First Installment

Searching for Technique: A grisaille under-painting in green (Verdaille).

Lincoln Bust, resin, demi-round, sculpted by Gary Dombrowski available through the Artist Preservation Group. March 2013.

Reference photos of Lincoln printed on 4”x6” photo paper on my desk for reference. I have borrowed these images off the web. Paintings and photos together are good reference and we are lucky to have photos of Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln portraits


Lincoln portraits, 2


Lincoln portraits 3


This will be painted with an acrylic under-painting in gray scale called a Grisaille. Grisaille is a term meaning monochromatic, a gray scale using one color and white to tint. It is like a completely shaded drawing. The Old Masters used this technique to achieve a sculptural quality to their painting.

I have a book I recommend:

Traditional Oil Painting: Advanced Techniques and Concepts from the Renaissance to the Present, by Virgil Elliott, an advanced volume on oil techniques of the Old Masters.

Wikipedia definition of Grisaille:

Here is a link to a great essay on Grisaille:

Here is a link to a demonstration of a painting copy of a Titian painting using a grisaille under-painting:


Primed with Floquil gray enamel primer.


Ran washes of Dark blue acrylic quickly over the surface of the figure to get familiar with the sculpture.

I then decided to use a green grisaille as an under-painting in hopes that the green will set off the reds in the skin tone. Green is the complimentary color to red. Complimentary colors often will give color contrast in difficult situations.


Using extra Dark Green (896) I washed over the figure to start establishing the gray values.


Added Vallejo Dark Prussian Blue, ran shadow washes onto darker areas.


3-26: Shadowed even deeper with dark washes. Then added Delta Ceramcoat Queen Annes Lace (off-white) to Vallejo Extra Dark Green for a middle-tone gray. Then used the middle tone gray in a first pass to even out the skin tone.


3-26: Added Delta Ceramcoat Queen Annes Lace (off-white) to Vallejo Extra Dark Green for a middle-tone gray for a 2nd pass of middle gray.


March 27: 3rd  pass at middle tone gray mixed with Extra Dark green and Queen Annes Lace.


March 27-2: Highlighted more with medium gray and then using only Very dark Green, shaded with washes. Re-highlighted and blended dark green with the medium gray.


March 28, 2013. Pallet is still Very Dark Green, Prussian Blue, and Queen Annes Lace.  I mixed up 3 values of the green-gray, dark middle and light. I darkened a few things. Going back and forth I accent or de-emphasize the facial features as needed for the lighting scenario I have chosen. Highlighting or darkening to soften some edges and also layering to harden other edges.


4-10 Mixed a dark with Vallejo Dark Prussian Blue, Black and Extra Dark Green and shadowed into very dark areas.



Mixed a dark with Vallejo Dark Prussian Blue, Black and Extra Dark Green and shadowed into very dark areas and added Delta Ceramcoat “queen Annes Lace (an eggshell off-whilte color) to Vallejo Extra Dark Green for a highlight color and worked back and forth with light and shadow.

This is my palette until now:


4-13. In the middle of painting a greenish grisaille, I decided to make the over-all look of the bust as if it were a sepia-tone image from the 1800’s. Then I would try to color it with oil paints similar to how old photos were hand-colored. Now it is time to start heading towards a brownish tint. Glazed the shadows with Folk Art Acrylic color Burnt Umber.


4-14. Mixed Dick Blick Dark Blue Deep (A cross between phtalo blue and Prussian blue) and Folk Art Burnt Umber for a dark shadow color. Started sculpting with a brown dark rather than a green dark.

Using a cross hatching type stroke over and over like drawing and shading with a pencil.


4-15. Glazed in medium dark areas and shaded with Apple Barrel Brown Oxide Acrylic.


4-15. Using a complete pallet of browns and ochres to color the bust.  Folk Art Acrylic Burnt Umber, Blick Matt Acrylic Dark Blue deep, Apple Barrel Brown Oxide and Barn Red on the dark pallet and Apple Barrel Brown Oxide, Terra Cotta and Delta Ceramcoat Queen Annes Lace.


4-15. Using the grisaille as a guide, I start glazing dark brown and red ochre and dark blue in the shadows with thin washes. Sometimes using a cross-hatch paint stroke to build up paint in areas. I glaze the lighter browns and add Queen Annes lace in the highlight areas. I am also using Watercolor Blending Medium to slow drying a little but I am not really at the blending stage. This photo shows how the grisaille still shows up under the color glazes. This is only ¼ of the way through this process. I am still finding the sculpture… or perhaps the sculpture is finding me. I watched the movie “Lincoln” and it was helpful to see how the stage make-up was applied and which features were shaded and how. So I am still sculpting with light and shadow to define and undefined the sculpted facial features.



2 thoughts on “Tutorial on Dombrowski’s “Lincoln”

  1. Penny is doing an amazing job on the Lincoln relief. The most rewarding part of sculpting a relief is when a painter brings it to life. ~Gary

  2. Looks good Steven! Thanks Gary! I am anxious to get it done now! Another great sculpture for me to paint! What is next? I can’t wait!

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