Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Underpainting Questions Answered

(Photo taken with my new favorite obsession, instagram.)

I have received many questions about my underpaintings (and my painting process in general), so I thought I would take this opportunity to answer them all at once (in case you're curious too)...

What kind of paint do you use?  Are these oils?  
How do you get them so smooth?
They are painted with acrylics.  I use whatever brand I happen to have closest to me when I start painting.  I use many different brands, but I personally prefer Liquitex - different brands have different consistencies, I just happen to like Liquitex the best.  I use a damp (not wet, not dry) brush for blending to achieve "smoothness".

How do you choose what color you use for your underpaintings?
When I was in college, I always used umber (raw or burnt) for my underpaintings, and I know many people use paynes gray.  Now, I choose the color based on what the final painting will be (then I choose the complement), sometimes I choose the color because of a feeling the background gives me, or sometimes even my mood... You may have already guessed, but dioaxazine purple is my favorite.

What is an underpainting? Why do you create an underpainting?  It looks like a finished painting to me.
For me, underpaintings are like sketches with paint... I am able to establish values more readily because I find it easier to focus on lights and darks when the painting is monochromatic.  It is my base layer and provides a ground that ultimately gives my finished painting more depth.

Thank you to all of the people who said that these look like finished paintings already!  I have to admit that sometimes I end up liking the underpainting better than the finished painting (which is why I always take a quality scan before moving on)!

Do you ever paint without using an underpainting?  
Do you notice a difference?
Yes, and yes.  There have been many times where I've painted without creating an underpainting first, and the majority of the time I've ended up regretting it.  I truly believe that the added depth that is achieved by doing an underpainting first is well worth the extra time it takes.

How long does it take you to create an underpainting?
 It really varies from day to day... It is usually somewhere between 45 minutes and 2 hours... If I'm "in the groove" it can be fairly quick, but some days I am nit-picky with myself, then it takes longer.  It also depends on the amount of detail and the size of the painting.  Some days I think "Oh, this will be a quick one" and I end up fussing over it longer than I thought.  And, some days I think, "This one is going to be tricky." and I end up breezing through it... I just never know what to expect (but I guess that's part of the fun!)   

What are you going to do with all of these underpaintings?
You can find an answer to that question here.

How do you create your backgrounds?  Do you hand paint them or are they patterned papers?
I use many different things to create my backgrounds, both paint and paper (and teabags, and phonebook pages, and old painting rags...).  Occasionally I use pre-made papers, but I prefer to create my own collage papers and use those instead.

Last year, I created 48 free downloadable and printable collage papers as part of my Carefree Fridays series.  If you would like to use them in your artwork (no strings attached), you can find them here.

I want to thank you all for your kindness, support, and questions...
I believe we all learn from each other and I'm happy to share!

p.s.  It's "Blogtoberfest" and I'm posting everyday...  
Please be sure to come back tomorrow!


  1. Glad you answered many of my unasked questions! I have never done underpaintings so this whole thing has been very interesting for me. I am blogging daily this month too so see you around!

  2. Thanks for sorting this out. It's because your under paintings are so fantastic that it was confusing. Can't wait to see what happens. How can they get any better!

  3. thanks for explaining your process. i usually paint with watercolor and have only experimented with acrylics...so i have never heard of underpainting.

    i look forward to seeing the final paintings. But like Jez said "how can they get any better!!"

  4. Thanks so much for explaining the process! I love your underpaintings, and I really think they could stay like this and be an artwork in themselves. Looking forward to seeing them finished!

  5. I love your under paintings and reckon they could stay that way! :)

  6. Thanks for sharing. Your blog is beautiful and so is your work.


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