Posted by: catailsandotherfoundthings | June 10, 2010

Underpainting With Color

This demonstration was created by Barbara Hails, America’s best-loved contemporary Impressionist painter.  Much can be learned from the works, writings and teachings of famous and infamous artists.

Painters use several different painting styles and techniques for showing light in their art.  In this particular artists technique, underpainting is used in colors that complement the final colors of the piece.  Pastels allow bits of underpainted color to show through. Broken strokes are used to create vibrancy in the piece and further enhance the over all color.

The painting shown in this post is titled ‘Rose Gate’, one of Barbara Hails most beautiful pieces, in which she used this ‘underpainting’ technique.  In the book ‘Enliven your Paintings with Light’ by Phil Metzger, a beautiful step by step image is shown with the following demonstration.  Unfortunately, high resolution images are not available for online resources, so use your imagination.

Here is a step by step process that Hail followed in creating this amazing painting.

Step 1:

Draw the garden structures carefully, using regular lead and non-poto blue pencils.  In looser areas, such as foliage and flowers, she does little or no pencil drawing.  She has begun to block in with acrylic paint all areas except those to be left white.  The sky area is painted with a pale wash of cadmium red and alizarin that will show through and vibrate against a later application of complementary blue pastel.

Step 2:

With the acrylic underpainting nearly finished, Hails critiques the composition carefully and decides the foreground is too empty.  She uses charcoal to test additional shrubbery and some birdes, and when satisfied, begins painting the additions in acrylics.

Step 3:

To enhance the feeling of sunlight, Hails deepens the foreground shadows and adds the last of the rosebushes, which are primarily in shadow.  These darks will make the light seem more brilliant.  She paints the doves with pale, transparent blue, still using acrylic.

Step 4:

Only now is pastel applied.  Hails paints the background first.  She brings the sky and distant foliage almost to completion, both in cool colors.  To create an illusion of sunlight in the painting, she gives the trees to the left (nearer the light source) a yellow cast, while giving the distant sky on the right a dark and redder blue toward the top and right edges of the picture.

Step 5:

She paints the middle ground with pastel next, and finally the foreground.  Shadows on the woodwork are filled with color and value variation.  (Shadows are darkest near their origins.  As a shadow moves away from the object casting it, reflected light invades, changing its color and lightening its value.)  Surrounding yellows and pinks reflect into the left-hand structure, warming its face.  hails adds sunny highlights all over flowers and foliage.  Finally, she refines the foreground grasses and makes cast ground shadows bluer and softer.  She softens some edges and corrects a few values.

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