I thought it might be educational for some artists to be introduced to this very technical break-down of all of the different painting stages. Doing all of these steps is known as the Venetian method of painting, and was regarded by many artists throughout history as the "Perfect Method" of painting. This was because it exhaustively covers every aspect of painting adding a description to every possible way in which you can apply paint to canvas. As artists you do not need to use every step, but you can take this information and use whatever piece you want. In modern times, artists can use one or two of these methods for a completed painting, while others might spend months to years grinding through each stage.
Presented here is a list of the five stages and a brief explanation of each stage:
Dry Brush: This process focuses on developing the drawing and the basic value structure in a painting. The paint used is usually an earth tone or an umber to expedite the paint's drying time. The artist picks up paint with their brush, then promptly wipes off all but only a tiny amount of paint from the bristles. In this way you are applying a very small amount of paint to the canvas, allowing the canvas to show through in places where you want it to remain light and add more paint to areas that you want to be dark. This produces a drawing like quality to your painting.
Dead Color: This stage is also sometimes called "Local Color" and is the start of blocking in color to your painting in a very generalized fashion. Only mineral spirits or turpentine are used to mix with the paint at this stage to maintain a very thin or lean consistency. Mainly the artist wants to nail down the basic color of the object hitting the key notes of light medium and dark for each varying color and form.
First Painting/Direct Painting: Many artists only paint in the First Painting method. If you ignore all other steps and just do this step alone you are essentially alla prima painting. Alternatively you could end your painting after this stage and not move beyond it. Think of the whole painting as a birthday cake, "First Painting" would be the actual cake and everything else would be the frosting. The artist paints with a full range of colors, using only small amounts of medium.
Second Painting: With this method you apply paint to your canvas that has been diluted in a great deal of oil to your canvas (this is called a couch) and then you place paint unmixed with medium into that couch. This makes for a more transparent layer letting the "First Painting" show through while allowing you to still make adjustments. Mostly this stage is used for blending large areas.
Glazing: This method should always be reserved for the final stage of painting. It uses a great deal of oil and the paint that you are applying is nearly transparent. You can't really do any other method over the top of a glaze as it would cause cracking in your paint. But, you can glaze over a glaze, and keep glazing until you get the desired effect you are after. However at some point your paint might become too transparent to cause any real change.
I know many artist that only do "Direct Painting" or "First Painting", ignoring all other stages. Other artists "Dry Brush" entire paintings to give it that drawing with paint look. I even know of one artist in particular who has spent nearly 9 years working on one painting done entirely in glazes. Hopefully you will be able to take this somewhat dull information and infuse new techniques into your painting repertoire.
Side Note: I have posted a number of images of a figure painting using these stages to my website to help aid in the understanding of these principles: http://www.jphfinearts.net/Stagesofpainting.html
This article was originally published in the Corvallis Art Guild newsletter for January 2014. Here is a link to a pdf of the original newsletter: