View Full Version : Help Regarding Substituting Mastic And Flake White

03-27-2011, 01:32 AM
Hello there, have avidly been reading up on the fab information here regarding the use of led-based flake white, and Mastic(a) as per Maroger etc. I am just about to embark on a series using the old master's techniques for the first time, and have found it difficult to source both a good flake white (not hue!) and Mastic tears here in Australia. I'm really keen to get started so am keen to hear from anyone re substitution. I have seen some reference to substituting other ingredients into the original 'first imprimatura glaze' onto the primed canvas, suggested as such..'a glaze, thinned with mastic, or egg tempera, which must then be varnished so it can support layers of oil paint'. Does anyone do this? Do we need to varnish both the mastic glaze or only the egg tempera and what do you suggest we varnish with??
Perhaps I'd be better to follow instructions by Joseph Sheppard in 'How to paint like the old masters'. He mentions that Damar varnish is sometimes substituted for Mastic Varnish, what do you think? The litharge referred to to make Maroger's Italian Medium also seems impossible to get here. Can i substitute Flake white paint into the mix or does it need to be the lead-based powder? (I have no possibility to mull the paint myself).
If there is anyone in Aus reading, have you had any success in finding these products or must we send off to Dick Blick???? Thanks muchly for any advice! Artgirl7

04-29-2011, 11:23 PM
Which old masters would you like to emulate? I have seen Sheppard's books, and while I'm not saying that they are completely useless, I still think that people get a lot of erroneous impressions of "older master" techniques from him and others. I have read about some analyses of 16th and 17th century paintings, and I have found that most secret techniques and mediums are nonsense.

First: the different "old masters" had very different techniques. Leonardo's technique was completely different from that of Caravaggio for instance. In the Renaissance, underpainting in egg tempera on gesso was a common procedure for getting a quick-drying underlayer, but this technique disappeared fairly quickly. I know for certain that both Bellini and Michelangelo (in his few oil paintings) did this, and probably Leonardo and Raphael as well (I think). Bellini's student Titian apparently felt that this technique was unnecessary. I do not think this kind of underpainting was usually varnished.

As for other materials, I do find that the effects of lead white are tricky to obtain with zinc or titanium, but I have never tried lead substitutes available from Gamblin or Winsor & Newton. you could give them a try.

By the way, do you have a certain style or look in mind?