sFumato is a term made famous by Leonardo. It’s derived from the Italian word “Fumo” meaning smoke. Leonardo was the first of the Renaissance artists to use this technique. It was a way of “erasing” hard lines in a painting.
We’re not here to discuss Leonardo’s painting technique, though. We’re here to talk about real smoke.
The definition of smoke is the same no matter the source.
“A visible suspension of carbon or other particles in air, typically one emitted from a burning substance.”
The key words are “particles in air.”
We’ve mentioned “aerial perspective” before.
Aerial perspective was another of Leonardo’s “inventions.” What causes aerial perspective?
“…scattering of light … into the line of sight of the viewer. Scattering occurs from molecules of the air and also from larger particles in the atmosphere.”
There’s that word “particles” again.
We’re not here to discuss this technique in painting either.
Our point is particles in paint dull your paintings.
“What particles are you talking about,” you say?
The particles in your paint are not pigment. The particles we’re talking about are the particles in your oil.
Remember when you were a kid and the teacher handed out those little bottles of glue. Remember the color of the contents of that bottle? Yellowy, wasn’t it? (We’ll return to that in a minute.)
That bottle of glue contained the same “stuff” that’s in your oil paint. Particles suspended in the oil are like particles suspended in smoke.
That means that every single tube of oil paint contains these particles in it. It doesn’t matter what oil is in your paint; there are particles floating in it that you do not want.
So what’s the big deal?
Over time, the oil particles will multiply darkening the color. Your paintings will begin to darken. (We wrote an article about this effect of oil.)
It’s tough to see the oil in a tube of paint unless some of it seeps out from the top. If it does, you’ll see the color of the oil right away. If the tube has been sitting on your shelf for a while, you’ll see more color.
If you capture that oil and let it dry, you’ll see it turn more yellow and darken over time.
The easy way to see these particles in oil is to look at bottles of medium in an art supply store. You’ll see the color right away.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking the pale color is O.K. Pale color becomes dark color over time.
Now, compare that bottle of medium to ours.
What do you see?
That’s what you’re supposed to see.
Our oil is crystal clear. The only thing you see in our oil is whatever is on the other side — your painting!