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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Sneaking Up on an Underpainting

'Evening Walk in the Wheat Fields'        10 x 10     pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $165
It was an old and dirty piece of paper. It had been mounted on foamcore sitting in a pile waiting for inspiration to strike. But it had gotten buried in the pile and now was covered in splotches of random color. I never waste paper so I decided to use it and wash in the colors with a wet underpainting.

My subject was a scene from my last summer trip to France. Our home base in Normandy was surrounded by wheat fields. (technically they could have been barley but wheat seems more romantic somehow) Every evening after dinner we would go for a walk through the village and up into the fields. At the highest point you could see far into the distance and see the beach and water. It was an inspiring place and was especially inspiring one evening when the sun broke through the gray clouds of a rainy day.

Read on to see how I used the underpainting to help express what I remember of that evening.

I used two Derwent Inktense sticks to draw and block in the main shapes. I used a dark blue and dark purple. I used a stiff brush and water to create a wash with the ink. I was very happy to see how the water interacted with the inktense. It produced some interesting drips. I'm not sure what the yellow stain was but it was on my paper and seemed waxy. It resisted the ink and water. I liked it.

Because I really enjoyed what happened in the underpainting I wasn't sure how much pastel I wanted to use. I had to take baby steps and sneak up on the underpainting with pastel. I started with the most important thing first.....the yellow light on the wheat fields.  I very tentatively added light layers of gold and green to the field.

I slowly added more pastel....an even lighter yellow on the filed and more greens in the grass hill. I chose to leave the yellow sloth in the tree. Just because.

I wanted to add some green to the trees but I started with a purple to match the color and value of the underpainting. Then I began to develop the tree.

I saved the sky for last. This isn't the usual way I work But  since I liked the underpainting I wanted to let it do most of the work. The color and value of the sky were close to what I wanted so a decided to use a few warm and cool purples to lightly layer in the sky. I added a few pale yellow clouds to make a connection to the fields and the sky was finished.

All that was left to do was add the final marks....the spices. I chose a wonderful rich blue and made a few marks. Can you spot them? It was fun to work this way and allow myself to be guided by the underpainting.

Painting notes: 10x10 on Uart 500 grade with Terry Ludwig and Unison pastels

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