Friday, 29 January 2010


I have been painting a lot this month. At the moment I am experimenting with underpainting. I frequently paint directly onto a white canvas but applying a wash of colour mixed with turpuntine can have a great impact on how the painting develops. In this painting of my old friends Sandy and Rebecca I painted the canvas with a wash of burnt sienna. It had to be transparent so as not to obscure the pencil drawing I had done underneath (when painting people I almost always carefully draw an outline in pencil first, it can save a lot of time later when you are trying to obtain a likeness). I mixed the burnt sienna with turps and used a rag to wipe back the paint when the pencil underdrawing was not clearly visible. I had previously fixed the pencil underdrawing with cheap hairspray, this stops the graphite from muddying the underpainting, I am surprised the turpuntine doesn't dissove the hairspray, but it seems to work fine.

Other colours can be used as a wash, I read recently about an artist who does wonderful portraits first covering the canvas with a mixture of flesh tone and grey. As you can see from the painting of Sandy and Rebecca, the underpainting enabled me to leave spaces between subsequent blocks of colour, saving me time and also unifying the colours in the painting. If you look closely you will notice that Sandy's shirt, hand and pint glass are captured very simply. I actually got a bit bored at this point and decided that if I put too much detail in the hand it might detract from his face...excuses, excuses. Even Sandy's face reveals a lot of the underpainting showing through.

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