Experiments with Underpainting

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 2:01 PM

If you have read my earlier posts you know that I usually begin a painting over an already painted canvas. This could be an old painting that I no longer want or it could be a new canvas that I intentionally paint with a variety of interesting strokes, shapes and colors. Creating a new underpainting lets me use canvases of whatever size and shape I like. This is important because I find I''m making larger painting of this type than the ones I used to make. I don''t want to be confined to smaller canvases! Underpainting in Oils An underpainting done in oils For an underpainting to work effectively, I need it to have a good palette, some bold shapes and strokes, and enough texture so that when I paint over it I can scratch down again and reveal the original colors in unexpected ways. At first, I tried making an underpainting the same way I usually paint, using oils and a gel medium. But this takes a long time to dry which is pretty frustrating when you really want get started. So I got some Gamblin Galkid Lite to mix with the paint. It''s supposed to dry quickly but hold the texture of the brush/knife strokes. I managed to make one underpainting with this medium (which ended up as "Organized Life" seen in an earlier post) but found that mixing it straight with paint makes a very thick glop that is hard to manage. Then I discovered that Galkid Lite is intended to be thinned with a solvent. I never use solvents (I''m very sensitive to them all), so this turned out not to be a good solution for me. Acrylic Underpaintings My first attempts with thin acrylic paint Next I tried using acrylics which will dry in an hour or so. I dug out my old acrylic paints, mixed them with water and acrylic matte medium and flung, drizzled and spread them on canvases. I got wonderfully wild backgrounds which I let dry over night. But the texture wasn''t there and I found it frustrating to try and paint over it. I did make one painting that way, Metropolis. The patterns in the underpainting turn into architectural features and even appear in the foreground figure''s blouse. I used stencils to suggest more architecture in the distance. Metropolis Metropolis, oil, 20 x 20"   Underpainting 1 Underpainting with acrylics and soft gel medium I was not happy with the lack of texture in the thin acrylics, though. Poking around at a local art store I came across Golden''s Soft Gel matte medium that is used with acrylic paint. I tried that and found it better, though still not as textured as I would like. Even so, I used this to begin a new painting, "Sunday Morning", in oil paint. The version here needs a lot more work, but you can see how the underpainting will contribute to the overall design. Sunday Morning intermediate Sunday Morning, intermediate stage (24 x 24", oil and acrylic) I still want more texture in the underpainting, though, and so I have ordered some Golden Heavy Gel matte medium for acrylic paint. I think that will do the trick. I''ll let you know! A word about using acrylic paint. You can paint in acrylics onto a new canvas and once it''s dried, you can paint with oils over it. But once there is oil paint on your canvas, you can not paint with acrylics over it. The acrylic paint is not designed to adhere well to an oil paint surface. My preference is to paint in oils because I like to use a wet on wet application much of the time, so my use of acrylics is confined to a fast drying under layer of paint.