Why I Love Underpainting

Pastel Underpainting 

Pastel Underpainting 

I took a fantastic pastel class from Karen Margulis a few months ago, and since then I have been hooked on under painting and hope you, if you are not already, maybe you will also become a fan.

There are many beauties and benefits to under painting, some of which are….

  • It gives you a roadmap for your painting.
    The first part of mapping a painting is to do a thumbnail sketch with 3 or 4 values. Once you are satisfied with this, you can easily do your under painting following the map of the thumbnail.
  • It helps you work out the value relationships.
    Your thumbnail is just a rough sketch. The under painting can be refined a bit further, helping you to adjust the value relationships if necessary. If the composition doesn’t look good in the thumbnail, chances are it won’t work itself out in the under painting, so it’s always best to start with a thumbnail that works.
  • You can establish a foundation that will help your painting glow.
    If I want my painting to have a warm feel, I will often start with a cool under painting to help the warm colors come to life. I like using four values of the same color to do the under painting, i.e. four blues or four purples, but there are many ways to do it.
  • It helps you fix problems before you start.
    I have finished an under painting and been able to spot areas that are just not working, too close in value or not enough contrast. The under painting helped me to see the problem before I started on the top layers.
  • You can simplify your painting more easily.
    I like to paint big shapes in the under painting because I know I can go back and refine things as the painting progresses. It helps me to stay looser and gives a painterly feel from the beginning. I like not having to chase perfection, it takes away the fear of just starting.

So, do you love under painting, too?