Tag Archives: underpainting

beach scene underpainting / oils

It was great to get out on the beach today, cool, (45*F.) sunny and windy at around 10mph out of the West. I faced East so the wind was on my back and not blowing my canvas down, which was standing on the sand leaning on my beach cart. I sat on a washed up board and felt fine out there but not a lot of people were on the beach.

I have big plans for this painting. It could take a while. I’d like paint pilings, dune grass, people and a ship. I’ll have to take my sketchbook and try to get sketches of people and a ship. The waves looked like they will be easy because they’re small. This is close to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The Atlantic is 5 miles or so East.

unfinished pastel color experiment / marsh

These colors might be ok on a valentine but they really look bad in this landscape. It’s an underpainting in the complimentary colors of the ones in nature. When I go over this again the areas in purple will be yellow, the areas in orange will be blue and the areas in pink will be green. Warm grays should be cool grays etc.

I don’t know if it will work. It might but it might not. I still haven’t decided if the one I did before worked out. I think people liked the previous one but I’m not sure I like it. I put it away to decide later. This might not take long to finish because I’m 2/3 of the way finished with it.

If it’s a total flop I’ll still post it finished. Not like I’m a real pro and have a reputation to protect, or like I can’t waste time on an unmarketable painting. I don’t even care if someone critiques it and blasts it straight to hell. At this point I want to blast it too. And if it gets a horrible review I won’t defend it, so, have at it if you want to, but you might want to wait to see it finished before you decide. It could get even worse! hahah

But seriously, folks, you don’t learn anything from a soft critique. I never joined a critique group because I already know those artists are friends and they don’t want to hurt each others feelings. The critique would be all fluff. When I was a young chick in art school a critique might start out like, “This painting sux on so many levels, let me list them for you.” I’m not joking. Were they trying to toughen us up for the future of our paintings being constantly rejected and trying to make us improve our paintings too?

You can try hard to make a good painting and get a horrible critique. You have to change your attitude so that it doesn’t hurt your feelings. It is possible to change the way you hear criticism. Change to just not caring, like me. People talk about apathy like it’s a bad thing but it is a good defense. Take this pastel for example. My teachers at the academy would say the colors are nauseating. When it’s finished they would tell me it vibrates like it’s on drugs or something. Do I want to project insanity out into the world. no one wants to see that. etc.

If an art expert says they have an academic background and they give you a soft critique they are misleading you about their background. Or if they have the academic background and they fear a critique they are lying about something.

I’ll give you the first step in critique. Squint your eyes and look through your eyelashes to make the picture blurry. Do you see any arrangement of lights and darks? That’s the composition. If it all blurs together into one mass of the same value the composition is weak.

I’d just like to add one more thought about the academy. Art universities are not the academy. At a university a student might be encouraged to follow the path in art that interests them the most. They might get a semester of anatomy but not have to study it twice a week for 3 years with a lot of homework. At the academy you don’t get to chose your projects. You have to do the academic exercises. I wouldn’t have done it because it’s not fun, but I was having so much fun otherwise that I always went to class and did what was required, even if I did those exercises half heartedly.

If an art expert claims to have an academic background they will prove it to you without a doubt. If they post a drawing of a skull you will know that they didn’t lift some photo of a skull and photoshop it. If all you see from them is digital art maybe they aren’t showing their drawing and painting skill because they didn’t really go to an academy. There are tons of fake people in the art world and online. If an artist gets super defensive about their work they didn’t go to an academy because the academy will knock that attitude out of you. Those are some of the red flags to spot a poser in the art world.

Another red flag is art jargon. If they write in jargon they didn’t learn that at the academy. The teachers at an academy speak in plain English. Art isn’t rocket science. Jargon is a sign of a fake expert. The poser is trying to impress on you how smart they are.

pastel color experiment / bent tree

The experiment is to start with contrasting colors in my underpainting. The sedge on the bottom is an orange color so blue is the opposite on the color wheel. The sky should be light blue so I started with light orange. The sedge on the other side of the water is more gold colored so I started with violet. I’ll draw lines on top of this with the complimentary colors and build up layers. Some of the underpainting colors might show through.

I started the next step which is to push the first layer of pastel into the paper so it will hold more color. I’m using terpenoid on paint brushes and going over each color of pastel again and making it wet. The terpenoid dissolves the pastel a little and makes it kind of like a wash. Then you wait for it to dry and you can build up more color on top. The sanded paper is nice because it has more tooth than regular pastel paper and holds more pigment. You can scrub the first layer in with a blending stump or use fixative but the terpenoid is a nice effect and doesn’t dull the colors or make my hand tired like fixative and blending stumps.

We’re in for bad weather so I didn’t want to wait around to do this in Plein air and decided to do it at home. Then I made another big decision to forget about matching the colors of nature, just see what I can fake.

I was thinking about how the academy would h8 this. Fitzkee would say I’m trying to force color. To this day, when I see a landscape with violet and I know there’s no violet in real life, I think, forced color, weak. hahahah. It’s ok. Fitzkee’s dead. Rest In Peace, Fitzkee. He was a great teacher. Maybe he wouldn’t care about this experiment. I proved I can follow the rules of the academy. He told me I had to do that first, follow the rules. Not just read about the rules, you have to get the discipline of doing it. Then you can do any style you want to do or make up your own.

This might not even work. I don’t know. If its a flop I’ll show it to you anyway. Like, what have I got to lose. If it’s a failure, let it be an epic failure.

swamp painting 2021 / an ok start


This is only the first step in a big job, my underpainting. I lugged my stuff out to the overlook twice and stayed for around 2 hours both times, didn’t finish my underpainting yet. Maybe I can work on the bottom of the canvas at home. That’s the swamp water with reflections of trees, barely sketched in.

I took my yard sticks and taped my brushes to them so I could keep my brush strokes looser and try to paint like my favorite artist, Matisse. Standing way back from the canvas helped me visualize where to paint the big brown branch which will be the focal point of this painting. It’s easier to see the painting if you stand back. It’s fun but the brushes go out of control a lot. A few people came out on the overlook. If they saw the yardsticks with paint brushes taped on them they didn’t say anything.

It got a little windy and cloudy so I quit for today. The overlook is protected from the wind so it wasn’t a problem. It’s supposed to rain tonight and be colder tomorrow. I might be able to go back out there tomorrow, but I don’t know. Colder is better as far as I’m concerned because less people will be on the trail and I can take the cold weather better than the horrible heat and humidity of summer around here.

This could take some time to finish depending on the weather, and I don’t want to go over there to paint on Sat. or Sun. but I’m glad I got a start.

windswept tree underpainting / oils

It was real nice out on the dune this morning and yesterday. I’m excited that I got this far with the painting. Maybe tomorrow and Sun. I can make more progress.

I have two coats of paint on the sky and I’m going to call the sky finished. Before I paint the tree I need to work on the opposite shore, the sand, the water and the grass again and let it all dry a little so that when I paint the bare branches over the sky and water they don’t smear.

I changed my mind about adding a kite surfer into the picture. This painting is all about the tree. I’ll try painting a kite surfer another time.

The branches and sticks will be the last to paint along with the pine needles.

beach underpainting / oils

I got this far with it a few days ago when it rained. Now it’s raining again. After propping it against the wall where I can look at it once in a while, I’m not sure about it. I was working from my sketch and trying to mix colors from memory. Now I want to redo it and forget about trying to make it lifelike. I’m considering using more colors or if I should keep it limited like this is. I’d like to try a painting technique that I never use, dry brush. I want to make it fuzzy if I can. Fuzzy is in style. hahahah Stay tuned. I’ll show it to you even if it’s a disaster.

This much is painted with my brushes taped to yard sticks, ala Matisse, and I might continue with that. It’s a little hard to get started on a project if you don’t know what you’re doing. I know a lot of artists work from the subconscious or somehow spontaneous, I like to have a plan.

azaleas / underpainting

Done with the hard part, now I have to do the scary part.

First I had to paint the flowers with white because the pinks won’t show up bright enough on the dark tinted paper since they’re semi transparent colors. Also, I couldn’t see the flowers well enough until I painted them to tell if they look like a good arrangement.

The background texture is from my modified fan brush. I wanted to make a look of pine needles on the ground

The scary part is the pinks. I mixed my colors in plein air sitting next to the azaleas and I think I have the closest pink to what it actually is, but it’s not as bright on my palette as it is in reality. Flower petals allow a little light to go through. They’re not 100% opaque because of the cell structure, if you know what I mean. The sun on the pink petals makes a brighter pink than you can buy in a tube of paint.

I need to do a color rough and see if the pink will be brighter if I use glazes of the two pinks that I have straight out of the tube.

First I need to go over this again and decide where to have shadows and where to have spotty sunlight. Then wait for that to dry before painting the pinks. I’m excited I got this far with the painting and might be able to finish it next week. It can dry this weekend. I’m going to PA.

redbud underpainting

mmmm, no.

We had some not good for plein air weather and I wanted to start the background for my painting at home but was undecided how to start. Every day I made up a new plan. Then I changed my mind again before I started. I wanted to wing it on the background because the real life background for this tree is too complicated and not a good composition from this side of the tree.

In my case it’s better to put a painting on hold until I have some kind of plan. Some artists would slap in a solid background or something fast and easy because the painting is all about the redbud anyway. They don’t like to overthink a painting. What’s the alternative to overthinking? Mindlessness? It seems like overthinking might give my painting a better chance of success. My mind runs constantly. I can’t stop it so I’m not fighting it. If I wanted to stop overthinking I might need to take some drugs for that.

I don’t like what I have here but I think I can save it. I didn’t paint the tree yet. I painted the background colors up next to my charcoal lines on gray blue pastel paper.

It’s going to rain today but I went over to the botanical garden to have a look at the tree and didn’t take my art supplies. I know I need to lighten up the background bushes and I’m dying to kill that orange mulch color. I was glad to see I still have time before it’s in full bloom. A lot of pretty trees are blooming around here. I don’t like to rush a painting, overthinking and all, but nature waits for no one. I want to paint the background first. That will help the tree seem to come forward in the painting. Looks like tomorrow will be good to paint in plein air. I should be able to finish this when it blooms right on time.

sedge and path / underpainting

Finally! some nice weather! It’s sunny and cool and calm today and I made some progress on this. The painting is going pretty fast so I hope I can finish this in another week or so. I’m anxiously awaiting the red buds to bloom for my next painting. I’ve been walking at the botanical gardens lately and the red bud trees aren’t showing buds, but that could happen real soon. Daffodils are blooming and I saw some early blooming pink trees when I was driving around.

I’m enjoying painting on paper with oils. One time saver with paper is that I’m not sanding or putting gesso on a canvas. Priming and tinting a canvas takes a few hours. Paper is more practical than canvas when you start to accumulate a lot of canvases and have limited space to store them.

I’ll go over this whole thing again.