Four years ago had you told me that I would become an artist I
would have laughed at you. I had never had an interest or an aptitude
for art of any kind. But over the last four years I have learned to
draw and paint using the techniques of the Renaissance masters. It all
began with a class that I took through Moorhead Community Education.
was fascinated by the following class description:
Frank Covino developed his approach after conducting research into
the methods used by the Renaissance Masters to teach their students
both how to draw and paint. He focused particular attention on the
methods of Leonardo da Vinci.
A portrait painters job is to create
the illusion of depth on a
two-dimensional surface. To be successful technical tricks, schemata
, passed on by the great
Masters need to be used, the most notable of which is the creation of
realistic flesh by employing the half-tone separation between light and
dark. Where light and dark meet on a painting an area of the verdaccio
should be visible through
the color application.
, Frank Covino pgs. 90-92. (1982).
Verdaccio means "greenish first" in Italian. To mix the
gray-green tone of the verdaccio darken Chromium Oxice Green with Mars
Black until it becomes a second value (darker than value 3, lighter
than value 1; this is done by taking a small amount of the value 2
mixture and placing it on the value 1 and value 3 strips on the Covino
Controlled Palette). Once a true value 2 mixture has been mixed
this is the base color from which all other values are made. To
create values 3 through 9 add flake white to the base color.
Compare each mixture with its value on the Controlled Palette again
making sure that each value is darker than the next lightest value, yet
lighter than the next darker value. To create the first value add
more Mars Black to the base color. See Controlled Painting
Frank Covino pg. 92 (1982).
Values 1 through 5 are scumbled (a small amount of paint is applied and
scrubbed into the board. Values 6 through 9 applied in thicker
layers of paint to build volume and is stated as "The higher the value,
thicker the paint . . . " See Controlled
Frank Covino pgs. 96 (1982). The more paint used in the lighter
areas the more opacity it has. This is important because the
thicker paint will allow light to bounce, as well as, because light
value paint becomes transparent over time due to the effects of light.
Follow the form of the face to sculpt and create interest, as well as,
to make it look more realistic. Examples would be:
- The upper lid between the crease and the eye should be painted
with small vertical strokes while the lower lid should be painted in
one horizontal stroke.
- The bridge of the nose should be painted with small horizontal
strokes. While the sides of the nose may be done in longer
vertical strokes that may be partially wiped away where recessional.
- The lower lip is recessional thus the lips cannot be painted
using the same values. Again short horizontal strokes may be used.
The best advice is to keep in mind the sculptural form of the object
being painted. This will allow the object to be rendered more
accurately and realistically.
It is advisable that the verdaccio is painted by primarily referencing
the black and white photograph, however, should any question arise as
to the true value represented the color photo may also be
referenced. It is also extremely important that as an area is
painted no values are skipped. So where a value 1 is next to a
value 7, value 1 is painted, then value 2, then value 3, then value 4,
and so on until value 7 is reached, even if that means that the
application of each value is narrow. Why? Because when a
high value color is mixed with a low value color all that is created is
"mud". By moving from dark to light in gradual increments the
result is an application of paint which has a subtle, gradual
transition which is exactly what a portrait artist wishes to
achieve. To achieve that end though no sharp edges can be seen in
the portrait. The edges every line of separation
between colors must be softened so that they appear more
, Frank Covino pgs. 93-94 (1982).
This can be accomplished by either:
- By painting with a bristle brush and overlapping the values while
painting so that the values are blended together.
- Using a flat sable brush (which is wide enough to overlap the
values being blended) lightly drag it down the line that separates the
values from each other.
- Using a flat sable brush as above except in this instance using a
lightly applied zig zag motion to blend the values.
The information in 1. was given during a class with Frank Covino in
Baudette, MN in 2008. For the information in 2. and 3. See Controlled Painting
Frank Covino pg. 93 (1982).
Corrections should be made to dark tones or where the value difference
is dramatic (i.e. a painted value 3 should be a value 6).
Corrections are made to avoid pentimente
which means the sins of the past catching up with you. A
good example of pentimente is a painting by Valesquez who did not
scrape of two of the original four legs of a horse when he decided to
change the position of those two legs, so over time as the paint has
faded all six legs are now visible. Make corrections by using an
knife. Care must be taken not to scratch too deeply because some
of the gesso may be chipped off. Should this happen it is
imperative that the gesso be replaced because if it is not replaced the
oil in the paint may cause harm to the board underneath.
Depending upon the size of the gesso that has been chipped away either
a brush or the pointed end of the brush may be used to replace the
gesso. After waiting for the gesso to dry, usually 10 minutes,
the gesso should be lightly sanded with sandpaper or a small area may
be sanded with an emery board. See Controlled Painting
Frank Covino pg. 88 (1982).
As a final note, no high oil medium should be used in the underpainting
process. So instead Frank Covino advises that Liquin be used as a
medium for underpainting because it is quick drying and will help the
paint dry from the bottom to the top. Also, paint considered
medium, high or very high oil absorption may be used in underpainting
only when mixed at least 50-50 with a low oil absorption paint.
Both Chromium Oxide Green and Flake White** are low oil absorption
paints; Mars black is a high oil absorption paint but because it is
mixed with one or more of the other two paints at a more than 50-50
ration the mixed paint will still dry from the bottom to the top.
This rule is important to follow because if a less oily color is placed
on top of a color into which a "fat" oil has been mixed, the paint on
top may dry first. When the paint beneath it dries it will
contract, causing cracks and fissures in the leaner superimposed
surface ruining the painting. See Controlled Painting
Frank Covino pg. 86 (1982).
Following the completion of the verdaccio and after it has
had time to dry completely three to five
coats (the application needs to be both
vertical and horizontal) of Damar
should be applied. This is very
because if a mistake is made at color stage which
requires the use of turpenoid Damar Retouch Varnish will protect
the verdaccio from harm.
*An important note about the use of Liquin--Liquin causes paint
to dry at least one value lighter so if when painting is begun for the
day the verdaccio is dry; it should be sprayed with Damar
Retouch Varnish. However, Damar Retouch Varnish is only used
during the verdaccio stage because it will cause color painting to
yellow over time.
**Other low oil absorption paints are: MG White, Venetian Red,
Chremnitz White (substitute for Flake White), Zinc White and Zinc
and/or Lemon Yellow. Controlled
Painting, Frank Covino pg. 86 (1982).
b. Rub-out Technique
The Rub-out technique is begun in one of
- By using a low oil absorption oil color as a ground to change the
color of the gessoed board. For example in the above photos of a
landscape which I did, to mimic the sun, I used lemon yellow mixed with
linseed oil to cover the gessoed board. Once the lemon yellow had
dried completely I rubbed the gessoed board with a rag that was dipped
in linseed oil and then using a brush I added a mixture of Venetian Red
and Mars Black.
- By rubbing the gessoed board with a rag that has been dipped in
either turpentine or linseed oil (new students should use linseed oil
as it increases how long the paint will remain wet. The gessoed
board should be damp, not wet. At this point the surface is
covered with the value of paint as dark as one of the darker values of
If linseed oil is used anywhere from from three to four weeks of drying
time will be necessary before color may be imposed to avoid
cracking. See Controlled
, Frank Covino pg. 96 (1982).
In the example above after the lemon yellow had dried and prior to
putting on the Venetian Red and Mars Black I used charcoal to establish
the graph and India Ink to establish my line drawing. Frank
Covino suggests that when using a graphed that the lines for the graph
be determined by using a ruler with a pair of 3/4 inch brad nails
tapped in every five inches and exposed by 1/4 of an inch on the other
side of the ruler, this then can be used to help measure for the graph
with much less smearing. Then once the measurements have been
made an eraser may be used to score the lines into the wet paint.
The sketch may then be established by using a small pointed sable brush
and raw umber or by scratching it in with a palette knife. See Controlled Painting
Frank Covino pg. 96 (1982).
Once a sketch has been established, begin to create the values by
rubbing out the illuminated areas with a dry lint-free cloth stretched
over a finger. The harder you press, the lighter the value,
gentle taps produce medium values. If you have any values darker
than the original tone they may be painted in with a sable brush, very
light areas may be produced using a rag soaked in turpentine.
Should the underpainting be dry before you see an area which needs to
be lightened then use either sandpaper, or a palette knife to scratch
in the correct value. See Controlled
, Frank Covino pgs. 96-100 (1982).
Step 4: Color
The ten basic color hues are the color of light itself as seen through
a prism, in essence the colors of the rainbow. These ten colors
are: yellow, green, blue-green, blue, purple-blue, purple, red-purple,
red and yellow-red. Every color falls into one of these
categories, or it may fall between two colors. An object may be
more yellow than yellow-red, but not quite yellow, thus, it w would be
classified as yellow/yellow-red. The Fine Art of
, Frank Covino pgs. 24-27 (1970). If
purple appears at
one end of the rainbow and red-purple at the other, it is logical to
place the two ends of the rainbow side by side to create a color
wheel. Albert Munsell's color wheel which was created more than
century ago is both logical and scientific. Hue refers only to
the name of the color, but there is far
more to color than that. See Controlled
, Frank Covino pg. 107 (1982).
The second part of color is value which is its lightness or
darkness. By relating
the color itself to the scale of gray values (as shown on the
Palette) Munsell attributed a number to each hue to indicate exactly
how light or dark it is. Thus yellow (commercial name Cadmium
Yellow Light) is as light as a ninth value gray, so it is 90%
light. Yellow-red (Burnt Umber) is as dark out of the tube as a
value 1 gray, so it is 10% light. Leonardo's system as described
above was probably Munsell's inspiration for this system. See Controlled Painting
Frank Covino pgs. 96-100 (1982).
The third part of color is called chroma which refers to its intensity
or brilliance. Chroma then refers to a color's specific
or dullness. Frank Covino explains the importance of chroma this
If I wore a bright yellow scarf that is
as light in value as a ninth value gray, and I walked away from you,
the brilliance of the yellow would appear less intense (duller) as the
distance between us became greater. The scarf would not appear
less yellow; the hue would remain the same. If the light in the
distance was intense, the scarf might even retain its ninth value
status on a scale between black (zero, the absence of light) and white
(ten, or one hundred percent of light). The only difference is
that the yellow appears less bright as it recedes; it becomes
Painting, Frank Covino pg. 109 (1982).
Aerial perspective tells us that close objects appear brighter and
distant objects appear duller. Thus, an apple in your hand will
appear brighter than the same apple in someone else's hand fifty-five
feet away from you. See Controlled
Painting, Frank Covino pg. 110 (1982).
Renaissance painters discovered that the gray-green tones of
verdaccio underpaintings weakened the intensity of high chroma colors
superimposed, if those bright hues were applied either thinly by
or the opaque color was partially wiped off. From this the
practice of mixing
neutral gray in with colors to dull its brilliance before application
in those areas of the painting requiring duller tones was
established. Neutral gray is made by mixing Ivory Black and
Titanium White which creates a blue-gray. To eliminate the
blueness caused by the Ivory
Black yellow tones must be added. So Raw Umber is added at value
1, Raw Umber plus Raw Sienna for values 2 and 3, Raw Sienna for value
4, Raw Sienna and Yellow Ochre for value 5, Yellow Ochre for value
6-9. The neutral gray pigment added to the color was matched with
the value of the color itself. So for instance, cadmium yellow a
value 9 color would require a value 9 neutral gray to weaken its
intensity (to make it duller). Whereas, Burnt Umber a value 1
would require a value 1 gray to dull it. See Controlled Painting,
Frank Covino pgs. 110-112 (1982). For a complete discussion of
the ten hues and the use of neutral gray to create color palettes see Controlled Painting,
Frank Covino pgs. 112-118 (1982). For a complete discussion of
the Color Wheel's Color Schemes and Harmonic Relationships see Controlled Painting,
Frank Covino pgs. 122 (1982).
The color of the lighting should also be used in all the colors that will be used in
a painting. By use of a particular color to establish a time of
day outdoors, or the type of lighting used indoors, all of the colors
in the painting are unified. Using the Controlled Color Palette,
the light source color is added in the row of neutral grays.
Since all of the colors on the palette will be modified by the use of
the neutral grays, each color will receive the color of the light as
well. Indoors there are only two types of lighting which should
be used, incandescent and candlelight or firelight. Outdoors
there are many types of lighting that must be considered. Controlled Painting,
Frank Covino pgs. 132-134 (1982).
Color paint is applied in the same manner as was discussed above in
the verdaccio section. Please refer to the information given
Paint should be partially removed from the following areas to allow
the verdaccio to show through.
- Areas that should recede (i.e. between the eyebrows)..
- Half-tone areas, areas that separate the illuminated portion of
the form from the shadowed portion.
- At shadows edge (cast shadows).
- To show reflected light in cast shadows.
- On the area between the eyelid and the eyebrow.
The above information applies particularly to flesh because flesh
painted without the gray-green undertone showing through looks
wooden. It is important for me to point out that Frank Covino has
developed three flesh palettes for use on his color palette.
These three palettes can be altered to suit anyone's flesh color.
I am not including this information as it comes in the form of
hand-outs from his classes which should be obtained by either Frank
Covino himself or one of the students who now teach his method. A
discussion of an older version of his flesh palettes is found in The Fine Art of Portraiture
approach, Frank Covino
pgs. 162-165 (1970).
the use of medium with a small amount of paint crushed carefully on the
side of the jar so that all the paint is mixed evenly through the
paint. Frank Covino has his own medium formula which is: 5
parts Damar Varnish, 5 parts Rectified Turpentine, 3 parts Stand Oil
and 1 part Venice Turpentine. Controlled
Frank Covino pg. 137 (1982). Glazes may be applied directly over
the verdaccio or over opaque color paint applications. It is
possible to do as many as three glazes in one area on a painting at a
time. How many glazes does it take to complete a painting?
The Renaissance Masters stated that 40 to 100 glazes may be applied to
a painting. Below are two
photos. The first shows the picture prior to the application of
glaze and the second was taken after glazes had been applied.
To me this is the most magical portion of this process. The flesh
comes to life and the colors of everything else are just made more
beautiful. It is with glaze that anything may be changed as you
will see in some of my other art work below.
Once the painting and glazing have been completed to the artist's
satisfaction it must be allowed to dry for 8 to 12 months. At
this point three coats of Damar Varnish are applied. However,
Damar Varnish may only be applied on days that are dry and clear to
prevent a phenomenon known as clouding.
To the left you see a picture of Frank Tebay.
Earlier I explained
that the first class I took in Fargo, ND was with Frank Tebay. I
would really like to thank Frank for everything. I know that I
can't begin to thank him enough for all the classes I attended and the
patience he showed me during the time that he lived in the
Fargo-Moorhead area. He is both a talented artist and
teacher. Always willing to take the time needed with his
him I'm certain that my art would not have begun, let alone evolved
into what it's become over the last four years. Further, I'd like
to thank Tina Tebay, as well as, Asher and Ruthie for allowing Frank's
students to come to your home and disrupt your life.
; If you are interested in taking a class with Frank and live
near the Denver, Colorado area please contact me at
firstname.lastname@example.org and I will contact him for you.
Frank Covino pictured left
with Anita B. (left) and me (right) from the Covino Class in Baudette,
Frank Covino taught Frank Tebay how to draw and paint in the manner of
the Renaissance Masters using Covino's
Academic Approach which I have discussed above at length. From
the very first class with Frank Tebay I heard that Frank Covino is both
a Master Painter and a Master Educator. In 2000 The Artist
Magazine named Frank Covino's Workshops one of the top five workshops
in the country. I had the privilege of being able to attend his
Baudette, MN workshop in 2008 and I would gladly recommend his class to
anyone who wishes to learn to draw and paint or wishes to learn more
about drawing and painting. He is an amazingly gifted artist and
teacher. I brought my charcoal of "The Prayer" by Bouguereau and
Asher's portrait in color. Frank Covino helped to correct both
pieces and also helped to glaze Asher's painting. Also, if you are interested in taking a class with Frank
Covino, please visit his web site for more information at www.portrait-art.com
I would also like to offer a special "Thank you" to Becky T. I
appreciate all you've done for me.
For further information:
I have posted photos at http://renaissanceart2.spaces.live.com/photos/cns!D1855AFD17AFB4F3!243/,
There you'll find my art in a file with the same title. Frank Tebay's art work, as well as, that of his student's can be found in a file titled Frank. Frank Covino's student's work can be found in a file titled Frank Covino.