I often hear, “How can I make my work more colourful?” One way is to create a colourful underpainting. I recently did a demo/class about this very topic. I have a couple of the demos to share with you and also added another to help get the point across.
I think you can always start with a saturated bold colourful underpainting and still end with a ‘realistic’ looking painting if that’s what you want.
Let’s have a look.
First I used three colours in three values referring to the local colour of the unripe Bosc pear. Then I created another example using three colours in three values but with colours that in no way resembled the local colour of the pear. I created a third version at home using the same method as the second with a different set of colours. Note too that my underpaintings are dry underpaintings, made solely with a lightly applied layer of pastel (i.e. no liquid involved!).
First, the three pieces with their initial layers:
When choosing the initial colours for Version 2 and 3, I looked for colours beyond what is evidently there. I find this easier to do when working from life but it’s still possible using photos. (For these demos, I was working from life.) For instance, in the second version, I could see the colours I used within the greenish browns. In the third version, I chose different colours that are, on the whole, cooler than the second piece’s red and pink.
I then added a second layer to versions 2 and 3 using the same colours that I used to create the first layer of version 1 (the local colour version).
I then worked on all three versions a bit more. This included the local colour version but I didn’t add too much extra colour to it as I wanted the look to be more in line with thinking ‘local colour’.
I worked on each a bit more. (These are fast-painted demos – about 20 mins each.) Here are the three versions complete.
Here are the pastels used for each initial layer. The pastels used for versions 2 and 3 create a colourful underpainting. (All pastels are Mount Vision from the Workshop Set.)
Seen as thumbnails, the three versions look fairly similar and are pretty close representations of a pear. (We aren’t aiming for crazy colour here, just a more colourful rendering of life.)
But look closer and you can see all the excitement of colour that lies beneath the layers in versions 2 and 3.
And just so it’s easier to compare, here are the three pears showing first layers only, and then the three finished pears.
So what do you think about doing a colourful underpainting? Do you create a colourful underpainting first?
I’d love to hear from you! Did you find this helpful? Can you see how a colourful underpainting can help make your work more colourful? It can also loosen up your need to paint something realistically.
Until next time!
PS. Many of the students from the Windsor Park Art Club hard at work!
PPS. And here is the pear. I snapped the photo without care just before packing up so the angle is a little more above the pear than what I was seeing when painting. Notice that in my quick demos, I totally ignored the creases in the fabric.