Glazing an Oil Painting

Recently, I learned how to glaze an oil painting, so I wanted to share with you experience. Now, let me first explain very briefly what glazing means. Glazing stands for a procedure usually performed at the middle to final stages of an oil painting, which essentially consists in applying a thin layer of oil paint broken down with lots medium and turpentine over the existing layer of dry oil paint. It is done in order to subtly alter the color effect and add translucence to specific portions of an oil painting.

For reasons yet unknown to me, glazing an oil painting seems to be a somewhat controversial issue in the fine art painting circles. While some think it should never be done, others argue it is the best thing ever. Personally, I like the effects that glazing can create – mainly getting a glow in the color that can’t be achieved with direct painting. So, after being shown how to do it, I have decided to try it on a small section of one of my own recent paintings.

Specifically, in my recent painting of Peruvian lilies, previously featured on this blog, I glazed a lead white highlight. I wanted it to get that glowing yellowish-white effect we see when light hits a copper tone metal surface. In other words, I wanted the previously purely white highlight to get a subtle yellow glow that would make the highlight look more natural. So, I glazed my highlight with a touch of cadmium yellow light and Roman ochre, mixed with a generous amount of medium and turpentine. Here’s the short video of the process:

First, I dipped my brush in the medium (a mix of sun-thickened linseed oil and Canada balsam) and put a small amount on the palette. Then, I dipped the brush into turpentine and added a small amount to the medium already on the palette. I then proceeded to add a smidgen of oil paint to the previously made mix of medium and turps. Once satisfied with the color and transparency of my glaze, I applied it to the highlight.

As you can see, glazing is quite straightforward. The important thing though is that you glaze over dry paint. You should allow your painting to dry for at least 6 months before glazing it. Doing it over a perfectly dried painting not only prevents the muddying of the underlying paint, but also allows you to reverse the process if you don’t like its outcome. You can do that by simply wiping off your glaze with a clean tissue or a paper towel. It’s a simple as that.