Under Painting

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.

Cradled Moon, 12 x 14, Oil on Linen

Under Painting for "Cradled Moon"

Detail, Cradled Moon


10 thoughts on “Under Painting

  1. Kevin,
    This is so nice of you to share, I have been experimenting with many of these same approaches for the last year or so, trying to see how transparent and Opaque paints work together, when one is more beneficial over the other so on.
    I would love to know the pallet you use most often or if it changes painting to painting.

    All the best,

  2. Kevin I happened on your site after it was recommended by another artist on line. Dan Schultz, who i also admire. I was in Carmel for the Classic car race which is my husbands passion. I enjoy spending my time in Carmel getting inspired by other artists and of course the scenery and charm.I am new to plein air and always looking for inspiration and how I can grow as an artist. I stop in to view and admire your work at New Masters Gallery. I am always in aha . How is that done? How does an artist go out in nature and create different colors yet the right values from sometimes foggy days?. I just read one of your blogs which made me pause. When you talked about being more than an artist, it really touched me. Your spirit and recognizing the importance and value of your family and enjoying other things as well as painting.I loved the story of how you handled the car not starting.Patience and a prayer.
    I dont live far from Mountain View, where my son and his wife and 2 little children live. Kevin if you ever have time to teach or demonstrate please let me know. You have something special to share. Best wishes, Carolyn

    • Hi Carolyn,

      My apologies for taking so long to get back to you.

      Thanks for the very kind words regarding my work. I do teach a workshop from time to time. I have a workshop coming up in Petaluma in March. Here’s the link:http://www.acartacademy.com/ The workshop will be on Nocturnes and will certainly answers many of your questions.

      If you’re interested in private lessons I provide those as well.

      If you ever want to come by my studio don’t hesitate to ask, I welcome visitors.

      Let me know if you have any other questions, I promise I’ll get back to you sooner.

      Cheers, Kevin

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