Thursday, December 06, 2007

Large Landscape Demo - PART II

So, when I stopped for the day yesterday, I was about a third of the way done with my acrylic underpainting and ready to continue on. First step today was to block in the dark accents on the rocky hillside and shoreline.

Continuing down the canvas, I block in the grass on the hillside and the surface of the lake. At this point I'm still keeping things simple. I use two values/colors for the grass, and block in the water as two large shapes without worrying about reflections.

Last, I indicate the foreground rocks, trees, and grass to finish the underpainting. This is offficially what I refer to as "the ugly stage" of my painting - the colors are a bit too bright and nothing is too refined. It's just enough for me to see where I need to go with the oils.

At this point, I had to take a break to go to the store and buy some Viva paper towels. I ran out, and the cheap kitchen paper towels just won't do for painting - I HAVE to use Viva in the studio. Actually, I really wish someone would invent a recycled paper towel that works as well as Viva - then I wouldn't have to feel so guilty about the volume of paper towels I throw away each week. Seriously.

Anyhow, now that the underpainting is done, I get to move on to the real fun! Here's my messy palette - this is about as clean as it gets. Also note my brushes that have been carelessly left in a can of mineral spirits - typical. I've been using Utrecht artist grade paints recently, and I love them. From left to right, the colors I have out are titanium white, cad yellow light, cad yellow lemon, cad orange, alizarin crimson, quinacridone red, burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, a teensy tiny dot of pthalo green, and a big blob of Weber res-n-gel. I only put out a tiny dot of the pthalo green becuase I only use it when I'm painting skies. I stay far away from it when painting grass or anything green - it's way too obnoxious. The res-n-gel is an addiction of mine - it turns paint into butter. Actually, I don't use too much of it, but I like to mix it with sitffer colors to make them flow better.

So, on to the oil painting. I start with the sky as usual, and work downward. In the picture below, I've painted in the sky, and started to block in the shadows on the mountain in the middle. At this point, I'm concerned mostly with shapes. I'm using a number 9 bristle flat and working to keep things simple (as usual).

Next, I start to refine the shadows a little bit, adding in darker accents and a bit more color (sorry - these pictures aren't really good enough to show what's going on).

The next step is to fill in some of the lighter shapes on the mountain. In the picture below, I've inadvertently covered up some of the shadows, and have yet to refine the lighter areas.

Now I work back and forth at the edge of the major shapes, making them work to define the form of the mountain, and refine the color and light.

I follow the same steps as I continue downward, painting in the shadowed ridge that comes down from the upper left corner. You can see here that I'm completely covering the underpainting as I go. It may seem like an unnecessary step, but having it there provides me with a framework to build on as I refine my colors and values.

So this is where I stopped today, after about an hour's work finishing the underpainting, and 4-5 hours spent working on the sky and mountain. Unfortunately, the more oil I put on the canvas, the more glare there is in the photos - I apologize that the final picture isn't the best. I'll try to get better pictures as I work tomorrow.


  1. I am really enjoying watching your "demo" here! I am so impressed that you are able to do a relatively detailed underpainting and then paint over it again, without losing the freshness in the image.

    That's one reason why I stopped including detail in my underpaintings, it really dragged down the color when I got to it.

  2. truly beautiful landscapes! i had to comment though, because of your mention of Viva papertowels....this gave me quite a chuckle as I use them as well and can't live without them! i panic when i see the roll getting low. too funny! and i agree a recycled version would be wonderful.

  3. Thanks Tracy - the underpainting is pretty rough, but it gives me something to judge color and value with. I think the oil painting stays fresh because I'm throwing down thick paint, and working on brushwork and color - I'm excited about it, so I think it stays fresh. I also try to stop before I overwork things - very important!

    Christine - I buy the paper towels in packages of 8 rolls, and I'm always amazed at quickly I go through them. They're expensive too!!

  4. I am enjoying the step by step on this painting Stacey.
    That is interesting that you start with acrylics and then go back in with the oils. Does any of the original acrylic ever show through?
    Looks like a beautiful spot.
    I've never used Viva. old rags in the studio and regular old paper towels on location.

  5. Hi Frank. The acrylics are just a shortcut to cover the canvas. I work pretty thick with the oil, so the underpainting rarely shows through in the end. Which sometimes makes me wonder why I do it, but I just find that it's valuable to have a "skeleton" to work off of as I'm going in with the oils.

  6. for a paper towel they are expensive, i thought i was silly buying the 3-pack, i haven't seen the 8-pack around here.

    i'm fascinated by your detailed acrylic underpainting. you don't find that the oils soften the underlying acrylics at all and cause them to lift, or are they very thin?

  7. Hi Stacey, First time I've visited your blog, I came from another artist blog. You know how that is. I love your work, it's beautiful. Also it's great you're posting all the steps in the painting you're working on, very generous of you. I'm going to bookmark you. Happy painting. Barb

  8. I have been using blue shop towels for oils and like them much better than regular paper towels. They also can be bought in various quantities including 8 roll packs. Since they are made for oily shop conditions, they hold up much better. I can keep my use down to 2-3 in a painting session depending on the size of the painting.

    I would say give them a try, at least.

  9. Christine - I don't find that the oils affect the acrylic at all, since it's dry before I go in with oil. It's kind of the same thing as painting on canvas with acrylic gesso ground.

    Hi Barb - thanks! I'll have to visit your site too.

    Thanks for the suggestion James - I'll check them out sometime soon.

  10. I'll third the comment about Viva towels-- I love 'em.

    I wish there was a more enviro friendly alternative-- I'll be looking at the blue shop towels as well.

    The progress step by steps are a joy to see!

  11. interesting i'll keep that in mind should i get in a pinch to speed up the start of a painting.

    funny....this weekend at the grocery store they had a new viva display with all the jumbo packs!! i bought the 6 pack choose a size! i was very excited.