I’m often asked if I start with an underpainting. And I say yes, I first put down a dry pastel underpainting which echoes the shapes of value I’ve chosen in my thumbnail. I always start with these big shapes as a way to lock in the foundation of my painting.
The big shapes create the foundation on which everything else sits. It’s invisible in a painting unless you’re consciously looking for it. Usually the viewer sees colour or feels a mood and may experience an emotion. Until they examine why that happens, these large shapes that form the cornerstones of your painting may go unnoticed.
Simplifying a scene into big shapes can spark creativity. Doing so encourages you to interpret and represent the subject in your own way, emphasising what you find most interesting or significant.
Let me take you through five paintings done during the recent 31-pastels-in-31-days Challenge. I’ll show you the pastel underpainting (the colour version of my thumbnails with its value pattern/design) and the final painting with an accompanying black and white version so as to see the retained big shapes of value more easily.
Hopefully you can see how those big shapes, both of value and content, create the underpinnings of a painting. They act as the bedrock on which all else is built. Viewers of your painting will sense and respond to it, even if unknowingly!
By concentrating on big shapes first, you postpone the temptation to delve into the details until the overall composition is settled.
Starting with big shapes can also build your confidence as they provide a roadmap. This makes it less intimidating to progress to smaller details as you move forward in your painting.
I’d love to hear your takeaways from this post! Do you paint the big shapes first? If yes, how does doing that help you? And if not, have you been persuaded to try??
Until next time,