I’m really enjoying painting the marble wall, which is going to work nicely with the addition of two or three very light transparent glazes of warm Iron Oxide red and a blue to give it some vibration. I need to measure the position of the cracks between the slabs too, so I can line them with the Iron Oxide. I’ve noticed that in Alma-Tadema’s work my favorite bits of marble are those which have water stains and areas of the rusty red oxide laid around the seams of the stones, and I’m quite excited to emulate his graceful painting.
To capture the delicate grey veining I abused a sign painter’s sword brush, conventionally used for long pinstripes, but now twisting and sliding the blade-shaped hairs across the canvas to create varying line weights and shifts from line to scumbled marks. Once the grey was laid down with the brush I lifted most of the paint off with a soft rag, then painted a slightly loose coat of Ceramic White over the top. Because this white is fairly transparent the grey marks beneath it blend into it and become softened by it. Finally I worked the surface with my big blending brush to take out any brush marks.
Having finished with the wall for the day I returned to the Empress, painting the eponymous central figure’s face with some Raw Umber. She’s at a strange angle, so I think I will need to be particularly careful with defining her features when I get to the later layers. I’m not overly concerned with getting every detail at this stage, more interested in getting painted material down so that it can be worked with. My students will know that I’m about to say that “oil paint is endlessly re-workable”.