14 November 2013

My Portrait Process: Third Step is the Underpainting

...grisaille, monochrome underpainting, burnt umber pick-out...much has been written about it, so I won't belabor the topic here, except to point you to what I consider a thorough discussion by Jan Blencowe, if you would like more details.  I use the underpainting to transfer the drawing and value relationships to the canvas.  A critical step.  And the color of the underpainting can lend a nice contrast to the final painting, where it peaks through as a warm layer under a cool color scheme, for example.

Here are a few examples of how other artists apply the technique...using the direct method: Nelson Shanks and Teresa Oaxaca...using the indirect method: Jacob Collins and David Gray

For my portrait of Kirk, I used a burnt umber pick-out technique.  I enlarged my drawing of Kirk to the final size (18x24") using a photocopier.  Using a piece of tracing paper coated with graphite, I traced the image onto my canvas, reiterated the tracing with pencil, then applied a sealant. Next, I laid down a mid-value stain of burnt umber diluted with OMS.  I picked out the lights with a rag, Q-tips (plain or dipped in OMS), and a kneaded eraser, and laid more paint in for the darks.  Not worried about the background at this point.

Here is my final underpainting.  That front arm/hand is still giving me trouble, so I'm working through it with some additional drawings.  Next step is the final painting...
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Portrait of Kirk (underpainting), 18x24", oil on linen board