Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Value of Underpaintings



Reference photos & acrylic underpaintings. Two in black and white, one in color.


First let me start by saying that these comments are my interpretation of a painting process that I have successfully used for many years. Each artist should experiment with different methods and choose for themselves. Although this is written with landscape painting in mind, the ideas also pertain to still-life painting.

I have found that there are four basic problems common to every painting – composition, shapes, values and color.

By laying in an underpainting in tones of black and white you are solving the first three problems - composition, shapes and values.

Composition and shapes go hand in hand. Ignoring details, I look for the general shapes, balance and variety. I move components, eliminate some and alter shapes all for the benefit of the composition. I try to make my shapes correct knowing that I can alter them a little, but not make major changes, when I am in the painting stage. This is not a color-book style of staying in the lines, but I need to know that my shapes and angles are reasonably correct.

Values. I keep in mind that with overhead light from the sky, the horizontal planes are the lightest, the angled planes a bit darker and the vertical planes the darkest. This changes if the source of light is low (sunset, sunrise). The lightest plane is always perpendicular to the source of light. Planes get darker as they angle away from the direct light. It is important to determine your light source and its direction then state the value of the planes accordingly. The light direction will also determine the placement of your cast shadows. Aerial perspective is a result of values decreasing as they recede into the distance.

After managing these three problems as correctly as possible, my underpainting is done.

Now I only have color to worry about. My foundation is complete. Color theory is a complex subject and we can talk about that at another time. I determine the color of my light and adhere to the rules of aerial perspective as I work to mix the colors in the values that I have predetermined in my underpainting.

Oil paints are not as substantial as you might think. Many of our oil paints are transparent, especially the dark colors. Covering a white canvas with transparent dark paint can be difficult unless you lay the colors in thickly and then you have the problem of working into thick, wet paint.

Having the gray values in place allows you to apply these transparent colors as a glaze, making this thin application of oils look rich and substantial. Then the lighter and more opaque colors can be easily applied over this thinner paint. 

Underpaintings can be done in shades of gray, using black and white, or in color with bits of the color allowed to show through the finished painting. You can also glaze your underpainting with a thin wash of oil paint if you desire a colored base.

Acrylic paint, if thinly applied, dries in about 5 minutes and you are ready to go. If you choose to do an underpainting in oils the drying time will be longer. I prefer to use an acrylic underpainting in my studio as it is odor-free. Painting outside, I use an oil and turp mixture for my underpainting. The mixture dries quickly in the sun and the vapors from the evaporating mixture aren't noticeable outside. In a studio setting the oil/turp vapors would be very annoying. And, yes, you can paint oil over acrylic if you keep the acrylic layer thin.
  
If I stay true to my underpainting I will have a better chance of a successful painting. I have, on occasion, strayed, and always came away disappointed with my results. Good painting takes lots of practice, concentration and discipline as well as knowledge. I find that breaking a painting down into logical steps makes the painting process easier. The phrases – “thick over thin” and “light over dark” bring to mind the importance of “working from the general to the specific”. Each stage should be as correct as possible before moving on. Oil paint looks richer if applied in two coats. Don’t move on to the second coat if the first one isn't correct. If you must correct an area, it's best to wipe it out and reapply the paint.

An underpainting helps to simplify the difficult process of painting. I hope you will try it for yourself.

I look forward to your comments and questions.

Thank you for visiting with me today.
Celene



Day #31, Jan. 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Final Collage

The 30/30 Challenge for January 2015 is over. Many thanks to artist, Leslie Saeta, for organizing this fun event. She suggested that our last post should be a collage of our month's work.



I was pleased to complete a painting for each day of the challenge.

These paintings are available on my Ebay page. I am easy to find - just type my name in the Ebay search box and all my available work will be shown.

Thank you for visiting.
Celene

Friday, January 30, 2015

Day #30, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Belted Galloways

 Day #30.  This is the last day of the 30/30 Challenge.  It has been a fun time but I am looking forward to painting at a more leisurely pace.
Belted Galloways, 8x10, oil

Reference photo and acrylic underpainting.
Tomorrow I am going to post about why I think underpaintings are important. I hope you will join me then. I look forward to any comments or questions.

This painting is available on my Ebay page.

Thank you for visiting my blog,
Celene

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Day #28, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Lake Onawa

Onawa, a beautiful and secluded Maine lake, located southeast of Greenville and Moosehead Lake in Elliotsville Plantation Township. Located at the end of a long woods road, this is a true piece of paradise.

Lake Onawa, 6x8, oil SOLD


My cropped reference photo and my acrylic underpainting.



Thank you for visiting my blog,
Celene

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Day #27, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge. The Old Camp

The Old Camp, 6x8, oil


Reference photo and acrylic underpainting.

For my underpainting, I added orange to my usual black and white acrylic.  A fun painting.


This painting is available on my Ebay page.

Thank you for visiting my blog,
Celene

Monday, January 26, 2015

Day #26, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Spring Garden

Our weatherman is predicting a blizzard for tonight with up to three feet of snow.  Let it come.  I'm thinking of spring!
Spring Garden, 6x8, oil

The reference photo and my acrylic underpainting.
I simplified the scene in my underpainting, but then simplified it even more in the finished painting. I wanted the pink bush to be the star attraction.


This painting is available on my Ebay page.

Thank you for visiting my blog,
Celene

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Day #25, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Waiting for Spring

My neighbor is an avid fisherman, eagerly awaiting the first day of fishing season.
 
Waiting for Spring, 6x8, oil

My reference photo and acrylic underpainting.


This painting is available on my Ebay page.

Thank you for visiting my blog,
Celene

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Day #24, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, One Man's Treasure


 Our friend, Gene, is a very clever man. These parts and pieces will be used to keep his farm equipment in good working order. He also built and operates his own sawmill on his farm. What may look like one man’s trash can often be “one man’s treasures”.
One Man's Treasures, 6x8, oil


The reference photo and acrylic underpainting.


This painting is available on my Ebay page.

Thank you for visiting my blog,
Celene

Friday, January 23, 2015

Day #23, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, At the Farmer's Market

I chose an early photo of the Farmer's Market in Belfast, Maine.  It is a complicated subject and working with a black and white acrylic underpainting helped me to simplify.



Again I begin in the focal area.

At the Farmer's Market, 6x8, oil



This painting is available on my Ebay page.

Thank you for visiting my blog,
Celene

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Day #22, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Wilson Stream

This is the last of the four canvases that I toned with an abstract acrylic underpainting.  Again I searched through my swipe file to find references pictures to fit the painting suggested by this underpainting.


Wilson Stream, 6x8, oil SOLD

My abstract underpainting

Again I began at the focal point.

 My next experiment will be the reverse of this one.  I will find the reference photo first and then tone the canvas accordingly.  Why bother with an underpainting?  These are my thoughts......


With the “Alla Prima” method of completing a painting in one session, having an underpainting makes the painting process easier. Many of our oil paints are transparent, especially the dark colors. Covering a white canvas with transparent dark paint can be difficult unless you lay the colors in thickly – then you have the problem of working into that thick, wet paint.

A dry underpainting allows you to apply these transparent colors as a glaze. Then the lighter and more opaque colors can be easily applied over this thinner paint. Remember the often heard phrases – “thick over thin” and “light over dark”.

Underpaintings can be done in color with bits of the color allowed to show through the finished painting – most effective if the underpainting is done with colors complimentary to the final painting. Or you can chose to work in shades of gray using black and white, or any combination of color/complement to produce a myriad of interesting grays.

The underpainting can be loosely done or more detailed, thick or thin, colors or grays, depending on your preferences. Acrylic paint, if thinly applied, dries in about 5 minutes and you are ready to go. If you choose to do an underpainting in oils the drying time will be longer. It’s your choice.

Additional thoughts –
The phrases – “thick over thin” and “light over dark” bring to mind the importance of “working from the general to the specific”. To try to work in stages toward the finished painting without working backwards. If you must correct an area, it's best to wipe it out and start again. This is a hard discipline that takes concentration and planning. The results will be a fresh, not overworked painting with clean colors – and a satisfied artist.

And, yes, you can paint oil over acrylic if you keep the acrylic thin.


Thank you for visiting my blog,
Celene

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Day #21, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Sarah's Farm

 Day #21
Sarah's Farm, 6x8, oil
Still working with my abstract underpaintings, I chose this one for today.  And again I searched my swipe file, finding a few images that I could use for inspiration. 

Initial underpainting

 I like to start at the focal point so I can be sure to keep that the strongest area of my painting.

Beginning at the focal point


This painting is available on my Ebay page.

More tomorrow. I hope you will visit my blog again.  Thank you.
Celene

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Day #20, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Evening Light

Again working with a canvas tinted in an abstract pattern, this was the painting I did today. I looked through my swipe file and found a few pictures that seemed to fit the pattern I saw. I put them together and I am happy with the results. Tomorrow I will try another one.
Evening Light, 6x8, oil SOLD

Abstract under tone.



Thank you for visiting my blog,
Celene

Monday, January 19, 2015

Day #19, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Peaceful Morning

This challenge is a good time for experimenting with color choices, techniques and paint application. Today I toned four canvas panels with an abstract pattern of orange, red and grey acrylic, keeping in mind the rules of aerial perspective. Then I chose one and studied the abstraction, trying to see a painting hidden there.





My choice for today

 As I studied the shapes I could see a coastal scene that reminded me of a cove in Bristol, Maine. I painted the scene from memory which isn't always a good idea. Tomorrow I will take another panel and try to match it to a photograph from my reference library. It may work well, and then again, who knows.  But it is fun and I am learning a lot.

Peaceful Morning, 6x8, oil SOLD



Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you will join me tomorrow for part two of this latest experiment. And you can subscribe to my blog and automatically receive my newest blog posts in your email by clicking on the link in the right hand column.

Celene

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Day #18, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Sunset Colors

This was painted from a photo from one of our trips to Cape Breton, Canada, a few years ago. We had driven to a remote area at the northern tip of Cape Breton called Meat Cove. It is a spectacular area of cliffs and crashing seas. The land is stark and the climate can be harsh. I bet it's cold and windy there tonight. I'd love to hear those waves crashing against the cliffs. Meat Cove is a very small village of maybe a dozen houses, no electricity and many miles from the nearest town - truly at the end of the world. And truly a paradise.

Sunset Colors, Cape Breton 5x7, oil SOLD



Thank you for visiting my blog,
Celene

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Day #17, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Piano Girl

I thought I would show you the progression of this painting.  
I started with a very thin underpainting in oils.

Underpainting
Then I applied a thin layer of opaque color. 
Step two

The finished painting. This painting was a bit too involved for the limited time that I had to paint today. I would like to try again and give it the time it deserves. This 30/30 Challenge is a great time to experiment with different techniques and color palettes but it does pose some time constraints because of the need to paint, photograph and post every day. It's a great discipline.

Piano Girl, 8x6, oil
This painting is available on my Ebay page.

Thank you for visiting,
Celene

Friday, January 16, 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Day #15, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Bubble Girl

While looking through my swipe book, I found this photo of my granddaughter taken a few years ago.  A fun subject to paint on a cold and dreary winter's day.


Bubble Girl, 6x8, oil



This painting is available on my Ebay page.

Thank you for visiting my blog,
Celene

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Day #14, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Got a Nibble

Because it was nine degrees below zero at my house this morning, I thought I would rush spring a little bit.

Got a Nibble, 8x6, oil


This painting is available on my ebay page.

Thanks for visiting,
Celene

Monday, January 12, 2015

Day #12, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Walking in the Rain

Another photo that makes me smile. The little girl was trying to step in all the puddles and the mother was hurrying her along. I took this photo one rainy afternoon from the doorway of our gallery in Belfast, Maine.
Walking in the Rain, 6x8, 1200


This painting is available on my ebay page.

Thanks for visiting,
Celene

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Day #11, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, The Yellow Hat

 I was sorting through my reference photos this morning looking for something to catch my eye.  I found this black and white picture that I had cut out of a newspaper many years ago. She must be a teenager by now. I don't have her name or the photographer's name, so I can only say thank you for making me smile and for giving me such a fun day of painting.

Yellow Hat, oil, 6x8  SOLD



Thanks for visiting,
Celene

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015

Day #9, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, New Friends, 5x7

Even though it is January in Maine, our neighboring sheep farmer was pleasantly surprised with the birth of two new lambs last week. Mother and babies are doing well. This painting is from a photograph I took last spring at Rose's Farm.

New Friends, 5x7, oil

This painting is available on my ebay page.

Thanks for visiting,
Celene

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Day #8, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Going Ice Fishing, 6x8

The lakes are frozen. Time to go ice fishing!


Going Ice Fishing, 6x8, oil


This painting is available on my ebay page.

Thanks for visiting,
Celene

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Day #7, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Drying the Nets, 6x8

My husband and I spent many winters in Florida.  For eight years we rented a beach house from a friend and this painting by an unknown artist hung in the living room.  I always enjoyed looking at it. Since it is cold and dreary outside today, painting my interpretation of this painting brings back fond memories of warm winter days and sunny walks on the beach.

Drying the Nets, 6x8, oil


This painting is available on my ebay page.

Thank you for visiting,
Celene

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Day #6, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Sunrise, 6x8


I saw this pretty sunrise one day and had to snap a photo.

Sunrise, 6x8, oil
This painting is available on my ebay page.

Thanks for visiting,
Celene

Monday, January 5, 2015

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Day #4, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Morning Mist, 6x8

An early morning walk at camp last fall. Watching the mist disappear in the rising sun.

Morning Mist, 6x8, oil SOLD



Thanks for visiting,
Celene

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Friday, January 2, 2015

Day #2, January 2015 - 30/30 Challenge, Peaceful Harbor, 5x7

There are days on the coast when the air is so clear that you can see forever. Days when the air is so still that the water looks like glass. Days when it is so quiet that you hear nothing except an occasional sea gull's laughing call.

Painted from a photo from one of our day trips to Stonington, Maine.

Peaceful Harbor, Stonington, Maine 5x7, oil

I am using a limited palette for color harmony, based on the color gamut theory. My colors were Indian Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, White and Burnt Sienna as my neutral.

This painting is available on my ebay page.

Thanks for visiting,
Celene