Every artist that works with oil paint knows that spills and smears happen and that having some of those moist baby-wipes in your kit is a very sensible precaution. You know the ones. They’re frequently used to clean messy baby bottoms and to remove food and other unfortunately placed bodily fluids from clothing, surfaces, car seats, you name it. What I didn’t realise, until recently, is that those moist towelettes can be used in your oil painting.
I had the problem of rendering a jumper the model was wearing in a number of shades of a particular turquoise. Ordinarily, this would have meant mixing a number of shades of the colour and applying them in different areas, to indicate the highlights and shadows. Being a mixed colour, adjusting the shades of it, without making it look too milky, through the addition of white paint, or having it drift toward being too blue or too green was the challenge. I also didn’t have much time.
The solution was to mix a single mid tone colour and apply it fairly evenly on the canvas. I left my canvas white underneath. Some portraits are given a solid colour as a base, but this time I left the canvas pure white, as it came from the manufacturer. Having applied the paint evenly, I then took a baby wipe and wiped off paint, where the highlights were supposed to be. This gave a translucent, glowing, almost glazed finish to the paint. The areas of colour were highlighted simply because more of the white canvas behind it was allowed to show through.
To complete the effect, I went back over the dark areas and areas in shadow with the original mixed paint, making it thicker and more opaque. The result was a jumper rendered with a single colour, but using the transparency of the paint to create the tonal contrasts. In the lighter areas, more of the white canvas showed through a turquoise tint. In the middle tone areas, the mixed colour was evident, but thin. In the shadows, a thick, impasto application of the colour simulated darker tones. I added some yellow to the mix and added these to the darker areas, just to bring in a contrast with the single turquoise shade and to harmonise the jumper with the lemon yellow background of the painting, but these touches are incidental to the technique I am describing.
Here’s the detail of how it turned out. Give it a try!