Sunday, July 5, 2020

When to use an underpainting

Paul Lekang  asked on YouTube: "You often, but not always, start by giving the painting an "undercoating." How do you decide IF you should do it ... and how do you decide the color? Does the color shine through in the end - even though you've painted over it (several times?)"

Solar flare underpainting in casein

Paul, you're right, I don't use those undercoatings all the time. I prime a few pages in advance without knowing what painting I may do over them. I use a thin layer of casein or Acryla Gouache, both of which dry with a matte surface that won't reactivate. I use gouache or casein over them, and those opaque colors to shift the color into other realms. 

The priming layer influences all the choices I subsequently make, and that's why I like it. The color of an underpainting inevitably does shine through. Sometimes the underpainting color is similar to the colors I end up using for the finish. 

Other times I use a contrasting set of colors for the final paint. For example, it's exciting when a blue underpainting peeks through an orange painting, or when you glimpse a red underpainting beneath green foliage. 


CerverGirl said...

There are so many valuable things that you teach, but this one is my absolute favorite...well, this and the street scene in salmon over light green...I would like to see art teaching build things like this into their lessons. I was delighted to see teacher comments and know your books get out there. Thank you!

Day said...

Mr. Gurney, hello from Amsterdam! I just purchased some egg tempera paints after quite a while of looking for it. My tests so far have been really interesting, but it's also really far out of my expertise, which is transparent watercolor and more recently gouache.
How long do you let an underpainting dry before wetting it again? So far my drying times on my swatches have been very long, whether diluted with water to a milk consistency or straight from the tube. Two hours and four hours still showed some bleeding and very easy lifting, even if the paint was dry to the touch and turned completely matte. Google has not been helpful. What're your experiences with drying times on egg tempera?
(I'm using Selenier.)

Thank you for your insight! You can find my works on @DayDragonArt on Twitter.

James Gurney said...

To DayDragon,
I'm sorry, I've never used egg tempera, so I have no idea.

Day said...

Dear Mr. Gurney,

Oh, then I must have confused materials... what paints do you use for underpainting and what would you suggest?