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Friday, February 28, 2014

Revisiting the Watercolor Underpainting...a New Approach

'Morning Meditation'            5x7         pastel        @Karen Margulis
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 He must have read my mind!  As I was preparing for my class on watercolor underpainting I happened to take a break to read Richard McKinley's latest Pastel Pointers blog post.  It was exactly what I needed to try...and pass on to my students as well.   Thank you Richard for your timely and wonderful post on Pastel Underpainting Freedom.  I love this twist on a watercolor underpainting!  Here is the link to the post.  Allow me to share my experience.

Watercolor Underpainting for 'Morning Meditation'
 I love underpainting with a wet medium such as watercolor but so often I end up covering it all up with  pastel.  I know I am not alone. Sometimes no matter how careful I am I end up covering all of the wonderful drips and washes of the watercolor.

Richard points out in his post that this is very often due to the fact that we have lost the value structure or never had it in the first place and we need to establish it with pastel....hence often covering up the underpainitng. Aha!!! That makes so much sense.

In his post Richard shares a technique he is using to have a strong value map in place that will not wash away with the wonderful wet underpainting.

Step One: To accomplish this he begins with a loose value drawing on the surface with a pastel pencil. Next the drawing is sealed with a coat of clear gesso.  The clear gesso has an additional benefit of being slightly gritty. This grittiness adds interesting texture to the painting. You can exploit this by the way you paint the gesso over the drawing. Your brushstrokes and the thickness of the gesso will have an effect on the way the pastel layers will look. Click on the painting below to see the texture of the gesso.

'Dance in a Meadow'           5x7          pastel
 Step Two:  Once the gesso is dry it is time to apply the watercolor. That is a lesson all to itself which I will share in an upcoming pdf Demo. I do begin with dark colors and allow the darks to set up before adding additional washes. I encourage drips and blooms.  The wonderful thing about this technique is you are not left with a washed out or wishy washy watercolor underpainting. You still have the value map for the painting which has been preserved under the clear gesso.  See the painting below which is now ready for the pastel application.

underpainting for an unfinished work
Applying the pastel still takes restraint and thought to prevent overworking but everything is in place for a better chance for success. This is fun! I am headed back to the easel for more!


Kendall Kessler said...

Beautiful work!

Susan Williamson said...

Thank you for taking the time to write and photograph this process. I find myself doing the same and wondering why this happens. Gonna try it this approach!

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful painting, and I like the texture the clear gesso adds.

robertsloan2art said...

This is fascinating. You're a lot more daring with watercolor than I am. I have yet to use drips and blooms even in underpaintings, let alone leave them to show. Those uncontrolled effects tend to wreck whatever I was trying to do.

The gesso over the sketch technique is promising. Thanks for a very cool article!

Anonymous said...

I have gotten some interesting effects with gouache underpainting, I put in on a tad thick.