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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Why I Tried a Black and White Underpainting

'Buttercup Road'                 16x20           pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available for purchase on Etsy $250

'Wind Over the Dunes'           16x20         pastel      sold
A black and white underpainting was an unexpected delight.  I didn't plan it that way. It began with a class on values and painting with black and white pastels. I decided that one of the best ways for my classes to learn about color was to take color out of the painting equation and focus on design and value.
You may have heard the quotes about values....my two favorites are:

"Value does the work but Color gets the Glory"
"Value gives the form and Color provides the emotion"

If we can just get the values right then we can use any color and the picture will look correct. Easy enough?  Not always. Just what does it mean to "get the right value" ?  First we need to be able to see the values in our subject. Next we need to block in our paintings with a strong value map. See the correct value and put them in the right place taking care not to be too spotty. (more on this idea in another post)

my thumbnails showing a spotty block in at top
and a stronger value study at the bottom
During the class I demonstrated this idea of a value map and then did a 16x20 demo using only black, white and gray pastels. The important thing was to get the right values first and then add the details. This is a lot harder than it would seem. Remove color and it's like taking away our frosting (you know how you put frosting on a crooked cake to make it look better?) 

After the class worked on their black and white paintings I decided to demonstrate how I could use the black and white painting as a value map and add some frosting (color)  I sprayed it first with workable fixative so the black pastel wouldn't contaminate the color. Using the value map helped me choose the correct value of color to add to the painting. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It ended up as a double lesson for me and my classes!  Give it a try!

the black and white 16x20 demo on white printmaking paper

1 comment:

Tim Moore said...

so i guess i have to work backwards a bit and make sure my colors are in order . i try to keep them in order, but... so if i do a value study first or thumbnail, it will make it easier to choose the colors..one of my troubles is i am red-green color blind..i cant see red flowers on a green bush and visa versa...makes choosing colors harder...but i will give it a go !