Sgraffito Technique – Series Part 1

This is the first part of a series of Sgraffito paintings that I did for the art academy. The term Sgraffito is usually associated with wall decor and ceramic surfaces and comes from the Italian word graffiare (“to scratch”) and is related to the Greek term γράφειν (gráphein) “to write”.

The Sgraffito painting technique as taught by Prof. Hannes Baier uses the same principles, but on paper. First you apply a generous amount of oil pastels in various colors on paper. Then you increase the wax content by scrubbing the whole surface with a white candle (tea light) and then with old-style colorless shoe polish. This shoe polish needs to be without any additives. I use Erdal Classic. Before you apply the shoe polish, you prepare a mixture of a dark acrylic paint with a little water. That’s the trickiest part to get the right consistence. Immediately after applying the shoe polish (before it dries), you pour the liquid on the whole surface and distribute it evenly with very few brush strokes. Then you let it dry. Once it is dry, you can scratch off parts of the acrylic layer to produce the painting, making visible the lower layer of colors.


Both are based on sketches that I made during a previous course. One main difference is, that the second one has random colors in the background, while for the first one I have planned the background colors according to the final painting. Both approaches are possible and have their pro and cons as you can see.


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