Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Beginnings-No Toner

As the saying goes--"different strokes for different folks."  One beginning method used by a few artist is to begin painting on a white, untoned canvas.  I read in John Howard Sanden's book, Portraits from Life in 29 Steps, that he begins with a white canvas.  "I paint on a white, untoned canvas, since this seems to reflect the colors in the truest and clearest fashion.  Another reason I rarely tone the canvas is because I use a white palette. . . . I also enjoy the feel of the bare canvas texture against my brush."  He also goes on to write that "for the premier coup method, which calls for a single layer of paint laid in as swiftly as possible, toning the canvas in advance is a contradiction in terms and is useless.  It is contradictory because toning the canvas implies judgment prior to observation.  It is useless because the subsequent paint should be a correct and final statement, without support from preliminary toning."

I am reserving judgment on this beginning method since this was not how I was taught.  Curiosity got the better of me and I thought I would try painting a portrait on a white canvas.  Here is my beginning.  I prefer to do a charcoal sketch first and fix it with a fixative (shown here).  When I finish, I will post the results.  Who knows, I might like it.  If any one uses this beginning method, drop me a comment and tell me why you like it.  Or if you totally disagree, tell me that also and why.


  1. it's a wonderful beginning though and your drawing skills are right on.

  2. Thanks for the compliment. I really love drawing with charcoal first. It's kind of like a notan but no quite. The actual painting feels like it is painting itself because a lot of the decisions have already been made.


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