Galería José Vargas, Meet the Artist
Original Fine Art ~ Reproductions ~ Commissioned Works of Art

The GREAT MASTERPIECES REPLICA COURSE is offered in Costa Rica, United States and Europe and is available in a seminar, workshop series classes and private individual training.

 Presented by José Vargas

In this course you will partake in the Great Masters’ techniques, enjoy a guided visit to a museum, a special exhibition or artist workshop and immerse yourself into a dynamic, relaxing and joyful experience.  Our main goal will be to recapture the essence of Renaissance and Baroque styles by means of the classical oil media paint. In the pursuit of this goal, you will have the opportunity to study a great master’s vision of his time in order to get the best inspiration from the masterpiece of your choice.  With this course, you will become an activist of the well-done painting and a faithful devotee of the Golden Art Era.

Albrecht Durer
Replica of Albrecht Dürer, Self Portrait 1500 CE, by Jose Vargas 


"The main thing is to start"


1. Stop looking at modern art and stop loving it. Modern bright colors and hue contrasts destroy the subtle vision of the artist who wants to study classical painting in our time.

2. Many painters get an energy charge from music. Quit listening to any modern music and begin listening to classical music.

3. Always read good art books. But, overall, try visiting the museums, so that, you will capture an overview of the time when you search for the masterpiece of your inspiration. Take as many notes and documents as necessary.

4. Brushes. You should have many brushes so that you will not lose time washing them while working. Take a new brush for every new mix. Use red sable or highest quality synthetic round and flat brushes, #1 to #10. To cover larger surfaces, you will need a few #20 to #35 brushes. For final strokes (final blending) you will need a few very soft round and flat average size brushes. Brushes should be treated very carefully. After every session, they have to be washed in turpentine and after that in warm water and soap, or better yet, with shampoo.

5. The palette must be made of hard wood or acrylic. After work wash the palette with turpentine and scrape it with a palette knife. Before work wipe the palette with linseed oil.

6. The canvas, cardboard or wood panel should be primed several times and, at the end, it should be perfectly smoothed with fine sandpaper (#120 preferable) to remove the canvas texture till smooth surface similar to the eggshell surface is achieved.



1. The drawing is made on paper life-size to the smallest details. Then it is transferred to the canvas by carbon paper. After that, the drawing is outlined with brown ink because the first oil layer - IMPRIMATURA (transparent coat that is equal to the middle tone of largest, lightest object in painting) - will fade out the pencil, but the ink will remain visible almost through the last layers.

2. Before each new layer the canvas (ideally dried during 7 weeks, some drops of cobalt drier added directly to the medium will speed the process) is carefully wiped with a piece of cloth with mineral spirits or turpentine(in order to prepare the dry surface to absorb better) and then with a piece of cloth damped with linseed oil.

3. The lacquer for IMPRIMATURA is made of 50% of Damar Varnish and 50% of turpentine. The lacquer for painting is made 5-10% of dry resin and 90-95 % of turpentine. A couple of lavender oil drops are added directly to the oil can. Scientists say lavender oil stimulates the brain. However, old masters added it to eliminate the heavy turpentine smell. The lacquer for the final step consists of 30% of DAMAR CRYSTALS, 3% of linseed oil, and 67% of turpentine.

4.  The basic set of colors is the following: Titanium White, Naples Yellow, Yellow Ochre Light, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Ivory or Lamp Black (7 Basic Colors), and 4 extra colors (when necessary) which you will use in the last layers: Cadmium Yellow Deep, Rose Madder Deep or Alizarin, Vermilion or Cadmium Red Medium, Prussian Blue. But, be careful to use these last 4 colors very sparingly.

5. IMPRIMATURA or the first paint layer. The canvas is covered with a mixture based on Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Naples Yellow, Yellow Ochre Light and Ivory Black (the mixture should have an olive hue).

6. The shadow (the process of creating intermediate layers) is made with Raw and Burnt Umber In this layer all details are made excluding the texture.

7. The Dead Layer - the third- is made with white lead, light ochre, Raw Sienna, and Black. The aim of this is penumbra. The picture must look as if its objects were lit with moonlight - olive cold gray color.

8. The last layer: details of textures, thickly applied highlights, bright reflections, and signature. In this layer you may use additional colors: Prussian blue, vermilion, cadmium yellow deep, Rose Madder deep or alizarin.

Observation is a very (if not the most) important aspect in learning the classical oil style. To master the technique, I strongly recommend  observing a master painting for long periods of time. In the contemporary system of teaching, the student sits down right off with some brushes and a palette of paint, and starts smearing it on the canvas, while the instructor looks on and makes comments or suggestions now and then. It is, therefore, very important, for those wishing to pursue classical technique seriously to observe the masters’ performance very carefully.

The statement that the composition doesn't need scientific and methodic explanation is more than strange 
because usually the composition, of any kind of figurative art, (including oil painting) is thought of beforehand. 
The basic rules of studying drawing and painting are very closely connected with the laws of the discipline.

A. Deineka

all images © 1995-2012 by Jose Vargas
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