Pastel Perspectives Part 12-Underpainting Technique
Inthe last issue we discussed underpainting using pastel, water and odourless medium. This time, I would like to look at underpainting using paint—primarily the water mediums.
I don’t like to mix my oil and water mediums much. I like to underpaint some of my pastels using water-based paints—watercolour, acrylics and gouache can all be used. I steer away from oils, as I mentioned last month I am wary of the long-term damage they may do to the paper. Watercolour is OK if you are underpainting on white paper, but it gets lost on many coloured papers.
Unlike watercolour, gouache and acrylic are opaque, so they are perfect for underpainting on both white and coloured paper. They will however need to be diluted, so as not to fill up the tooth of the paper. It’s also essential that you use a paper that can take wet media.
Why underpaint? Because you can. It’s fun and a different way of working. It’s a chance to splash a bit of paint and water around if your chosen paper colour is not right in some areas, or if you are using a paper colour you don’t like (in my case it is often white). It is also a different way of blocking in your subject.
Underpainting can be quite loose, or added over a drawn in subject. If you are using a coloured paper, you may only need to underpaint certain areas, allowing the tone of the paper to work for you in other areas.
To begin, you should decide what you are going to underpaint. Once again don’t get too involved in detail; remember, you are just painting in the foundations of the painting not the whole thing. It should be done with diluted paint and a big brush.
Once you have done your loose underpainting, allow it to dry completely before beginning to apply your pastel layers over the top. Don’t fall into the trap of putting in too much detail in the underpainting. Detail in the early stages of a painting always gets in the way of the bigger underlying shapes. We also tend to get “precious” about it and trying to preserve it, often at the expense of what is to come. This is true too for any pastel work, not just under-painting.
The underpainting can be left untouched in some areas and completely covered in others. It can be treated like any block-in or you can make a feature of it. How much of the underpainting is left visible might be a cue as to how to classify your work. That is, a work in pastel, or mixed media, or pastel and gouache, etc.
Storm over Bedulluck (detail), pastel on Supertooth Colourfix Paper with watercolour underpainting, 18 x 45 cm (7 x 18") Supertooth is a creamy white paper so for me, underpainting was a natural choice, as I don’t like to work on white or very light papers.