Here is the second page of information (referred to in yesterday’s post) that I provide to patrons so they can become more acquainted with the process that goes into creating their classical-style painting. Its title is “On The Process and Materials Used in Your Painting” and here is the link and the text:


I hope you find it helpful.

On The Process and Materials

Used in Your Painting


This painting was created with the finest professional materials,

following the procedures of the Old Masters of the Renaissance. 

The process begins with a carefully selected piece of marine-grade

plywood from fine-grained hardwood or masonite.  The Old Masters

would have used this if it had been available since it does not split

or crack like wood panel, and is highly resistant to warping.


Six to ten coats of Renaissance Bonded Marble are applied to create

a highly reflective white surface.  The ground needs to be as white as

possible because the oil binding in the paint becomes more

translucent with age, thus more light from the white ground is

refracted through it.  This is why the Old Master paintings seem to

have so much depth and luminosity.


Preparatory sketches are used to make a complete, highly-detailed

charcoal drawing directly onto the surface.


Following that, a precise underpainting is executed in verdaccio,

azuraccio, grisaille, or bistre, depending upon the subject.


The medium used is made from these ingredients:

a.  the finest purified, cold-pressed, clear golden linseed oil;

b.  stand oil, used extensively by the Old Masters;

c.  triple-rectified turpentine, the most important of the painter’s

essential oils;

d.  and, dammar varnish is included in the medium, as well as

being the final protective (and removable) coat.


I believe it is the professional painter’s responsibility to warrant

their patron’s trust by ensuring that their purchase will endure the

ages.  I use as few mass-market art materials as possible.  I make

my own dammar varnish and stand oil and trust two or three cottage

colormen for mulling and preparing my tubes of oil paint, thereby allowing

me more personal control over the quality of pigment and grinding oils used.

~~Marsha Rhodes Gilliam

© Marsha Gilliam 2005


When I sell a painting, I always make sure to teach people how to care for it.  I can’t expect them to already know this; they appreciate fine art but generally don’t create it themselves.  So here are the instructions I provide with the painting to make it easier for buyers, AND to assure that my “progeny” going out into the world will stand a chance of surviving a few hundred years.

I also include a synopsis of the process I used to create it, which will probably be of more value to a later restorer than the owner, but it does let them know all the pains I went through to provide them with a top-quality product.  I’ll post my synopsis of “Process and Materials Used” tomorrow but, in the meantime, here is Part 1,  the care instructions:

Painting-Caring for Your Classical Oil Painting

  Caring for Your Classical Oil Painting

1.  Apply Vaseline on the inside front edge of the frame
where the painting will touch.  This prevents the painting
surface from damage by sticking to the frame.

2.  Avoid extremes of temperature for long periods.  In an
ideal world such as a museum, paintings are maintained
at 68-72 degrees with 40-55 percent humidity.

3.  Do not hang your painting on an uninsulated outer wall, or
where sunlight will hit and cause it to fade, or where heavy
smoke from cigarettes or a wood fireplace will discolor it.

4.  Every two months, examine the lighter colors to see if
they are losing their sheen.  It is important that I re-glaze
these colors in preparation for the final varnish.  When this
process ceases and the painting fully cures (about 6-12 months
in Arizona), I will apply a final coat of protective varnish.  Once
dry, it is safe to lightly and very occasionally clean off the
surface dust with a damp, lint-free cloth (water only).

5.  Hang the painting so that it tilts slightly forward at the top.
This helps keep dust off and cuts down on reflected light.

6.  When lighting the painting, triangulated track lights are
ideal.  Given the bonded marble texture, this provides even
light from both sides and minimizes cast shadows and
reflections on the museum finish.


well, almost.  I just found out about it so we have decided to visit the Getty Center as well, on our way to the deYoung in San Francisco.  Here are some of the details:

Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (ca. 1663-64), on loan from Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, is being exhibited at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, daily through March 31, 2013.  It will then go back to its home for the grand reopening of the Rijksmuseum on April 13, 2013, after extensive renovation.

From the Getty Museum site:

“Woman in Blue Reading a Letter represents one of Vermeer’s most enigmatic depictions of a new theme in Dutch genre painting (subjects from everyday life): well-to-do women in domestic settings, often so preoccupied that they are oblivious to the viewer’s gaze. This special installation highlights the variety of artistic contributions to the popular theme of the intimate interior in the 1660s to complement Vermeer’s quiet, harmonious reader. Gerard ter Borch’s Music Lesson, Jan Steen’s Drawing Lesson, Pieter de Hooch’s Woman Preparing Bread and Butter for a Boy, and Frans van Mieris’s The Doctor’s Visit from the Getty Museum’s collection, as well as Gabriel Metsu’s An Elegant Lady Writing at Her Desk with a Dog beside Her (on loan from a private collection in New York) share refined brushwork and dazzling illusionism in the rendering of highly-constructed private spaces.”

In addition, they are exhibiting a pair of large Franz Hals‘ paintings which will also go back to Amsterdam on March 31st.

Lucas de Clercq by Frans Hals (ca. 1635)


Feyna van Steenkiste by Frans Hals (ca. 1635)


Here is more info from the Getty:

“About the Sitters–Lucas de Clercq (about 1603–1652) was a wealthy Haarlem merchant who dealt in potash (an alkaline material used in bleaching), bleached linens, and linen yarn.  Lucas married Feyna van Steenkiste (1603/4–1640), whose family was also involved in Haarlem’s linen and bleaching enterprises, in 1626.  Lucas de Clercq and his wife were prominent members of the extensive Mennonite community in Haarlem, most of whom were involved in the city’s textile industries. Proponents of non-resistance, Mennonites strove to follow the example of the apostles and to live a modest life. Both Lucas and Feyna are dressed modestly in sober black garments that do not ostentatiously display their wealth and social standing.”

Apparently, these paintings have never been in the Western United States until now, and who knows when they will return.

The “Dutch Mona Lisa,” Girl with a Pearl Earring, is now showing at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, along with 35 other works by the Dutch Masters! Next, it moves to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and last on the three-museum tour will be the Frick Collection in New York. The show will only make these three stops in the U.S. so, for many of us, this may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see this.

The Mauritshuis is renovating and expanding, so they are sending some of their best paintings on tour. The last time (1995) Girl with a Pearl Earring was in the U.S. was at the National Gallery in Washington, where lines to see it circled the block; the time before that was in 1984 at the Met in New York City.

Paintings in the exhibit include:

Goldfinch, Fabritius, 1654
“Tronie” of a Man with a Feathered Beret, Rembrandt, ca. 1635
Tronie’ of a Man with a Feathered Beret rembrandt
The Way You Hear It, Is The Way You Sing It, Steen, ca. 1665
The Way You Hear it is the Way You Sing it by Jan Steen
Girl with a Pearl Earring, Vermeer, ca. 1665
Girl with a Pearl Earring Vermeer
View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds, van Ruisdael, 1670–1675
View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds van Ruisdael

Girl with a Pearl Earring was last restored in 1994 and at that time, restorers discovered that Vermeer used organic pigments, indigo and weld, in the background. Thus, he intended it to be a deep green color accomplished with glazes, but these glazes have faded over time.

Interestingly, more recent Vermeer research points to the image being a “tronie,” or “face,” a term for figures not intended to be identifiable (like a genre painting). Tronies are often in elaborate or exotic costumes and the portrait, whether done using a sitter or not, would be sold without identifying the model.

My husband and I will be going to the show in San Francisco in late March, at which time I will probably discover that I need to come back home and put some green glazes over the background of my Girl with a Pearl Earring (see post, Feb. 23, 2013). Thank goodness for art books, but there is nothing like seeing the real paintings hanging on the wall.

For more information:
de Young Museum, San Francisco
Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis
January 26, 2013 – June 2, 2013
High Museum of Art, Atlanta
Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis
June 22, 2013 – September 29, 2013
The Frick Collection, New York City
An abbreviated show of 10 paintings, including Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius, and As the Old Sing, So Twitter the Young and Girl Eating Oysters by Jan Steen.


As promised in yesterday’s “comments,” here is my copy of Vermeer‘s Girl with a Pearl Earring. In future, I will take you through my process–a quite involved one, but it speaks for itself. It is not for everyone’s temperament, and does require much patience. Certainly it isn’t the only method I use, but it does produce good paintings; and of course, there are all the planning, sketches, and design preliminaries one goes through. More on this later, as I bring it together for you in a logical and, what I hope will be, an easy to understand method.


Girl with a Pearl Earring after Vermeer, by Marsha Rhodes Gilliam


and I am the farthest thing from a miniaturist.  This is the first post of my new blog and here I am talking more about radio than painting.  My husband is an NPR radio engineer and Ham Radio operator, and he just gave me a teeny, thin quartz crystal from a damaged oscillator unit.  He said, “Can you use this for anything with your artwork?”
I looked at the 3/4″ x 3/4″ piece of lovely translucence and imagined a very small portrait with an led edge-lit display and an ornate magnifying glass on a goosneck.  It could be attached to the side of a larger matted frame (6″ x 6″?) for viewing the painting (Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to see it very well with the naked eye!).
Normally, I do life-size classical realism so this art tributary would be a diametric departure for me.  Do I have brushes tiny enough?  I would need a magnifier of my own just to create something this small. Strange how the painting muse strikes.  What do you think?
Anyway, this new blog of mine will be an amalgam of art techniques, step-by-step processes, conversation we share together, books, and art “flotsam and jetsam,” that colloquial reference to miscellanea.  I welcome your conversation and hope you will share your wisdom and discoveries.

Marsha Rhodes Gilliam