Saturday, 25 September 2010

Oil underpainting, why should I care?

This article was first published in my newsletter "Notes From My French Easel" – July/August 2010. Follow the link to receive this free monthly newsletter.

Nobody sees it when the work is finished, so why should I care about oil underpainting?

I don’t see it, but it is there. There are always parts of the underpainting showing between the strokes or under glazes. A contrasting underpainting (using complimentary colours) makes the subsequent layer come to life.

It gives the mood of the piece. Paint a different underpainting and the finished painting will be different. This initial layer is the foundation for the whole painting; it establishes the composition, the contrast between light and dark areas; it sets the key for the painting. Of course, there is room for many adjustments at later stages, but this first step will influence the final aspect of the work.

This is my playground. I can be bold; I can be brave and quick. There is no need or temptation to theorise. This stage is free and because I am relaxed I can “get in the flow”. This stage of the painting is liberating because I am painting “for my eyes only”. At this stage, I have the modest goal of filling-in the whole canvas with colours and establish the tonal scheme.
Creating a dynamic composition with brush strokes. I scrub colours with brush strokes in all directions to create a dynamic composition and get a sense of a third dimension. David Curtis, in his book “A light touch”) warns his readers about “uninspired linear strokes, without dynamism”. He draws a vivid image of what no to do: “These are applied as one would gloss paint on a door.”

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Judie said...

Benoit, this is an excellent article--things I have been telling my students for years! I am so glad I found your blog!

Jim Serrett said...

That is great.
Especially the paragraph “This is my playground”.
As always a wonderful article on your site.

Benoit Philippe said...

Thank you both for your nice comments and for following the blog.



Starrpoint said...

I always underpaint, and try to teach my students to do so also. Sometimes it is a struggle because they don't want to bother, but boy, is it worth it!

Shelley Whiting said...

I love the painting with the boats. It's very free and expressive.