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Grisaille (pronounced "griz-eye") is a painting style that uses only gray tones to create a classic artwork.   Add color with pure color glazes

Linda Coulter teaches art workshops and art seminars and Private Instruction and she publishes Art Instruction DVDs, Art Courses, Project Instruction Packets, etc. 

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Grisaille Technique









Grisaille Technique

Grisaille technique is painting with graytones to create a monochrome art work.  Grisaille painting dates back to the Renaissance.

1.  Grisaille (gray tone value) underpainting divides and conquers the painting process, so it's great for painters of all skill levels.  

2.  In essence, an artist must capture the rhythm of nature and allow light to dance playfully through an art work.  The foundation for this is achieved in the graytone process. 

3.  The artist builds a foundation in gray tones.  This monocrhome underpainting ranges in value from black to white and includes various gray values that will facilitate various kinds of effects when light tries to pass through or bounce off the layers of paint.  

4.  The truly effective grisaille underpainting builds a network of paint layers that actually channel natural sunlight from the surface (ground layer), all the way up through the final layer of colors.  So, when the sunshine pours down on this painting, the structure or network of the grisaille underpainting makes it possible for the light to be reflected back to greet your eyes with rich color infused with shimmering light!  In other words, luminosity. 

This concept was developed many centuries ago when pigments were very scarce.  The Old Masters had only a handful of pigments to accomplish their beautiful results so they had to push each individual pigment to its fullest capacity to be able to achieve the luminosity in their art work that made them famous.  In essence, they cherished the "inner light" that played and danced through their network of colors on canvas, and made that "inner light" an integral part of their paintings. 

Not every art work requires brilliant luminosity to achieve the desired results.  However, even a soft misty atmosphere should be enhanced by colors infused with natural sunlight to capture the essence of life.  

5.  The classic grisaille painting is considered a finished art work.

6. The grisaille underpainting provides a foundation for transparent color overlays.   Transparent colors have no body by themselves.  That is, you can't create textural quality using a transparent paint alone.  Thereby, the illusion of texture is created in the grisaille underpainting, over which color is glazed using transparent oil paint.

7.  Linda Coulter's multi-layered art works are designed with passageways through which light can freely pass, producing the special effects and illusions that the artist wants to achieve.

In essence, she allows natural sunlight to participate in the finished design and uses only a handful of precious pigments to produce color radiance in her art works. 


Copyright 1998 - 2019,  Linda L. Coulter