The only time I really do an under painting these days is on my more tonal sunsets or nocturnes. I do stain my canvas most of the time but I don’t always create an under painting In this new work titled “Cradled Moon”, I’ve created an under painting using Sap Green and Alizarin Crimson, mixed together the color is richly transparent. As you can see I try to create a fairly accurate image of the painting using these colors. I try to show or reveal has much detail has possible. I use a fairly dry mongoose hair brush and cotton swabs to reveal details such as the branches and trunks. If you’re going to use this approach on your own painting it’s important to be sure some of the under painting in the final painting (see Detail). This will add not only a richness to your piece but also a certain energy that is difficult to capture any other way.
In the detail below, you’ll notice the reddish under painting in the deep dark shadows as well as the branches and trunks of the Cypress trees. This is accomplished through the use of transparent pigments not only as the under painting but in the majority of the finished painting itself. Cad. Red Medium, Cad. Yellow Light and Lemon Yellow are the only 3 opaque colors on my palette, everything else is transparent.
Under painting is also a great way to work out compositional and design ideas prior to starting the actual painting.
If you’ve never tried starting with an under painting you should give it a try.