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Friday, January 20, 2017

Exploring Underpaintings. Try This!

'Changing'           9x12         pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $225
It came to me in a dream last night. I woke up with a vague memory of painting. I don't remember what I was painting but I did remember that I had started with a a very specific underpainting.  Of course I had to try it today!

In my dream I did a combination warm and cool underpainting. I used cool colors in the shadows and warm colors in the areas lit by the sun. It is such a simple way to give your painting a head start in capturing the light. I was excited to give it a try.

Blocking in the painting with big shapes of warm and cool colors

I chose a photo from my favorite park. It was late afternoon and the trees were catching the last fiery rays of the setting sun. It was late autumn so there was a chill in the air. But the warmth of the trees made up for the cold.

I took out a piece of dark gray Canson Mi-Teintes paper and my box of Nupastels.  I dis a simple block in with oranges for the sunlit trees and blues for the tree and grasses in the shadows. I added a pale blue-green for the sky.

adding the trunks and branches

I developed some of the branches with my Terry Ludwig eggplant pastel and then continued layering with soft pastels. All I had to do was follow the warm and cool block-in colors. With each layer I refined the trees and grasses. I used the sky color to further refine the trees. It was fun to work on a painting that I started in my dreams! I know I will use this underpainting technique again. How about you?

my tiny reference photo in the top left corner

Underpainting for pastels is a complicated subject. There are so many ways to start a pastel painting. There are so many underpainting choices with no right or wrong way to go about it. I have put together a three day workshop on underpainting so I have much more to share than I can in this one post. But a quick point....every underpainting choice you make will influence the painting. I encourage you to experiment and play so that your underpainting choices will become intuitive.


Unknown said...

I am not quite at the painting a day stage but I have managed to finish to "mini's" this week - so quite proud of myself - Thank Karen - you continue to inspire! This is gorgeous and am going to try this tomorrow!

robertsloan2art said...

Oh that's an interesting start! Great technique. I love seeing how your impulsive works manifest, this worked out great. Experimenting is the heart of art!

I might not have turned the final version into an autumn painting, following the underpainting, but I often use cool colors for all shadowed areas and warms for the lights. This gives a vividness even if they aren't the final hues. Yellows and oranges under greens make them pop, while blues or purples under them give a different feeling.