Thursday, August 21, 2014


Sometimes, when my more realistic approach to painting a subject fails, I resort to a technique that involves an abstract under painting.  Using a dominant color gives the painting unity before you paint the subject matter on top of it.  I often use a complementary color near the focal point.  The edges can be hard or soft in the under-painting.  I tend to use soft edges. 

After two tries painting this scene realistically, I had two pea green messes.  So in frustration, I turned the paper over and wet the entire page and then flooded it with violet shapes, adding yellow near the focal area.  When this was dry, I added the darker shapes of the subject matter on top of the under-painting, ignoring the background.  I used basically the same two colors in the overpainting that I had in the abstract first wash.

Robert Wood was a master of this technique.  His book has a whole chapter on this approach.  Practice this idea many times, and eventually you'll get the hang of it.  It's a liberating way to approach your subject, and will help you avoid the trap of painting the literal truth of a subject but missing the vitality and liveliness of its hidden truth.

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