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Tuesday, May 06, 2014

My Favorite Underpainting Technique

'Save the Bees'            8x10            pastel          ©Karen Margulis
Never has watching paint dry been more fun. There is nothing wishy washy about it.  It's bold. It's rich. It is usually quite magical to watch.  When I want to start a painting with a bang this is the underpainitng technique I turn to.....Oil Stain Underpaintings!

It is simple to do. All you need is a few tubes of oil paints, stiff cheap brush and some odorless mineral spirits (OMS). You also need to use a surface that can get wet. I used Uart for today's paintings.  It is called oil stain because you are basically staining the paper with the thinned oil paint. If the paint is applied too thickly it will fill the tooth of the paper and you won't be able to add much pastel.

detail of painting. Notice the drips of the underpainting
Here are a few tips for Oil Stain Underpaintings
  • Use a limited palette of paint colors. You are less likely to mix muddy color with only a few colors. I use red, blue and yellow.
  • Avoid using black or white paint. You want nice thin and transparent color. Adding white will make it opaque and chalky. Black can be dull.
  • Make sure your paint is thinned with the OMS (I use Gamsol)  I like for the paint to be the consistency of tea.  If you can see your brushstrokes in the paint then it is too thick.
  • If the paint is thin enough, the underpainting should dry in under an hour.
  • Begin with the darkest paint. I like to mix red and blue for a nice dark purple.
  • As the paint dries and the OMS evaporates, you will hopefully see interesting weblike drips occur.
  • When the underpainting is dry,  it is time to add pastel. I use a very light touch and build up my layers... very slowly. I will leave areas of the underpainting untouched if I like the way it is working.

several underpaintings done at the same time

I don't often do oil stain underpaintings because there is a bit of clean up involved. When I do, I often do serval underpaintings at once. Not only does this save clean up time....it is always good to practice underpainting techniques. The more you do....the better they will be.


Sandi Graham said...

I really like this style , not sure I can tell the difference from an underpainting done with watercolor or wetting applied pastel which seem easier and I have done both.
What makes the difference for you?
Love those little honey bees buzzing the Cone flowers !
Thanks , Karen

Karen said...

Thanks Sandi! I find the oil stain is richer and more vibrant than watercolor or even wet pastel. You also get more interesting drips. Click on the painting in the post and look closely. You can see the drips!

Sandi G said...

Thank you for your response. My Pastel Journal arrived today and your cover and article ,just wonderful.

Susan J Wachob said...

I see a book in your future. You are so generous in helping the pastel artist improve each post is a gem. So glad you like to do demos too ! I now need to buy some oil paint too! Thank you so much for inspired tips to help the little guys get the PSA label :-)