– Bob Bahr reporting, Editor PleinAir Today –

Canadian painter Sylvio Gagnon makes paintings with a distinctive look, and once you hear about his process, you’ll know why.

He heavily dilutes acrylic paint with glossy glazing medium and applies it with a palette knife, holding the canvas in his hand to help control how the paint runs. Here is his introduction to the process, in his own words.


“As a plein air painter, I mostly paint with a palette knife, so this is the tool I use for glazing,” says Gagnon. “Along with the painting knife, brushes, rags, and fingers are also effective tools to apply a glaze. Fingers are handy to soften hard edges — for example, to blur and join the horizon line to the sky. The great advantages of the knife are that it is not messy, it cleans instantaneously, and it mixes colors absolutely clean. When applying the glazing mixture, the knife is simply dabbed in the glazing medium and dragged flat on the surface of the canvas and over the shapes that need to be glazed. Depending on the liquidity of the glazing medium, it may be necessary to position the canvas horizontally to prevent dripping. Control of the palette knife is essential. To effectively control the running of liquid on the canvas, I hold the canvas in my left hand and paint with the other.”


Gagnon continues, “Glazing is the application of a transparent color over another color. The purpose of glazing is to enhance color in a painting. Colors of lighter value are ideal subjects for glazing because they will react more noticeably than those of darker value. Glazing brings the picture together; it improves the picture by making the elements more homogeneous and the colors more harmonious. Glazing works a bit like varnish — a glossy glaze will make the dark colors richer and a matte glaze will brighten the light colors.


“The result of glazing is like looking at a painting with colored glasses. The colors change according to the principles of the theory on colors, that is, a yellow glaze over blue will result in a greenish color, a red glaze over a blue will change it to a purplish color, and the like. A complementary glaze color will dull the underlying complementary, so a blue glaze over an orange color will produce a grayish color.


“I mix transparent paint with a generous quantity of glazing liquid. I squirt a good quantity of glazing liquid at the center of my palette and I use it throughout the painting process as a painting medium. This results in some transparency that is easily controllable. Later, at the completion stage of the painting, it is used more for glazing. Transparent paints used for this purpose include alizarin crimson, phthalo blue, and Indian yellow. These are close proxies to the three primaries, and they will cover all glazing color possibilities. The paint used in the glazing mixture needs to be completely diluted so that it will not spoil the glazing process. If a mistake occurs, it can easily be corrected by wiping out and reapplying the glaze.”



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