The first glazing layers on Thomas Touching the Side of Christ
After years of working on the underpainting, this autumn has seen the first color appear on my painting of Christ and Thomas with all of the disciples gathered in a room together. I am taking a lot of cues for the colors in this painting from Rogier Van Der Weyden’s famous Descent from the Cross in Madrid’s Prado museum.
It is a clunky and halting phase of the process, trying to use the appropriate colors, and the right medium, and the right balance of medium to paint ratio. I’ve had to rub out hours of work at a time, when I’ve come back the next morning to realize the color isn’t working.
It is tempting to render the layer to a finished state, even though I know there will be subsequent layers. It is foolish to carry detail too far just yet, and it is difficult to leave certain problems alone until a more appropriate time. I caught myself over-rendering the blue of Nicodemus’ robe and had to stop myself midway through.
Glazing takes advantage of the semi-transparent nature of many pigments when mixed with linseed oil as a binder. By building up multiple thin layers of paint, it is possible to achieve unique and special color and luminosity in a picture, especially in the correct light.
This painting is a huge learning experience. They didn’t teach this sort of thing in art school while I was there, so I am having to work through a lot of discovery and failure, even while taking advantage of the many written treatises on painting throughout the centuries.
My family and our work were humbled to be featured in the most recent edition of Plough Quarterly. There is a profile by Susannah Black, and a feature on Go On: Inner Man Version, an altarpiece I made back in 2003, and also an excerpt of my responses to some questions about our lifestyle, called Farming the Universe. If you choose to take the time to read some or all of them, I sincerely hope that you enjoy them.
Go On, Inner Man Version, 2003, oil on wood panel, closed position
Go On, Inner Man Version, 2003, oil on wood panel, open position
The grisaille underpainting of Thomas and Jesus, et all is finally to a point where I feel ready to begin applying glazes of color. After 6 years of work I thought I should take some decent photos of the whole thing before the next phase. Thank you for watching.
Walking Man, Jonah, and the Ancient Ocean, oil painting on a poplar panel by Jack Baumgartner, 14.5″ x 22″, 2017
Upper panel, Walking Man striding through the arch
Lower panel, Jonah, swimming, yields to the sea monster
detail of the upper panel, with barn owl, Burr oak and cliffs.
Upper panel detail with symbolic structures
Lower panel detail of Jonah
The completion of a painting generally means a decision to stop working on it, otherwise the cycle would never end. This painting, which was begun in October of 2009 reached that generally unheralded milestone of “completion” this fall, 6 years later. Technically, the work is not entirely done, as I have yet to build the frame for it, which, especially for my panel paintings, represent a significant part of the presentation and outer composition. I hope share some of the meaning behind this painting at some future date.
This grisaille (grayscale underpainting) of the interaction of Thomas and Jesus and the gathered disciples and their community, has been slowly developing over the past three years, the drawing took about two years before that. I feel like the end of this particular phase is finally in sight on the distant horizon. I look forward to seeing the structure fully unfold and ultimately to the beginning the glazing of colors.