Sunday, July 3, 2011

How to make a painting -Step 2 Blocking In Underpainting

Ability Level -Beginner

Once you have decided on your composition, or if working from a photo, and have made a tonal drawing, and a colour scheme drawing  if you wish, the next step is starting your painting. (See How to make a painting -Step 1 Tonal Drawing).

I always re-gesso my canvases even though the pre-stretched premade ones already have 2-3 coats. For me it helps me get in the frame of mind. Plus I feel it is nicer to have a fresher grip. 

Gesso is a white undercoat base paint primer with a chalky texture to give better grip to the paint. Apply 2-3 coats and if you want a smooth finish sand in between layers. Apply with a brush or roller, again depending on the desired effect.

Next, draw in your composition outline. I use charcoal or pastel pencil, as using graphite pencil can come through thin layers of paint and is harder to rub out.

Outline drawing of composition on canvas board using a light blue pastel pencil. First stage of blocking in underpainting

Blocking in the underpainting in greyscale (variations of black and white paint using shades of grey to make your tonal scale). You may also choose to do a tonal underpainting using a single colour (monochromatic) either similar to the overall tone of your paint or the opposite or complementry colour to add a different effect. By using greyscale or a colour, this helps you get the tones correct before applying paint. If you jump in and use colour straight away, you may find yourself repainting over areas again and again because you just can't get the colour right. Especially as you continue to paint, because as you paint in more areas of colour, it affects the colour next to it.

This underpainting I choose to use a red underpainting to contrast with the overall green focus being the pears. I added black to the red to create my darkest darks and white to the red to create my lightest lights. I used clear painting medium to help dilute and spread the light colour.

If you start by applying your darkest darks first, this establishes the value range and I think makes it easier to go backwards in value. Or you may wish to start at mid value range and go either side.

Now is the time to check your values as close to correct. Use the greyscale chart from Step 1 to assess if your close. I do this before I put the paint on the canvas. 

Next is blocking in the underpainting using a mid tone range of the colour for that area.

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