In this video I'm going to be focusing solely on the retouching process
now, this painting arrived into the studio very dirty with surface grime, old varnish, a massive tear through the
sitter's face and a lot of old retouching which you can see here as a large brown
mass on his, uh- the right side of his face. With the retouching removed
you can see the extent of the damage and just how excessive the old over-painting was.
I suspect that the old over-painting which was done in oil
not only had darkened as it oxidized but was probably color matched to a dirty painting, which is why it was so brown.
Now, for the retouching that I'm going to be doing; I will be using a conservation pigment made by the Maimeri Company and
unlike oil paint this pigment is different. It has no oil in it. So, it does not oxidize
it does not harden to the point of not being removable
and with the appropriate solvent, it can be removed very easily without running the risk of doing any harm to the painting
So when approaching retouching there are really two styles of retouching that I do one of them is called the mimetic
technique and that's where the conservator tries to reintegrate the the damage into the painting. So
recreating the elements of the image that are lost so that
at the end of the retouching process the damage is not visible and the other technique is called
I think it's called a ragazzini or ragazzo. It's Italian and my Italian is non-existent
And that's a technique whereby the damage is camouflaged, but not made to disappear
And it's done by using a lot of little dots or little hash marks of similar colors
but not really blending and that's a technique that's really common in museums, or for pieces where the damage is so extensive
that you just couldn't possibly
recreate the image without being the author of the image yourself
Now most of my clients choose to do the mimetic technique
and most of them
own these paintings, love these paintings and do not wish to see them damaged
and so the mimetic technique allows me to kind of
reintegrate the damage and put the piece back to how it should have looked prior to any damage.
I have done ragazzini/ragazzo technique many times. It's
something I enjoy but, by and large, my clients
prefer to have a mimetic
so once we've decided upon the style of
retouching that we're going to do, we have to then start thinking about the actual retouching and in this case
There is a lot of missing content - basically half his face is gone
If this were a known artist - this painting is by an unknown artist
I would be able to maybe even reference this painting prior to damage in a catalogue résumé or in an old exhibition catalogue
Maybe there's a photograph or a daguerreotype or an etching version of this painting that I can use as source material
I would look at the artist's other body of work and see how they executed other portraits; see what colors they used, how they
handled their brushwork
idiosyncrasies of their style. If I don't know the artist, like in this case,
I will start to refer back to my library and look at other mid 19th century
portrait painters and try to get an idea of what the style of the time was. That can be really helpful when you're trying to
replace or retouch costume, clothing or scenery,
less so with faces because every face is unique and so there's not really
a guide or a "how to".
So in this case, I have to use the actual painting as my guide
so I'm using the surrounding colors of the
of the sitter as my guide for what colors I mix and eventually I will start to use
The skeletal form of the head and the other eye as a guiding factor
But the first step is really just to start laying down some color and blocking out
And this is not meant to be very precise or very accurate
It's just meant to allow my eye to start to see the painting as a whole and not see the damage
I will layer and layer and layer in various intensities and opacities,
some of these layers will be more transparent than others and slowly build up what I think looks correct.
Now in this section of the video, I'm going to start rebuilding the eye
Eyedeally if I had a photograph of the painting before the damage, I would be able to work from that
If I had a catalogue résumé or an exhibition catalogue, that would be just as good
But in this case we did not have a photograph
Now if I knew who the artist was, unlike this painting which is unsigned, I would be able to
reference their other work and see how they executed eyes in other portraits
Maybe take a look at the way they handled their brush:
the direction and the brush marks the way they laid down paint
all aiding in trying to rebuild the missing content
Again, in this case we don't know who the artist was. So that's not possible
So I took a look at my library and
a look at mid 19th century portrait painting to get an idea of how
How portraits are painted. What was on trend? What was the style?
In this case, it wasn't very helpful because every face is idiosyncratic
That technique is really more applicable to recreating clothing or scenery,
or other objects that were lost
You know, sometimes you can reference another similar portrait. Things were very in style, you know,
maybe a certain type of flower was used a lot or a piece of fruit. So
in this case, I'm really just using the
surrounding painting, particularly the other eye, as a reference point and I will slowly start to build up the paint
putting on layer upon layer just like I did before
This is a little bit more detailed and intricate - a little bit more fun
but it's really no different than the other parts of the painting,
and in some of the comments people have said that the eye isn't quite right for them.
They've said that the shape isn't right,
the color is not right or whatever the case may be and those are all perfectly valid opinions.
Unfortunately, they don't really matter. The only opinion that matters is that of the client.
And if my client feels like the work that I've done is excellent and great and they're happy with it, then that's fantastic
If the client feels like the work is not up to par, or kind of misses the mark for them-
the benefit of using conservation pigments is that I can remove them very easily with a solvent that won't
run the risk of damaging the painting. So if my client says "Well, no, Julian. He had one green eye. This is totally wrong."
I can wipe it off. If I'm in the process of retouching and I come back the next day and
I decide that my color matching was off or
something isn't quite right: I can wipe it off and start again.
It's frustrating for sure, but it's one of the benefits, and sometimes it's necessary.
There are certainly days when
the light isn't quite right, or I'm not focused enough and I come back the next day and I have to start again
and being able to remove this pigment without damaging the painting underneath is a huge benefit one that just can't be had with oil paint.
So again, I'm just slowly building up
the shape of the eye and working from the other eye and
trying to get an idea of what it should look like, what I think it's gonna look like,
and just trying to put the the image back together.
One thing that people always ask me about is color matching and how I can be so good at it
and you know I say "I've been doing this for 20 years and have been making art and handling art for long before that"
So there's a lot of practice in it and there's nothing like practice to make you better at something.
But I will often relate what I heard about the way a dog sniffs things, the way the dog smells the world.
If you give a dog a chocolate-chip cookie, the dog will simultaneously
smell the cookie as a whole and also the sum of the parts.
That is, the dog will smell the chocolate-chip cookie
and the dog will smell
the chocolate chips, the flour, the butter, the baking soda, even the salt and so when I see a color,
I see the
kind of cream-orange color that I just applied
but I also see the titanium white, the alizarin crimson, the-
cadmium yellow that needs to be mixed in. So, I'm able to see the color as
the final product and the process of getting there.
So it's like seeing the destination and the journey at the same time. Now a minute ago
you saw me wipe something on the surface of a painting and that was a
cotton ball saturated with an odourless mineral spirits.
And the reason that I do that is much like the reason that an oil painter would oil out
the surface of a painting prior to applying another layer of paint. The Maimeri pigments-
one of the downfalls is that they dry matte very quickly and the painting will not be matte. It will be varnished,
and so, the appearance of the paints, the Maimeri pigments, when they're matte is different than when they are varnished and
of course, I want to match the colors
as the painting is going to look like when it's varnished. So to simulate the application of varnish
I can wipe on a little bit of mineral spirits and it kind of saturates those Maimeri pigments.
it saturates the colors of the original oil paint and it allows me to see what the painting will look like when that varnish is
applied so that my color matching will be accurate.
Other people would recommend using oil because it doesn't evaporate as quickly but oil is not a good thing for me to be using
on this painting. It will oxidize and it will darken and it will then betray all the hard work that I've done thus far.
So something like the eyebrow,
there's a lot of color that goes into it and a lot of that color might even get completely covered up
but there's no shortcuts. You just have to work your way through it and slowly build up
the color to what you want. If you just try to jump to the end
it's gonna look very flat. And so you have to kind of add layer upon layer and earn your way to the destination,
as opposed to trying to just cut in line or cheat your way.
So here- another perspective of the palette I'm using- let's see,
I have: one two, three, four, five six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven pigments on the palette, and I think I'm only using
maybe eight or seven of them.
You know, you don't need a big palette of dozens upon dozens of colors. You just need to know how to mix color
So keep a limited palette if you're an artist and don't, don't go out and buy fifteen different versions of flesh color
just learn how to mix the flesh color. You'll be better off for it.
Here again I'm just trying to
work that color, make sure that the pigment that I add is appropriate and you'll see that I-
mix a little bit of color, I apply it
mix a little bit more color, apply it and
one of the benefits of that is that each time I go to mix a color
It's slightly different than the color I mix before and you may think that that would be frustrating or a problem
but that's actually good because if I mixed one big vat of color and just applied it to the area on the forehead where the
damage was it would be very flat. So all of those subtle variations give depth to the retouching.
And finally coming to the sideburn, again,
I was lucky to have the other sideburn to reference.
But this was a really fun part of the retouching process because, while the majority of the face the brushwork is pretty innocuous
and not very defined, this was an area where the brushwork
would really make it or break it. So I got to play around with how I was applying the pigment, the
orientation of the brushwork, the width the brush hit the canvas and just be a little bit more creative in simulating
the sideburn texture and hair and
that just about wraps it up for the retouching on the face.
And here we will come to the final
painting with the retouching completed and the varnish applied.
I think it turned out great and I'm excited to give it back to my client.
I do have a full one-hour real-time video of this process. If you're curious what that looks like
or maybe you have insomnia
and you need something to put you to sleep.
Anyhow, thanks for watching. I hope you enjoyed.