Sunday, October 3, 2010

Test Panel is Underway!

Well, after almost 10 months of waiting and prep, today I transferred the drawing over to the test panel and officially began applying paint to panel. I used a tracing of an enlarged infrared photo of the Mona Lisa as the basis for the cartoon I used to transfer onto the panel. I rubbed the back of the tracing paper with charcoal, and taped the cartoon in place and transferred the drawing to the panel. I then used a fine brush and burnt sienna oil paint and permanently drew the lines onto the panel. I'll let the paint dry, then wash off any remaining charcoal. I've uploaded a picture of the panel as it looks now.

Which leads me to the next group of pictures.

I decided to post these to point out the differences in technique between my preliminary panel and the way the paintings will progress on the real panels. The painting will be done by doing a more traditional approach than what I did for my preliminary panel. Tradition dictates that a painting is done by first doing a complete monochromatic underpainting, then layering glazes of color over the underpainting. The preliminary panel, which is the panel upon which I tested paint formulations, was done alla prima, as the sequential photos show. I used mostly 1" disposable brushes to do the preliminary painting and of course will use more refined brushes for the final piece.˙Anyway, the progression shown above is, from left to right, the preliminary panel with various types of gesso treatment applied; the panel with rough planes blocked in (testing oil colors I ground); refining the rough paint-in; And the panel as far as It was taken. The oils were used both thinned with walnut oil, and made into a glaze using sanderac varnish. All tests were suitably successful for me to feel confident moving on to the final panels


  1. I found your blog doing a search for "gesso" and really like your project. I look forward to following along!

    I'd love to hear more about the technical details, such as why you are using sanderac varnish; I am always looking for more information about period painting techniques. Also I would be interested if you mention your suppliers since you may know something I don't and it's always great to hear about new sources.

    Thanks for documenting your progress!

  2. Hey, Kathy!

    Glad you found the blog! I'd be happy to answer whatever questions you have...I'm far from an expert, but I'm trying to sleuth out as much stuff as I can.

    I'm using sanderac varnish based on some reading I did of a translation of Leonardo's notebooks. He gives a pretty thorough description about how to obtain resin from a juniper tree. He said when properly prepared, it makes the best varnish. Through my research, I found that some people refer to juniper resin as sanderac. I found a supplier of a traditional medium made from sanderac at It's made in a method that I've found is pretty traditional, using heat and a lead compound to thicken the resin and help it dry faster. It makes a great glaze meduim when mixed with unrefined walnut oil.

    My other very useful supplier is They had in stock every pigment I needed, as well as mullers and empty paint tubes, Italian gesso, rabbit skin glue..they're very well stocked.

    Let me know if I can answer any other questions!