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I have a question about transfering a drawing on a true gesso panel.
Context: I began using egg tempera earlier this year, so I am quite new at it. I use the detailed true gesso recipe that Koo Shadler kindly shared on a website (around 8 coats on each side of masonite panels). I use pigments from Natural Pigments and also some from my grandfather who was a painter and got them from a regular paint store back in the 1950's to 1980's (which I manipulate carefully since I don't exactly know what they contain).
Methods of transfering drawings so far for other paintings:
-go straight on the panel in a Robert Vickrey way, and use observation skills and previous sketches... althought I would not dare to compare myself with such a great artist, it is a fun method but this time my image contains architectural details that I want to transfer from my drawing.
- charcoal (little holes on the drawing with a needle, then trace the lines with charcoal on the paper and charcoal dust goes through the holes and remains on the panel, tracing lines). I did not find it precise enough and I wanted thiner lines.
- draw with a regular HB pencil on wax paper. I apply a medium coat (here, I mean egg yolk + water+ pigment) on my panel. I put my wax paper ontop of it when it is dry (about 5 minutes so that the paint does not come off, but I want my paint to be quite fresh), graphite lines facing me (no graphite on the pane). I take a sharp pencil or tool and trace gently but firmly my lines again on the wax paper. Then, when I lift the wax paper, I can see subtile glossy lines on the gessoed panel (does not take the paint off or scratch the panel). However, it only seems to work on quite fresh paint.
My problem: The drawing that I want to transfer is quite detailed and the paint will be too dry as I trace my lines using my wax paper method. I hesitate to trace lines with graphite or using tracing paper because I am afraid the lines might show off through the paint (I sometimes like to make a few changes through my creative process or some other times, I use light colors). However, I might be totally wrong.
Thanks a lot for indicating me what would be the best way to transfer my image.
Aude (sorry for the mistakes, I am French from Québec)
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
When I want to transfer a drawing, I generally create the
drawing full sized and working out all of the compositional problems on a separate
piece of opaque paper. When I am happy with the composition, I use tracing
paper and only trace my final important outlines and perhaps regions of shadow.
I will then turn this drawing on tracing paper over and rub charcoal on the
reverse. This is placed over the panel face up and secured with artists’ tape.
I redraw those lines using transferring the composition to the panel.
The pounced cartoon method is certainly fine, but I see no
reason to go through all of the effort UNLESS you intend on making multiples.
It is the preferred method if that is the case. Certainly it is also fine to simply work out the composition directly on the ground using charcoal. This was probably the most common method used by the Old Masters, especially if they were only making a single image of the composition.
I would caution against the wax paper method as it is likely
leaving water repelling wax which may cause paint delamination in the future.
This may have worked fine but I see no reason to chance it when the method I
outline works perfectly fine.
Thanks a lot Mr. Baade. I feel very grateful about receiving such a detailed and clear answer from the professional your are.
There are many ways to transfer a drawing onto a panel for egg tempera; which to choose depends on your working method and visual goals (i.e. are you going to work thinly or use covering, opaque paint? Apply a few layers or dozens? Work with hatching marks or want more smooth, atmospheric blending? Etc.). So it's complicated... I'll give just a few suggestions, with the understanding that there's always more one could say!
It's is perfectly fine to draw directly onto a true gesso panel, freehand, using a graphite pencil, charcoal, metalpoint stylus and/or ink. However tempera is most often a slow, somewhat methodical medium that is built up in many, many layers. It can be challenging (although certainly possible) to make dramatic changes or corrections along the way. For this reason most tempera artists, like Brian (and myself) fully work out an image on a separate piece of paper.
You can transfer directly from an original drawing. Or, to preserve an original image, place tracing paper over it, gently mark the significant lines, then use the traced image for transferring, as does Brian. A third option, my preference, is to make a photocopy of the original drawing and use that copy for transferring.
There are several options for transferring. You can rub the back of the tracing or photocopy (whichever you prefer) with a graphite pencil; or, rub powdered pigment on the back using a bit of cheesecloth. My preference is to use transfer paper. It must be wax-free and not water resistant, as tempera paint beads up and doesn't adhere to waxy lines. I mostly use my own, homemade transfer papers (see attached instructions). Earth pigment transfer papers (umbers in particular) work well as the colors are neither too chromatic nor strongly tinting. You could also use a commerical brand, such as Saral (tho' be aware that the Saral colors are quite strong and chromatic, and thus harder to cover over with paint).
You can fix the trasnferred drawing in place with a much thinned layer of egg yolk medium (1 part yolk to 8 or 10 parts water). Generally it's best to sponge (verus brush) on this 'fixative', so you don't smear the drawing.
Or, you can seal and reinstate the drawing with India ink. This ink under drawing stays present for the first many layers of a tempera painting, to guide you as you develop the image. India ink is water resistant and won't lift when paint is applied, yet the percentage of shellac in the ink is small enough that it doesn't interfere with tempera paint adhering (as long as the ink is applied in thin layers; do not apply a substantial, fully covering layer of India ink – tempera paint is apt to bead up and not adhere well on top). A black ink can be difficult to overcome given the transparency of tempera; I recommend a light brown walnut, bister, or sepia colored ink.
However you do not need to either seal or apply ink to a transferred image – you can (as I do) just dive in and paint directly on top of a transferred drawing.
The degree to which any of these options (drawing directly on the panel, transferring a drawing with commerical or homemade transfer paper, resinstaing a drawing with india ink) show through a painting depends on how thin/thick you work, the degree of transparency/opacity in your paint, and how many layers you build. Tempera can be handled like watercolor, built up more like oils, or any step in between. If you work thinnly, keep your transfer very light and use a relatively weak transfer color (such as umber). If you build up lots of layers and opacity, a stronger transfer and/or ink underdrawing is a great guide for the first dozen layers. Experince will show you what works best for you and your visual goals.
Koo Schadler Transfer Paper.pdf
Thanks so much, Koo. Actually the photocopy method is what most of my students use. I guess I neglected to mention it because I had "Old Masters" in my head.
Yes, the Old Masters can certainly get in one's head. As I expect you would agree, I think they would have enjoyed many of our conveniences...I love the story of a Florentine client sending a drawing of his wife north, so Memling could do a portrait of her without having to travel to Florence; my guess is he would have been happy with a photograph. (-:
Hello Mrs. Schadler,
Thanks a lot for all your tips and suggestions; I will use one or another transferring technique depending on what I do. I enjoy building up with numerous layers of painting to get a certain depth, and I also appreciate how we can obtain subtle color variations and gradual blends with egg tempera (I tried sponges and watercolor like techniques). I do sometimes create a contrast with more opaque colors as well to emphasize certain items in my composition (although there are various ways to draw the viewer's attention to a focal point) … I will also try the homemade transfer paper recipe you generously posted. I will no longer use wax paper, that's for sure! I am a little worried about my previous paintings (when I used wax paper) and wonder if the paint will stay on the panel (which it did during the past months): I guess only time will tell? It also reminds me that I used isopropyl alcohol instead of denatured alcohol after sanding them and before painting on my panels (we have no denatured alcohol in Quebec). Will it change anything? So far, everything seems ok, but from what I understood, egg tempera takes some time to dry/coagulate from the inside and «stabilize» .
Thanks a lot,
No worries about the isopropyl alcohol; nearly any high percentage alcohol works. I've updated my book to include 190 proof grain, isopropyl, etc. - they all work.
Thanks a lot to both of you, I am now ready to jump into the painting part: I have precise, clean, and clear lines on my panel. I also tried the homemade transfer paper recipe and it was worth it. I worked carefully, but it still went fast and did not get messy. I found it nice to choose a color that was not too dark and that would be easily covered later on. I will explore the other transering techniques as well for other paintings.