My Investigation into Megilp

Megilp medium on my palette

Artists, especially oil painters, love to talk shop.

Nothing is perhaps more controversial as the discussion of the ‘proper’ medium.  It is often seen as the ‘secret’ ingredient’ in achieving the quality of the Old Masters.  A good painter needs quality materials to express himself/herself properly.  However, no medium is an elixir for creating a good painting.

The purpose of any oil painting medium is to adjust the handling properties of the paints to achieve specific effects.  It is an important element that works in unison with the proper paints, ground, brushes, environment, etc.  The alteration of one of these ingredients can negate the beneficial properties of the others.  Only through experience and experimentation does a properly skilled painter arrive at a satisfactory result.

Most research into oil painting mediums, past and present, is focused on recreating the recipes used by the Old Masters of the 17th century.  Their common denominator is that they are of a oleoresinous nature, meaning that they consist of a drying oil and a resin varnish.  The genesis of this idea is found in the DeMayrne manuscript and is being confirmed with recent restoration documents.

I have studied and experimented in depth with Megilp.  There are lots of different methods of preparing the oils and varnishes.  Over the last 10 years I have tried many different recipes that I discovered in different written sources from the 17th century and after.  In the end I found that properly cleaned cold pressed oil and a limited cooking with litharge produced the best drying oil.  The best varnish should also be aged at least 6 months.  The resulting medium is a blond gel.  This is fundamentally different in philosophy than Maroger with its ‘black oil.’

As a medium, the version of Megilp that I have come up with functions quite well.  Adapted for portraiture, it has good handling properties.  It stays workable for several hours before setting up(perfect for those working from life).  It dries completely overnight(with the proper pigments and ground).  Certain painters are enamored with the fact that it is a ‘thixotropic’ gel.  That aspect is certainly ‘cool’ but has little relevance with practicalities of good oil painting.  Good impastos are not achieved with gel mediums.  One disadvantage of this megilp is that it has limited fusion window for blurring(as opposed to a medium with a balsam).

Here are images of paintings that I did with my version of the Megilp about 15 years ago.  They were both painted on lead primed linen that I prepared myself and a hand ground limited palette of historical pigments.  Neither picture has been varnished.   The Study of Florence was painted in 4-6 sittings.  She has been constantly displayed(exposed to light) and never removed from the stretchers.

Study of Florence, oil on linen, 40cm x 50cm
Study of Florence, oil on linen, 40cm x 50cm

My Self Portrait study was painted in a couple of sessions(never completed) and subsequently removed from the stretchers and rolled.  Once a year I unroll the painting to check its condition.  As you can see the darks have sunk in but there is no yellowing or cracking in the picture film.

Non finished self portrait study, oil on linen, 40cm x 50xm
Non finished self portrait study, oil on linen, 40cm x 50xm


Fresco Painting Courses in Florence


Self Portrait of Giovanni di San Giovanni, fresco painting on support, Uffizi Gallery, Florence.


I will be organizing ongoing fresco painting courses and private lessons in Florence, Italy.  Students will learn about one of the most durable mediums for painting: fresco.  The full process will be explored including: the preparation of the support, colors and cartoon. Taking advantage of the unique abundance of fresco painting in Florence, site visits to various chapels, churches and museums will enlighten the student to the aesthetic possibilities offered by this wonderful medium.

Please email me for more information or fill out the contact form below:


Work Available at Michael LaConte Gallery

Three Goddesses, oil on linen, 40cm x 60cm

I have a variety of works available at the Michael LaConte Gallery via 1st Dibs.  There are drawings, paintings and sculptures.  Please follow the link here to see more.  Both above and below are a selection of the pieces.

Boreas, oil on linen, 70cm x 110cm
Lisanthus and Holly, oil on linen, 40cm x 60cm


Merry Christmas!

xmass 2017

I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

Here are some images from a life size nativity scene that I created for the church of Sant’ Ambrogio from awhile back.  The post about that wonderful project can be found here.

1 presepe
Front view of Sant’ Ambrogio presepe
2 presepe
Side view of presepe
4 presepe copy
Detail of the Madonna

Observed Anatomy

anatomy overlay drawing
Figure study, graphite on paper, 50cm x 70cm

Several times a year, I have the pleasure to teach figure drawing and artistic anatomy to the beginning and intermediate students at Charles Cecil Studios in Florence, Italy.

A competent knowledge of human anatomy is fundamental for successfully incorporating the figure into one’s work.  My personal approach to teaching this is simultaneously develop observation skills while familiarize the to student with underlying structure through the creation of graphic overlays.

The class begins with a drawing is created over a series of sessions from a model.  Once the drawings are at a certain level overlays of the skeleton and muscle groups are created.  In addition to the model, a skeleton and Paul Richer’s Artistic Anatomy aid the  student in the development of work.

The images above and below are the examples I created during the class.


anatomy overlay skeleton
Overlay of the skeleton, graphite on tracing paper, 50cm x 70cm


anatomy overlay muscles
Overlay of the major muscle groups, colored pencil and chalk on tracing paper, 50cm x 70cm 




New Works Available at Michael LaConte Gallery

Three Goddesses, oil on linen, 40cm x 60cm

I have some new works available at the Michael LaConte Gallery in Chicago.  They include a couple of still life paintings and plein air landscape sketches.  To learn more follow the link here.

sunset over sapri
Sunset over Sapri, oil on linen mounted on board, 20cm x 30cm



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