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Monday, December 09, 2013

Choosing an Underpainting Color

'Tomorrow's Promise'               12x24              pastel              ©Karen Margulis
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 It has to be my most popular question. The funny thing is that there is no right or wrong answer. Only possibilities.  The question is about choosing colors for an underpainting.  We often wish there was a black and white answer.....I would be very popular if I came up with an underpainting color chart. Wouldn't that be fun....a chart that tells you what underpainting color to use for a certain subject?  But that wouldn't be a good thing.

If every artist made the same color choices our paintings would all look the same!

The beauty of art is that we have choices and possibilities.  Sure there are some general guiding principles for choosing colors. Certain colors or toned papers will effect the way the painting will ultimately look. Colors can create a mood or make the other colors used in a painting appear different.

I chose a warm underpainting in reds and oranges to create the warm glow of the sunset

The only way we will know how the colors will interact is to try them and see what happens. Practice and experience with many different underpaintings will lead to more intuitive choices.  If you have experienced what red does under green for example then you will have a better idea of when to use it.

So take the time to experiment. One of the best exercises I ever did was Richard McKinley's Underpainting exercise. He recommends doing the same simple painting with the same colors on 9 (I think) different color surfaces and underpainting types. The details are in his wonderful book Pastel Pointers.  Try it and I promise you will not regret it. You will learn so much about choosing underpainting colors.

1 comment:

Susan Vaughn said...

I've been thinking about getting that book - Pastel Pointers. Maybe for Christmas. But I learn so much from you, Karen! I think that choosing an underpainting can be intuitive. At least for me, at times, it can be. For instance, if my painting is a landscape of a hot summer day, or a fiery red and yellow/orange sunset, I will probably choose a warm underpainting. If it is a gray day landscape, or a cool interior scene, or a winter scene that is overcast, I might choose a gray or gray/blue underpainting. I tend to choose the tone of the underpainting depending on the subject of the painting and the overall feeling associated with it - sunny, bright, sunset, gray day, winter, etc. I think you do the same thing, Karen. Love your painting in this post! - Susan