A rose by any other name: “mische technique” or “mixed method”?

March 10, 2010

Recently, I surfed around to see if I could find information relating to a painting process I use which I’ve always called “the mixed technique” or “the mixed method”. I didn’t find much info (in English) using that term, but got a lot more results when I used the term “mische technique”. Although “a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”, I can see that people who want to inform themselves about this particular process of indirect painting could very well find themselves confused (which I have been), not only about the name, but more importantly about its properties. So I thought I’d try to post what I know. Maybe others will be drawn to share their knowledge?

Thus, there appears to be a very specific application of indirect painting currently called the “mische technique” or even the “mischtechnik” (from Wikipedia). It’s described as an attempt to reconstruct the methods of the early Flemish masters by using “egg tempera to build up volume which is then glazed over with oil paints mixed with resin to produce a jewel-like effect”. The contemporary painters Ernst Fuchs, his student Brigid Marlin and the Society of Art of Imagination seem to me to be the most active exponents of this particular method. Although I’m not sure that the Flemish masters used Red, Yellow and Blue for their imprimatura-undercoats (as it is described on a Brigid’s website) nevertheless, their “mische technique” process appears to be highly effective for luminous, surrealistic Dali-esque imagery. If you are drawn to both this kind of subject matter and this manner of execution, I suggest you check out their links.

Yet the super realism of the “mische technique” – as it is presented on the web – is not really my thing. I tend to be drawn to softly abstracted, beautifully modulated, luminous landscape. Think: George Inness.

George Inness

Near the village, October by George Inness

Think: Tonalism and Luminism. Thus I am deeply drawn to a method of indirect painting which takes advantage of building up an image through multiple layers of paint, allowing for transcendent effects of both light and color. And I use something I call the “mixed method” or “mixed technique” to achieve that.

The process I know, which was taught by Nicholas Wacker at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris during the nineteen sixties and seventies, is also called “the mixed technique” or “mixed method” . It, too, is touted as a reconstruction of the methods of the old masters, although I tend to think its application extends far beyond the precise realism of the Flemish school and the modern surrealists of the “mische technique”. The main aspect of this method is the mixing of an emulsion of water and oil which allows for lean, siccative image development through multiple layers of paint: the essence of an indirect technique. It also allows for soft sensuous blending (without contamination) of adjacent color areas (really luscious wet on wet effects). It demands a well considered composition with interesting value development so that you have a good idea of where you intend to go. Nevertheless, many surprising chromatic events occur during the act of painting, making each “alla prima” session an exciting, challenging process of discovery.

So is the “mixed technique” fundamentally different than the “mische technique”? No, not really, but instead of egg yolk, alcasit (a methyl cellulose glue) is used to emulsify the painting emulsion – thus there is a longer shelf life. Additionally, high quality, lean, tube oil colors can be used and mixed with the painting emulsion. This has the effect of enhancing the flow and siccative qualities of the tube paint, without forcing the laborious work of grinding each pigment into emulsion in order to create paint. The side effect of that being an extended range of quickly available colors along with the acknowledged down side of a probable reduction in the number of layers of paint that are finally possible. Thus, the rule of fat over lean always applies, yet its law can be greatly extended.

The bottom line: the term “mixed” or “mische” refers to the mixing or extending of a water based medium like that of egg tempera into the region of oils – and vice versa – that is, limiting the oily quality of an oil paint through applying resins and emulsion so that it, too, can more easily interact and receive the benefits of the leaner application of a water based paint, like that of egg tempera.

the Disadvantages/Requirements

  • long learning curve
  • patience
  • vision

the Advantages:

  • luminosity
  • surprising “in the moment” color effects
  • seductive tactile blending

If there is someone reading this who has more information or experience than I on this subject, please consider yourself more than welcome to comment or correct mine. Thanks…

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7 Responses to “A rose by any other name: “mische technique” or “mixed method”?”

  1. Lisa McShane Says:

    Hello –
    I’m just working on a blog post of my own on indirect painting and found yours. This is wonderful! I too am in love with glazing. Hopelessly so, and fascinated by the visual effects of the light moving through all those translucent layers.

    Anyway, thanks for all the great information here!

    Lisa


  2. Hi Lisa,
    I’m glad you found the info useful. I enjoyed looking at your landscapes.
    Ellen

  3. mary jo Says:

    i noticed the posts here are a little older and i hope you check in. i read and re-read your information and i am very interested in learning this technique. can you provide any hints and/or tips for me as i begin on my journey? iwould appreciate any help. thanks!!!

  4. Prof Phil Says:

    A student and old friend of Ernst Fuchs since 1973, I teach Mische Technique all over the world, Please go to our website for a schedule and description of upcoming seminars and retreats,
    http://eyepaint4u.wix.com/omnv-seminar-events
    thanks
    Prof Philip Rubinov Jacobson
    * and no, none of the old masters used yellow, red and blue ground layers….


  5. INTERNATIONAL SCHEDULE OF MISCH OR ‘MIXED TECHNIQUE’ SEMINARS:

    http://www.mischtechnikseminars.com/


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