I have been studying and reading quite a bit about Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, or as he is more simply known: Caravaggio.
I wanted to learn about his painting techniques in particular. I have heard many rumors about this; he never made a preparatory drawing; he worked directly on the canvas; he used mirrors or camera obscura. whatever. no one will know. He has been dead for 411 years. my job is too try and learn how he did it in paint.
I was able to deduce his palette: mostly earth tones (they were the most available) like yellow ochre, raw and burnt sienna, ivory black and lead white (but I use titanium). He also used intense reds too.
Supposedly he toned his canvas with a mid-deep pigment. I chose burnt sienna. one coat. This was painted on linen too (my first time using it- I didn't stretch it as tight as I could have...) a very smooth surface.*
The secret: tie for first: excellent drawing skills and superb composition. Then: hit your whites first and build your glazes off this. let the canvas color (burnt sienna in my case) fill in your midtones for you and then layer in the shadows slowly and let the canvas color come through. When you have areas settled (you are sure of the placements) hit the darks and lights again and define your volumes.
After I was working this up for a bit, I was thinking about the narrative I was creating, and it seemed like the 'wise men' in my canvas were oblivious to the dominant Jesus above them. He also looks a bit distraught in my version. I started to think what it would be like if he were incarcerated in a modern prison, and given a tattoo. I decided on a solid black cross. only fitting. It made him look more human and less like a super man. also more a bit more bad ass and a little like a thug. I REALLY like this idea of adding tattoos and will explore it further. I am thinking about giving him a few more- need to do some research on symbols...
I will go back into this and glaze it more. I want to give it a more "jeweled" tone that can only be achieved through glazing.