Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Rescuing the Ugliest Underpainting in the World

'Back to Iceland'            9x12        pastel       ©Karen Margulis
available here $160
The colors looked wonderful in the box. What's not to love about beautiful pure color?  But when I used them to block in my painting I had a scary mess.  Well it certainly looked like  mess but I actually had a method to my madness. I had a plan but I needed to see if my idea would actually work. It sure was an ugly underpainting! 

It was an experiment using a limited selection of a pastel brand that I had not yet tried. I can't even remember when I got this set of Charvin Water Soluble Pastel Painting Sticks. They looked and felt like a hard pastel stick with the claim of being useful for wet and dry painting. You can use them on damp paper or create washes with them. I decided to try them with a water wash underpainting.

The issue was the color selection in my box. They were all intense pure middle value colors. I usually like to do a value based underpainting and these sticks didn't allow for much of a value change. So I layered colors with the plan to create colorful grays.  My subject was a cool moody cloudy scene from my 2014 trip to Iceland. I needed some colorful grays to paint the moody sky.  The colors looked scary until I wet them with water.

Water wash on top of the Charvin pastels

As I wet the brush and mixed the layers of color the magic began. I was surprised at the wonderful drips that started to happen and the way the colors mixed and mingled. My underpainting was taking on a life of it's own. I saw some compositional issues that I needed to adjust  (horizon in the middle!) and I did the correction by drawing into the wet paper with the pastel. Fun!

My unmounted Uart paper took the water wash without a problem and within an hour it was dry enough for me to continue painting with my regular soft pastels. I enjoyed working on top of the underpainting and leaving some of the colorful grays alone!

close-up detail
I call this painting 'Return to Iceland' because I am getting ready for my next adventure in June....visiting my artist friend Elinros in Iceland! I am excited to return to Iceland and have her share her world with me! More on this adventure soon.

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