Tag Archives: underpainting

Back Bay underpainting and wild sea oats

It was a little windy when I got out of my car and this canvas paper flipped out of the tape. The clamps kept it from flying down the parking lot. I got some fingerprints and a few pieces of grass in the sky when I added more tape. That’s ok. I need to go over it again anyway. When it’s windy I don’t stand up my easel, I sit on beach towels and prop it up on my beach cart.

A Great Blue Heron is hanging around in there every time I’m there. I saw him catch some fish. I was thinking of painting a heron in the scene since I have a few sketches of them. All I need to do is match the grays when I’m there in Plein air.

The whole scene is mostly gray and brown and blue but I’ll be able to brighten it up a little more than it is at this step. I don’t want to force color into it, though. Nature is elegant in its true colors even in the winter, as I see it.

I did this underpainting with brushes and some of the paint that was left over from my trip to Maine in Oct. was still wet enough to rework for this. The little blobs of left over paint were under squares of plastic wrap. I want to paint the next layers with a palette knife. I like the palette knife because I don’t have to clean brushes.

These are wild sea oats. Most of the fuzz is gone but they still look pretty by the road in the sun. I see a different variety in yards that still have the fuzz and they are shaped more like long ovals than these narrower wild ones. If I can pick one of the cultivated type without getting in trouble I’ll post it. I’m not sure if I can keep these long enough to sketch them. We’ve had a lot of cloudy weather and not too cold and not much rain. Wind is coming in soon with rain.

Tide Pool painting update

I didn’t start on the water yet because I need to plan a few hours to get it going and it would be easier to see with the sand painted first. I’m excited I got this far. This is probably over half finished but I need to go over the whole thing again, not sure about the sky and sand but they might be ok like this. I was planning on putting some marsh grass on the sand in front of the big tree on the left.

Every time I go there the water is different. Today it was calm and reflections were on the water but most of the time when I’m there I don’t see a lot of reflections except on the closer shallow water on the left .

When I started the background a couple weeks ago we didn’t have as much fall color and now more is showing. The first time I painted it I used a light gray green and yesterday I added some shades of orange on top of the green. I want to brighten up the orange a little more and do more on the whole background then when it’s dry, make a thin glaze to go over the whole background and try to give it some aerial perspective. Still a lot more to do on the background but this is ok for a start.

You can hardly see the little boy working on his sand castle but he’s under a layer of sand colored paint with a coat of masking fluid over him. That’s the top of his little round head on the tan tinted canvas paper. When I start on the water I’ll cover his head with light blue and when it dries peel up the masking fluid and it will be like Christmas if it works and my little boy becomes visible. I hope you can see what I’m talking about. I think it will work and I can pull my little figures out. I think it will work.

The grays and brown scribbles over her head are wet sand and it will have bright reflections of water. Then the tan paper will be blue and I’ll be able to take the masking fluid off her too. Sand is sticking to the masking fluid and it’s all over the painting. The more layers of paint you put on top of masking fluid make it harder to peel off and the more time you let it on the paper makes it harder to get off too. Sometimes when you try to peel off the masking fluid the paper rips. We’ll see. Everything’s an experiment and might not work out as hoped. I did a little masking fluid and acrylic experiment before and it wasn’t bad but this is still iffy.

Tide Pool painting update

I’m not even finished with the underpainting but the figures hung me up for a while. I used my sketches and worked at home using my palette knife. I drew the figures again with charcoal on the canvas paper trying to get them a good size for the painting. Then I had to decide on the colors which is much easier if I have a live model. Drawing small is harder than large to me.

I’m going to try masking fluid on acrylic next. I think it will work. If I block out the figure with masking fluid I can paint sand or water color right over top of the figure and when the paint is dry peel off the masking fluid to show the figures as I painted them here. It might be easier than painting the sand or water color right up to the edge of the figure evenly.

Little boy building a sand castle.

I’ll paint over the figures again but it will be the last step.

The boy is sitting on wet sand. That’s what my charcoal shading represents.

You can still see some of my charcoal outline of the figure but that will go away with water colored paint.

If this works my 3 figures will be focal points. I tried adding a small figure into a scene as the last step one time when I was using oil paints a few years ago and didn’t think the figure showed up enough from the background so this time I’m getting the figures under painted first. Sometimes I stop working on a painting and lean it up next to the wall where I can see it and it might take me a long time to decide on how to proceed but I already have a lot of time in this so I would rather take the time to decide and it will have a better chance to work out.

Islands at Schoodic Point / underpainting

The painting is clipped to my drawing board and taped.

This is high tide. Low tide is way way low, like Bay of Fundy low. I thought it looked more interesting at low tide but the tide was high when I went out this morning. High tide tomorrow – 10:56AM and low tide is at 5:11 PM. I’ll decide tonight if I’ll continue this at high tide or wait for low.

I’m kind of tired. Maybe I should go with high tide so I can work on it in the morning when I have more energy. All this going up and down steps everywhere is really a workout.

If I can finish one painting this week it will be an accomplishment considering how tiring the trip was and how tiring it is drawing and painting around here with the steps at all the overlooks and trails and the steps in our cabin which is an old barracks. But being out in the fresh cool air all day and all those steps will have me in shape when I get home.

I’d also like to at least get a sketch of a wave crashing on a rock. Maybe go over to Bar Harbor to shop for souvenirs. Bar Harbor was very busy yesterday. The weather is cool and breezy.

underpainting for Homage to Surf and Turf

This will be my new pointillism experiment. I wish I knew how the pointillism masters did it because I like the visual effect. It’s kind of a color experiment. I tried to do a dot painting before and I’m still trying to figure out what works best. Do they draw an outline on a white canvas and start dotting on white or do they do and underpainting? I did the underpainting because this is complicated. I’m guessing Seurat did an underpainting.

My underpainting is in warm and cool gray. The areas showing up in warm gray will be dotted on top with cool colors and the crabs, horse and flowers will be warm colors so they are the blue gray in the underpainting. The underpainting colors might show through or even if they don’t show they will have some effect on the finished dot colors.

Some times I try a color experiment using complimentary colors in the underpainting and I don’t always like the finished look. These crabs, if I used green that is the compliment of red, or blue is the compliment of orange, the two main colors in the crab being shades of red and orange, the color contrast would be very strong. In fact it might look psychedelic which is not my favorite look in a painting. So this time I used grays instead of pure blue or green for this part. I hope you can see what I’m trying to do, make color contrast but not so contrasty that it looks psychedelic.

This is a big painting for dotting all over it. What if I have to go over it twice?! OH NO!! hahaha Then what if it looks stupid finished?! OH H-LL NO!! It could happen. That’s how it is with art experiments. I’ll give it my best shot but it could take a couple more weeks so don’t worry, I’ll post it and let you decide, either way.

red and yellow spider lilies / it’s a start

This is a 16 x 20 canvas that I tinted with gray acrylic. My little black sketchbook would be too small to paint the spider lilies since I want to paint life size and not have to squish the flowers. I can fit 2 more flowers on the canvas but that will be next week. After I get all the flowers roughed in like this I’ll start some background leaves. Then I’ll go over the whole thing again. I think it will be much brighter when it’s finished.

It’s too hot out there. I can only concentrate for 1 hour in this heat and I think I’m so dedicated for tolerating the heat that long! It took me around an hour for each flower. That’s 3 drives to the garden so far and they’re gouging us on the price of gas, but I can do the second coat of paint at home. I might do a still life at home this summer to save gas, or work on my baseball scene which I can see from my balcony.

I’m not sure about continuing to paint with acrylics and a palette knife. A brush would be faster and easier. The acrylics dry too fast and even when I only squirt a little out of the tube and spray it with water the paint starts to dry before I finish one flower. With oil paint, I can mix enough of the color for all my flowers at one time and put a piece of plastic wrap over it and I don’t have to mix the color every day. Oil paint stays workable for weeks with plastic over it.

The main good thing about painting like this is I don’t have to clean brushes.

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.