Friday, September 12, 2014

Underpainting To Create Unity

I first learned about the power of underpainting by studying the work of Robert E. Wood.  Painting an abstract first wash can unify the painting by providing a table upon which to place your subject matter.

The underpainting can either be hard-edged, achieved by painting on dry paper, or soft edged by painting on a pre-wetted page.  The underlying shapes can be predominantly vertical, horizontal or oblique.  A color dominance can also be established.  If a warm underpainting is chosen, putting a secondary wash of cools over it, especially near the focal point, will draw the eye by contrast. 

In this painting of a wharf, I chose a first wet-in-wet wash consisting primarily of turquoise and violet.  After this was dry, I repeated those colors in the second wash, but added some warms in the upper part of the main building, on the hull of the lobster boat and in the barrel on the dock.  I tried to keep the shapes large until the very last details were added at the end.

This technique is not as easy as it first sounds.  But limit the number of colors while you create the abstract pattern in the underpainting, and you will have a better chance of success.

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