Yesterday, I was on the phone trying to explain to a friend, how to paint white objects with the spectrum. Without the visuals it was difficult, so after we hung up, I decided to prepare a quick example for the blog.

The order of the rainbow spectrum (dark to light) is purple, purple-blue, blue, blue-green, green, yellow-green, yellow, yellow-red, red, and red-purple.  In order to match the rainbow’s values and their respective hues, we need to start where the rainbow starts. Using a 9-value scale with value 4 as spectrum purple, we work our way up the value scale from there:

4–Purple (cobalt violet)

5–Purple-Blue (ultramarine)

6–Blue (cerulean)

7–Blue-Green (viridian)

8–Green (hansa yellow plus thalo green)

9–Yellow-Green (hansa yellow plus thalo green)

White–Yellow (cadmium yellow lt.)

White–Yellow-red (cadmium orange)

White–Red (napthol red lt.)

White–Red-Purple (alizarin crimson perm.)

Here is how to think about that: since cobalt violet is a value 1 in the tube, we have to lighten it with white until it is a value 4, then put it in its proper place on the palette.  Likewise, ultramarine blue is also value 1 in the tube so we need to lighten it with white until it is a value 5.  Next in the spectrum is cerulean blue; it is a value 3 in the tube, so it requires less white to make it a value 6.

Continue working up the rainbow spectrum through value 9 yellow-green,  as listed above. The last three hues (not shown–unfortunately, I neglected to photograph those) are simply white with a tint of cadmium orange, then napthol red in the next pile of white, and finally, permanent alizarin crimson in the final white.  There is some debate over whether the last two should be left out as they are infrared, but I believe they are useful, in great moderation; otherwise your white objects can begin  to look more green or purple, than white.  Hints of pinks can work as a foil for that.  Here is the palette to this point, sans the YR, and the infrareds R, and RP mixed with white:

After mixing each hue to its proper value (pictured above), place the corresponding value 4-9 greys, plus 4 piles of white on your palette:
Then tint each of the greys with a just a touch of their corresponding hues:

Preparing a brief palette was all I intended to do when I began, but then I thought, “Why don’t I just do a quick painting of a white object and put the whole project on the blog? Since I only had an hour to spare, I did something easy:


And because my little enameled pitcher looked like it was floating in the air, I mixed together, everything on my value 4 and 5 spaces, and made the table color. Then I marbled the remaining paint together (without values 4 and 5) and spread it with a palette knife for the background of my little painting:
A White Pitcher, 4″ x 6″

Someday, I may give it a single flower and some touch-ups but, for now, this is it.

Karen Schmeiser, a master painter in our Arizona Renaissance Art Guild, has a lot of experience with using the spectrum white palette.  She is currently working on this painting.  Notice the effect of the subject’s lighting.  She has added the color of the candlelight to each of her spectrum values to portray the white garment:



I hope this helps you.

And please don’t forget about Frank Covino’s workshop coming up in Gilbert, Arizona on November 9-13, 2015.  We still have space if you want to come.  See the post, Workshop Announcement, dated Sept. 27, 2015.  Contact me through this blog if you are interested.

Follow my blog to get the latest post sent to you.

All the best,


Dear Artists,

The Frank Covino Workshop is seven weeks away. This may seem pointed, but…

We never know if this is the last chance we will have of being taught by one of the world’s greatest master teachers of oil painting in the manner of the Old Masters. In October, Frank will be in his mid-eighties and his traveling might be curtailed at any time. When we are with him, I think we sometimes take his presence for granted, but in this next workshop, as much as possible, we should hang on his every word, watch what he does at each workstation, audio-record what he says, take thorough notes, and ask good questions.

Have you priced workshops lately? There is no big-name artist today holding a serious workshop for less than $1,000 (Frank’s is $695), and a big name, does not a great teacher make. I have forked out my money for this, first hand, and I can tell you, Frank is one of the few “greats” alive today that can actually TEACH others how to paint. They may be wonderful painters themselves, but they frequently can’t convey their knowledge to students. Thus, you come away learning less than a tenth of what you would learn spending one week (and a lot less money) with Frank. That’s like getting 10 half-days VS. just 1 half-day, $300 cheaper.

I apologize if this sounds a bit like a sales pitch, but it isn’t–I have to pay the same amount as you do, plus do some of the behind the scenes prep work. It’s just that to avail ourselves of the joy of this knowledge while Frank is still with us, is such a privilege. There is nothing else like giving pleasure to our family and friends through our art–that wonderful feeling of giving a painting or a giclee’ to someone you love, and seeing their smiles and pride when they hang it on their wall. It would be terrible to look back and think, “If only I had taken his class when I could have…now it’s too late.”

Here is a sample of what you can learn to do at Frank’s workshop:
Here are the details–

What: Frank Covino Workshop
When: November 9-13, 2015
Where: Gilbert, Arizona

A $200 deposit is due on Oct. 9, three weeks from now.

There will be space for a maximum of 12 people.

Frank is offering a special treat–If you sign up a new student, you AND the student each get $100 off the tuition (only 2 given per workshop).

Keep your tunnel vision set toward Frank’s instructions, and you will be creating exquisite paintings this year that will still be around 300 years from now, because they will be so good that anyone who owns them, will not part with them! Remember, it’s better to spend a few weeks creating one work of significant art, than painting 10 quick ones that will end up in garage sales and bought for the frames they’re in (I’ve done this many times–have you?).

If any readers out there would like to join this workshop or have any questions, just comment below, and we will be in touch.

Follow my blog to get the latest post sent to you.

All the best,
The Arizona Renaissance Art Guild


The Arizona Renaissance Art Guild had a workshop with Frank Covino in April this year, 2015, and since we plan on another one later this November, I thought I would post these paintings for everyone to see some of the processes and quality of work generated.  Keep in mind that all of them are in different stages of completion.  Some were just begun by new students in the workshop, and some are the result of weeks of work by seasoned artists.

Whether you are someone who has always wanted to paint but never had the time, or whether you are a seasoned artist wanting to learn different techniques, you are welcome to join our workshop in November.  Stay tuned.  As soon as I get definite dates, I’ll let you know.  Enjoy the photos:


Work in progress, by Charlene Higley







Work in progress, by Glori Robison



Work in progress, by Pat McKinley



Work in progress, by Cheri Stucke



Work in progress, by Barb Franelli


Work in progress, by Karen Schmeiser








by Sariah Clonts


Frank Covino, Modern Master and Teacher Extraordinaire

Follow my blog to get the latest post sent to you.

All the best,




We have already “hammered away” at the importance of Value, so this is a good time to introduce the set of terms devised by Munsell, that help us discuss and reproduce color:

Hue–the name of a specific color as it appears in the color spectrum.
Value–the specific darkness or lightness of a color.
Chroma–the specific intensity (brightness or dullness) of a color.


Here, we will address “hue.” Although there are many varied color wheel designs, Munsell incorporates ten basic hues that come from the color of light as seen through a prism, or the rainbow spectrum. By shaping them in a circle, they become the color wheel. They are:

red-purple, red, yellow-red, yellow, yellow-green, green, blue-green, blue, blue-purple, purple

Every color falls into one of these ten basic HUE categories, or possibly between two of them, where reside the interhues.

Most artists have had at least one important teacher. Mine was/is Frank Covino. He designated tube names and value numbers for Munsell’s ten hues.

At first, you may be tempted to gloss over this list, but imagine going to the store and selecting the most useful green, red, or yellow, and then assigning its value as you go, all the while keeping in mind how the colors will all interact, and choosing those that work best together in the largest variety of situations–methinks not the easiest of tasks.  This work has been done for you, here:

Red-purple is Alizarin Crimson, which is a value 1 tube color.
Red is Cadmium Red Light, which is a value 5 tube color.
Yellow-red is Cadmium Orange, a value 7.
Yellow is Cadmium Yellow Light, a value 9.
Yellow-green is Pthalo Yellow Green, value 8.
Green is Cadmium Green, value 1.
Blue-green is Viridian Green, value 1.
Blue is Cerulean Blue, value 3 or 4 (depending on the brand).
Purple-blue is Ultramarine Blue, value 1.
Purple is Cobalt Violet, value 1.

These tube colors should visually disappear when placed on corresponding value numbers in the value chart (Don’t forget to squint, as discussed in the last post.).  If they look like freckles instead of disappearing, you know you either have them in the wrong place, or your value chart is not correct.  That’s why we use the Covino Palette–those values are already prepared for you to start using at once, without a lot of fumbling about.

Follow my blog to get the latest post sent to you.

All the best,



This subject was addressed a long time ago, but it is so critically important that it bears repeating. Of course, it’s about values because, without a thorough understanding of them, you cannot create significant paintings.

Many teachers assume that we all know what “value” in paintings means, so they don’t really elaborate and tell us HOW to see them. The concept is easy to understand when we’re talking about a greyscale, but extrapolate that to color, especially the various colors juxtaposed together to make a painting, and the values concept becomes murky.

You can make an entire painting a monochromatic green or even pink and, as long as those pinks have correct values, your painting will “read” and make sense to the viewer no matter what color you make it. Value is simply how dark or how light that color is.

Yes, but so what? Where’s the “how?” Well, first you have to learn to squint enough at something until the color disappears and you are left with a percentage of light. What amount do you see? Make your own value scale and go around your house placing it next to various objects; squint to make the color disappear so that you can just see the value of the object and not the color. This is a great way to train your eye.

Here is a value scale you can print, showing values 1-9 with the addition of black (which is the absence of light) and white. The lowest value is 1, or 10 % light; the next is 2, or 20% light and so on, up to value 9 at 90%, with white being 100% light:

value scale

When making a painting, values aren’t actual light, of course, but values create the illusion of dark and light in varying degrees (shadows and highlights). Value deals with the lightness or darkness of a color.

Here is part of Bouguereau’s Vendangeuse (The Grape Picker) in color:
Vendangeuse (The Grape Picker)BouguereauCropped
And here it is in greyscale, showing just the range of lights and darks (aka “values”):

Vendangeuse (The Grape Picker)BouguereauGrayscale

And here is the pink version:

Vendangeuse (The Grape Picker)BouguereauGrayscale

So, even in pink values, we still see the little girl, instead of a Botox Babe.

When we do a value-scale underpainting, we are separating the problems of seeing values in one hue vs. seeing those values in juxtapositions of many colors (hues). This makes the painting much easier to execute, and more accurate, because now you have a process.

And that’s why I say you must know how to see value because value analysis and then value duplication is the basis of all perception. It is the common denominator for the replication of all things, whether landscapes, still lifes, or portraits.

Follow my blog to get the latest post sent to you.

All the best,




Before you begin your verdaccio underpainting, make sure you have completed everything you want to accomplish with India ink, charcoal, and gesso and/or gelatin in bas relief, so that your rendering looks as perfect as it can.  This functions as your value map for the underpainting, and if it is perfect, nearly everything at Value 5 and under can be quickly glazed, rather than painted.  Of course, the need for the perfect underpainting is that glazes are transparent, and everything will show through!

Look closely at the enlarged version of this drawing; can you see the areas where it seems to be especially white? Those are the places where, if you could run your fingers over the board, you feel the bas relief of the gesso that has been built up only in the areas you want to advance, to give the painting extra dimension.  Pretend you are a sculptor and pay special attention to areas like jewelry, headwear, the forehead, nose bone and tip, shoulders near the viewer, lower lip,  muscle structure, illuminated areas of dark garments, fabric folds that are closest to the viewer, and anything else you want to advance.  Make sure you smooth those built up edges so they blend smoothly into the board surface–you don’t want them looking pasted on.  You should not see the physical edges of the build up:



Mixing verdaccio in nine values is the next step. Here is where you will make your life so-o-o much easier if you have purchased Frank Covino’s Controlled Palette.


Before mixing any paint on the Controlled Palette, coat it lightly with olive oil.

To mix verdaccio:

*Put 2, 8″ strips of chromium oxide green on Value 2
*Put 1, 8″ strip of mars black on Value 2
(= 3 strips total on Value 2)
Mix together thoroughly for a “Value 2 verdaccio.”
Value 1 is comprised of equal parts of Value 2 with Mars Black.
Values 3 – 9 are made by the addition of Flake White to Value 2, then 3, etc. (aka a “color string”).

Then cover it with Saran Wrap (the most non-porous wrap in my tests) and put it in the freezer until you’re ready to paint. Even better is to buy multiples of the three colors and some empty tubes, and tube your mixtures. That way, you won’t have to mix it again for a year or more.

Follow my blog to get the latest post sent to you.

All the best,


P. S.  Just a note to let you know of an upcoming workshop

Hello, readers. The Arizona Renaissance Art Guild is hosting a one-week workshop with Maestro Frank Covino, art teacher extraordinaire. If you will be in the Phoenix area on April 6-10, 2015, we would like to invite you to attend and make some new painting friends.  The cost for the week is $695.  Respond to this post if you are interested.  We still have two spaces available.


Kind Readers,

My sincerest apologies for the extended hiatus since my last post. There has been a long illness in my family that required my full attention, but gratefully, the outcome was positive. Thanks to some dear art friends inspiring me today to start posting again, I am doing this one especially for them. I’ll try to make it up to you all in this post by adding additional pictures of the process for you to at least see where we’re going. I’ll comment on them as needed in later posts. Feel free to posit your questions or comments as well.

A few more points to make about handling the marble gesso before we go on with the process~~Remember that you must smooth the edges of each successive application of gesso either with your finger while it’s wet, or with  sandpaper (about 100 grit) after it’s dry.  It is easiest to do it with your finger, followed by the sandpaper only if necessary.  Some illuminated areas you may want to sculpt, in addition to those mentioned in Part 5, are clothing (especially folds) , the nose bridge and tip, the forehead, the forward shoulder, the forward knee, and the part of the lower lip in the light.

At this stage, remove the gridded acetate cartoon, and render a complete charcoal study by referring to the grayscale printout of the artwork reference. It’s best to start with the easiest squares or triangles, piece by piece, then progress to the others as you gain more confidence.  Use a tortillion to really blend and push the charcoal into the gessoed surface.  You can always lay the grid back on to check your drawing if you lose your place or make a mistake.  Repair mistakes on your drawing with a kneaded eraser, or scrape it carefully with an exacto knife or single-edged razor blade.  Periodically, take the drawing outside and spray it with fixative as you progress and are sure it’s correct.  As you continue with the rendering, keep asking yourself, “What value is it on my reference?”  Then place that value on your surface.  If the values are right, it will look like the form when you’re finished.




When your drawing is complete, take it outside with a final coat of fixative, sprayed rather liberally. Be careful with this stuff–it’s toxic (see the label).  The photo below shows the wet fixative reflecting on the lens.  At this point, put the fixative away.  It will not be used again for the duration of this painting and, for the sake of archivability, you do not want to accidentally mix it up with the retouch varnish.


As far as India ink is concerned, inking can be done at any stage of the drawing.  I personally like to do it after I have applied the gesso or gelatin and have refined my cartoon into a full-value detailed charcoal drawing.  Use a very fine brush and keep some water handy.  It’s very difficult to remove dried India ink, and it dries very quickly.  Or, if you prefer, you can use the greyscale prefilled Faber-Castell Pitt brand India ink brush pens.

For example, in the charcoal drawing above, I have inked the entire background, the edge of the upper eyelid, the edge of the iris, the deepest recesses of the nose hole, the crease of the eyelid, and the pupils of the eye.  Ink only the areas that are either black, or value 1.

Regarding the pupils, always make sure that the one farthest from the viewer is slightly lighter than the closest one.  Even though the naked eye cannot really see this difference, you must nevertheless paint with aerial perspective rules in mind, whether it’s visible in the photo or not.  Aerial perspective rules say that dark-valued objects become lighter and grayer in recession.  Thus, the pupil farthest from the viewer will be ever-so-slightly lighter.  The converse rule is that light-valued objects appear darker and grayer in recession.  Keep these rules in mind with any painting because you cannot trust what you see in the photograph.

Some other areas to consider inking are the center edge of the lower lip, where the lower lid touches the iris, and the very thin line between the lips.

When inking, refer to the grayscale printout of the Old Master artwork you are duplicating.  Ask yourself, “Where are the black areas located on this painting?”  As you identify them, no matter how small, that’s where you put ink.  Ink everything that is receiving no light.  Forget what object you are painting and just look for values, remembering to refer to the photo and not your acetate sketch.

Remember that any mistakes made with the ink must be ameliorated–you cannot just cover them with paint.  Why?  Because over time, oil paint becomes translucent and your mistakes will begin to show through.  The Italians call this “pentimenti,” meaning “the emergence of earlier mistakes that have been painted over.”  Take a look at Velázquez’s horse that now has five legs.


Here are additional steps in the process:






This is the completed verdaccio underpainting, ready for color:


All the best,


P. S.  Just a note to let you know of an upcoming workshop

Hello, readers. The Arizona Renaissance Art Guild is hosting a one-week workshop with Maestro Frank Covino, art teacher extraordinaire. If you will be in the Phoenix area on April 6-10, 2015, we would like to invite you to attend and make some new painting friends.  The cost for the week is $695.  Respond to this post if you are interested.  We still have two spaces available.