Monday, March 27, 2017

It's All About The Paint....

Layers and Details....

I Hope you will not be Too surprised, Dear Readers, to see that I am continuing from where I left off last week with the painting of the Castle Hall Ceiling! And this requires showing you more of those details and layers and layers of paint in the minutest unnoticeable alterations from one scene to the next.... and I really hope you will not be too bored! Some of you had remarked at the technique of under-painting the figures in white, and so I thought I would explain the reason for doing this. The primary reason is because paint is somewhat translucent and the colors that you layer over another color are affected by the layers beneath. If you want the colors to be clear and bright and true to their pigment, you need to start with white. Sometimes you might want to start with a "ground" color that casts a tone on the entire painting, and sometimes you might only want to under-paint a dark color where shadows will be, but the basic idea is that the layers of color matter in the end! Since I wanted to get the strongest brilliance from my paints, I started with white. (Keeping in mind that I had already painted the "border strip" in the ocher color for the background).

After defining the outlines of the figures with the black, 
(a very Early Medieval style)
 I then start adding the base colors to the figures. 
If you look closely you can see that the black shows through most of the colors.

I apologize for the glaring light.... 
this ceiling is difficult to photograph because 
it is both curved and slightly ribbed, 
making the surface very irregular and subject to light reflection!

I wanted to get the base colors for all the figures done 
so I could get a feel for the overall balance of the composition.

And here is a picture of the overall ceiling with almost all the base colors in place.
There will only be minor adjustments and many many tiny details added.

Starting with the faces!
I added the basic facial shadows and outlines.
You can see in the previous pictures 
that the black under-painting was still visible through the flesh tones. 
I now add the brown shadow layers... 
basically a burnt umber and white and tiny bit of red oxide mixture....

(You will probably need to poke the pictures to zoom in and really see the details...)
Here I would like to point out the red hat on the fellow who is riding the white horse. 
The hat extends into the red border and did not get under-painted in white. 
When I painted it the brilliant cadmium red on top of the
 Alizarin crimson color of the border, all you see is a muddy red.

So I re-painted the hat, first with the white under-painting
 and then the Cadmium Red,
 and now you can see the more brilliant color of the red!

Here's a much closer view!
Meanwhile I have added several layers of white to the horse 
and added his harness amongst other details.
I have also added the black top details to the faces...
mostly for the eyes.

And I have begun to add the second layer of color to many of the beasts...
 and here the cow has been nearly finished.
I am trying to copy the type of details from the Medieval miniatures.... 
in particular the way so many of the animals 
have an almost human look to their eyes..... 
I know it is hard to explain!

And then I needed to test the ceiling in place in the Great Hall... 
to try to see how it will look....
If you get down on your knees and shine a light up at the ceiling....
You can sort of see all the scenes!
I think they look better than I thought they would!
Believe it or not, Dear Readers, 
there are still a lot of details to add....
The trees have the second coat of green but no leaf definition....
The clothes have no folds or shadows.....
The grass needs another layer.....

The wine-maker needs details..... 
The shepherds need their dogs finished and details to their clothes...
 the calf needs something!

The milkmaid needs details to her gown and coif..... 
and the hands! 
They All need their hands!

And the Plowman too... his tunic needs detail.... 
and the off ox too......!

So you can see, Dear Readers, 
All those details..... 
it's really just Layers and Layers and Layers of paint!


  1. Really SPECIAL! I just LOVE the photo with the roof in place so that you could get an good idea of what the finished ceiling is going to look like and it is looking - SPECTACULAR!
    YOu have an Enormous talent Betsy and I can't stop marveling at your patience and your skill in being able to ACCURATELY translate the Medieval style artwork onto your Painted Castle ceiling -

    I think that I shall have to start calling you "BETSY-ANGELO" ;P


  2. Hello Betsy-Angelo,
    Each and every post, the ceiling is more beautiful then the last time. Thank you for sharing some of your technique with us. You have a talent and knowledge about painting I admire so very much. I was blown away by the close-up of the face. The detail is so well done. Keep it coming Betsy, I am never bored when I am on your blog, lost in the beauty of your work.
    Big hug

  3. Jamais l'on ne s'ennuie Betsy à admirer votre travail et à lire les détails de votre technique de peinture, ce plafond est superbe!

  4. You're a great artist. The ceiling looks wonderful.

  5. Wow! Every time you show us this I am more amazed.

  6. Realmente espectacular!! Es un techo digno de un palacio medieval, y un trabajo artesanal perfecto. Felicidades! Un beso

  7. I'm speechless! Your detailed explanation helped me realize how much work goes into these fantastic paintings. They are in perfect scale too. This house is going to be a museum piece.
    Hugs, Drora

  8. Tssss... how could you ever bore me/us with pictures of your work! Thanks for showing so well the effort you put in your paintings, the pictures and explanations were fantastic. It's incredible how much detail you're able to put in these tiny paintings - I couldn't believe my eyes when I discovered the dotted decorations on the horses harnesses. Spotting your sheet with the milking maid I can only say that you've made a wonderful version of the girl and the cow, every detail there in this small scale. But thank you even more for showing the full ceiling itself and in place in the hall - breathtaking!!! I'm so looking forward to see it hosting Christmas and Halloween parties... or whatever stories need to be told. Thanks for reminding me that "being finished" is something never to achieve because there will always be a detail that might be missing still or a tale that needs to be told...


  9. Hello, Betsy - NO, never bored! Your work is completely fascinating, and I appreciate your taking the time to explain some of the techniques that you use in creating these wonderful paintings. It seems incredible to me that not only can you accomplish all the intricate detail work so beautifully, but that you can also keep track of the detail work that remains to be done! I'm in complete agreement with Elizabeth that you should be known as "BETSY-ANGELO!" Bravo!