WATERCOLOR – Demo: The Importance Of Under Painting.
I like it when I can find students who are having problems in class because they make perfect examples for demos that will directly affect a students needs plus they are great teaching tools. This one illustrated the power of a good under painting.
When you are learning to paint whether it is watercolor, oils, acrylics or other colorful medium you only see what is in front of you whether you are doing plein aire or working from a photo, you tend to only see the whole or what you hope it will look like finished when what you should really be seeing is the pieces and parts that make up the whole, because that is your foundation, it is what give your finished painting strength and substance.
The first thing you need to do when you are planning how to start your painting is to look to see if there is an "under color(s)". It may take some time and effort, but eventually you will see what I'm talking about, for instance: Something simple like a lawn looks green – usually – and as a beginner, that is how you would paint it and you would not be satisfied with the results. A lawn, while it may be primarily green, it has a lot of other colors going on in it, even several colors and values of green. There are yellows, oranges, sienna, blues and purples all of these colors can go into the under painting, if you keep them light, then they can influence the finished grass. It is seeing them in the first place that is the hardest to convince your eye (left side of you brain).
The problem the student was having was she was trying to paint what she saw in her photo and she had tried it several times in different mediums without success. What she hadn't tried was to start with an under painting. Each element in her photo of the side of an old abandoned building had it's own under color. The corrugated metal panels each had a slightly different look to them: one was very pinkish, another green the other two were shades of blues and purples, the old wood panels had a warm sienna color, even the white wasn't white but a soft version of the wood. But there was different wood that had a more yellowish under tone, these are the colors that need to go on first then by adding layers or color, you build the elements in your painting.
Watercolor requires you to be patient and work in a methodical way one layer at a time, if you can't do this, if you try to go from point "A" to point "Z" in one step, you are going to be very disappointed with your work. This is not a race and as you learn you will paint faster but you will still be going through all the steps. Learn to see the under colors and learn to enjoy the process, your paintings will thank you for it.