Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Follow Up To Snow and Under Paintings

In response to yesterday's post about under painting, Scott Brundage wrote:

"Why not some watercolor for your underpaintings? :)

"Have you found that one method or another lends itself to any particular subject matter? Like, does a digital background help out a metallic armor piece or acrylic for a textural landscape. Maybe just one for simple and another for complex?

"I'm playin with my first couple steps as well. I always feel I did x, y and z, only to completely obliterate x by the time I'm ready to paint."

Excellent questions there, Scott.

First, I know you're only joking about the watercolor under paintings, but I'll address it anyway.  The answer is simple: I don't do water color under paintings because they'll be completely destroyed as I work on top of them.  The whole point for me is for them to survive the initial stages of the painting.  Plus, I'm not too sure how the gum arabic in watercolor would affect the oils.  I'm no chemist, but it seems to me that throwing something like that into the mix could potentially muck up the works somehow.

Second, regarding the different under painting techniques lending themselves to different subject matter, I must confess that you pointed something out about my under paintings that I hadn't realized.  The vast majority of my digital under paintings were for pieces that contained a lot of finely detailed and sleek metallic subjects.  It would appear that I instinctively moved toward that solution once, then repeated the process due to the success I had the first time around.  The digital under paintings do allow for a bit more precision with a good deal of speed, giving me the opportunity to address more issues and iron out more kinks.

When faced with landscapes, I've typically done quicker and dirtier under paintings with acrylic or oils.  Also, when there tends to be just a single, main figure in things, my under paintings also tend to be in acrylic or oils and just ask quick and dirty as these pieces are often all about the silhouette and therefore require less precision.

So, I guess my process does, in part, depend upon the subject matter I'm working with.  Weird.

Lastly, regarding the destruction of the under painting, it happens.  What people do for under paintings varies wildly.  I know folks who don't even bother with them but start putting paint down immediately on the white surface.  I know folks who just do a ground color to kill the white and then go for the finish immediately.  I know folks who do fully fleshed out, tonal under paintings that could almost be finishes unto themselves.

How much of the under painting survives also varies wildly.  I'd wager that most folks end up covering their under paintings for the most part.  However, I own paintings from other artists where the under painting is allowed to show through for much of the finish with nothing but a glaze over top of it, and in one case half the painting IS the under painting.

For me, the under painting is just about beginning the implementation of the value structure of the piece.  It's a foundation layer upon which everything else is built.  Thus, it is destined to be buried beneath the rest of the paint.  Of course, sometimes I only get as far as a ground color.  And then it's all about going for the painting immediately.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: my own process is consistently inconsistent.  I don't like things to be formulaic.  Each piece is a puzzle that I put together without instructions, and all puzzles are not created equal.

1 comment:

  1. hi steve!! i read the book "science de la peinture" by vibert...he speaks about watercolor under oils....and KINUKO CRAFT using this technique "oils over watercolor". michael from italy :)


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