22 May 2009

Underpainting with Burnt Umber

In my introductory oil painting classes this term all of the subjects are portraits, both from photos and from life. The first stage of a portrait is often a burnt umber pick-out or underpainting, which provides a value map of the full-color portrait to come. It's a good learning device and transition between drawing and painting, since it's value-based and monochromatic, but is applied with oil and brush to a canvas. It also allows for design work-up without the complexity of color, and improves the accuracy of the final painting.

Navajo Boy 2009, oil on masonite, 12 x 9

The image above was from a photo I found in Native American Portraits by Nancy Hathaway. I thought I did a fairly good paint job, until the instructor, Lucas Graciano, added some darks, a bit of background, and some lost edges which made the image really pop. Never underestimate the value of a good instructor.

Vicky 2009, oil on canvas board, 13 x 10

The second underpainting is more my natural style, at least for now. Painted from life for the Reilly Method class, which I'll describe in a later post. The portrait will be completed over 3 sessions, so the underpainting has time to dry before color is added.

Technique: We use Winton burnt umber which has a warmer hue compared to other brands. We tone the canvas with thinned burnt umber, then immediately paint the image. Light areas are created by removing paint with a clean brush, paper towel, Q-tips, or kneaded eraser. Burnt umber dries fast, so you can only lighten for about a day. I used Robert Simmons Signet bristle brushes for initial block-in, Langnickel Royal Sable for blending, and Robert Simmons White Sable for detail.

Final note: I'm in New York City next week, visiting some galleries and museums, so answers to comments will be delayed. Back the week after.

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this, very illustrative. Thanks again!

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  2. hi candance , i see you have the portrait fever as well.you are a very good paiter.i loved those heads winter 2009 , it is exelent.
    well thank you .

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  3. Hi Candace,
    I followed you hear from Karin's blog. Your work is stunning! Hope you don't mind if I add you to my links.

    I love these two portraits, particularly the gorgeous Navajo. Well...off to explore the rest of your wonderful work.

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  4. Thanks, Carolina. Glad you found this post useful. Thanks for visiting.

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  5. Caio Fernandes, Hard to imagine a more compelling or satisfying subject than the human face. Really enjoyed your blog, lots of creativity there. Happy Belated birthday.

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  6. Love portrait study! Have a great time in NY...I'm also leaving the country on Thursday!
    ~Blessings*

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  7. Gwen, Thanks for finding and following my blog. Just back from visiting yours. Lots of wonderful art, and in complete agreement with your 7May post. Best wishes for a speedy recovery. Looking forward to your future works. Regards.

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