved something close to his OPs.


02-28-2008, 05:56 PM
Nico, part of your problem may be because of all the wax and oil needed to make the oil pastels easy to use. Oil pastels would probably contain, at the most, fifty percent pigment whereas good oil paint could contain ninety percent pigment. Rembrandt would have used lead white pigment which would be toxic in oil pastels.

You might want to try a very contrasted underpainting with watercolour, thinned oil, ink or acrylic. Before doing the underpainting, you could also build up the lighter areas with your Colourfix clear primer. When the underpainting is dry, do the painting with your oil pastels.


02-28-2008, 08:36 PM
Nico, another possible technique is to reserve your highlights (whites) before you apply any other OP to your support. By applying your whites first, one can always scrape back to underlying white should the area become contaminated with darker colours. Once you scape back, then begin to lay down new layers of lights.

I'm actually finishing a high contrast OP at the moment and will try to post in the next few days. Of course it's far from being a Rembrandt or a Caravaggio but you might get some ideas from it.


02-29-2008, 11:49 AM
On second thought, I won't post my piece on this thread, as I might be in violation of the posting guildlines:o. I may post later in the Oil Pastel Studio.


Pat Isaac
02-29-2008, 03:12 PM
Yes, Leo. Post it in it's own thread in the studio.