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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Answers to Your Underpainting Questions

'If Daisies Could Smile' 8x10 Plein air Pastel ©Karen Margulis
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To Underpaint or not to Underpaint? That is one of the questions I am often asked about underpaintings for pastels. A related question I am asked is if I always do an underpainting. The answer is no. I don't do an undepainting for every painting but I estimate that I choose to do an underpainting for 95% of my work. It wasn't always that way. I am finding that the more underpaintings I do, the more I am discovering how they can help my paintings. At first the underpainting choices were overwhelming....watercolor, oil, alcohol wash, dry wash....which one to choose and when? What colors to use? But the more I played with the different kinds of underpaintings the more confident I became and the more my choices became intuitive. I am now realizing the full potential of an underpainting. I am continuing to learn and experiment and to me that's the fun of painting.

How can you become more comfortable with underpaintings and be able to make more intuitive choices? I suggest trying an exercise recommended by Richard McKinley in his book 'Pastel Pointers'.

The Results of my First Exercise in Underpainting done in 2009

For this exercise you choose a painting you've done that has strong contrasts. I chose one with big simple shapes. The idea is to paint the same thing on 8 different toned surfaces so that you can see how your paintings work with different underpainting choices. I did this exercise last year and it was a great learning experience. I recommend it to all of my students who want to explore underpaintings. I plan on doing it again with a different subject. If you don't have Richard's book I highly recommend it. If you don't want to wait for your copy you can also find the exercise on his Pastel Pointer's Blog.

Ready to try the Richard McKinley Underpainting Exercises Again

I love this exercise and I can't wait to try it again! To make it easy I precut all my paper. I am doing 5x7's. On the back of each I wrote down which exercise it was so I could easily refer back to my results. I taped them all to one backboard. I am now ready to go.
Today's painting is a plein air piece that was painted in last Spring's Plein Air event at Smith-Gilbert Gardens in Kennesaw, Georgia. I did a watercolor underpainting on mounted Uart.

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