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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Undertone

In the post where I showed my painting process along the Delaware Canal, I started with a pre-toned panel but in the end, I had covered up most of that yellow ocher undertone. So it wasn't a great example of why I start on a toned surface.

Hopefully, this is a better example: I did this painting on an 8x10 panel previously toned with yellow ocher again. There are spots where the undertone is completely not covered with paint, and areas where the over painting is so thin and done with transparent colors that the ocher still manages to shine through. Oil paint colors can range from very opaque to pretty transparent, and you can take advantage of that.

The finished painting: And if the bridge looks out of scale, it's a small pedestrian bride built on piers remaining from larger bridge that washed away in flood - it's the smallest suspension bridge I've ever seen.

"Footbridge To Lumberville"
8x10 oil on panel

Some close-ups where the undertone really shows:




The undertone peeking through helps to unify the painting and pull everything together. If I had painted the same painting on a pure white panel, little flecks of pure white showing through would not have the same effect. Sometimes, it might work but usually it would just look like I missed some spots. It would look like a mistake! And if I had to go back and brush on more paint to 'fix' those mistakes, it destroys some of the spontaneity that I try to achieve in my brushwork.

I don't mean to imply that it's a lazy way of working so that I don't have to cover every spec of canvas - when it's right for a particular scene, I'll purposely use this effect, but when it's not, then I will cover it up completely with paint. Ideally, it would be nice to choose the starting color for every individual scene I paint, but as a time saver, I pre-tone my canvases and panels with either a yellow or reddish earthen color, because that works good with most of the scenes that I paint. And I really like a warm undertone because it can give the finished painting such a warm, cheery feeling - the feeling of sunshine in a way.

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