Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How I Paint: Part I - Underpainting



In the past, I've had people ask me about my painting technique.  In the last post, I showed you a little bit of the process but I wanted to do a more formal post on the subject.


Typical Disclaimer:
This post isn't really as much a tutorial as it is just an explanation of my personal painting progress.  One of the perks of painting, and art in general, is that you can do whatever the hell you want.  There is no TRUE way to paint.  I can't stress enough that you should just try a bunch of random techniques and stick with what you like best. Have fun with it!


I paint exclusively with acrylic paints.  I'm too impatient for oils to dry, and I never got the hang of controlling watercolors.  I don't really use one specific brand of paint, I mix and match and use whatever brands are on sale at my craft store.  I know that will make a few painters grasp their pearls but hey... I'm cheap!  Just use whatever you can afford.  I will say that the more expensive paints do have higher pigment concentrations so you will get brighter richer colors with less paint.  If I'm painting a commission or something I plan on selling later I will go with the highest quality paints I can afford at the time.


Alright, now onto the actual "tutorial"...


If I had to choose one technique that I've learned over the years that helped my painting improve the most it would hands down be underpainting.  "What is underpainting?" you ask... it's exactly what it sounds like.  An underpainting is a quick and rough tonal painting that will literally be underneath your finished painting.





I've seen some artists just do an underpainting with only black and white paint, however, I would strongly recommend that you throw in an actual color in there too.  You should only have to use three colors of paint (black, white and whatever color you choose).

 Now which color should you choose?  That actually depends on what "family" of colors you want your finished painting to be.  If your finished painting will have mostly cool colors (blues and greens) your underpainting should be warm colors (reds, oranges, or browns) and vice-verse.  You want the opposite.   I know that seems a bit weird but I promise it will add a "depth" to your painting that will make it even more visually appealing.  The underpainting will show through the finished painting a bit and add a nice contrast. If your finished painting doesn't have one over all "cool" or "warm" feel I recommend using a brown or burnt sienna color.

The other huge perk of an underpainting is you can quickly work out the composition of your painting without risking any details by going back and changing it later.  It also makes finishing the painting much faster and easier when you just have already worked out all the kinks and can just put in the details.





-  I start with a pencil sketch that I then go clean up and go over with an artist marker.  DO NOT use a sharpie! Sharpie will bleed through the paint. I use Faber-Castell brand artist pens.  I prefer the brush tipped one.



- Then I go through with thin paint and block in the basic tones of the painting.





- I add the very basic shades on a few objects and then I finally I move onto the details:




-  This is my finished underpainting.


"Why in the hell would I paint that much just to paint over it?" "You're not even going to see it!"

Yeah, I get it.  It seems pretty pointless but I promise it isn't. It really helps you keep the tones and shades once you start adding in different colors.

You also don't have to get as detailed as I did if you don't want to.   Or you don't have to do an underpainting at all if you don't want to.  I will very strongly recommend that if you don't want to do a full underpainting, at least do complete wash of a complimenting color.  That way if a little bit of something peeks through it will be a color and not the white canvas.


Next up I'll show you how I finished off these paintings!

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