Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Painting a Grisaille/Underpainting
When teaching my weekly classes, I am again focusing a great deal on having my students work on blocking in light shapes and shadow shapes first. This is not an easy thing for students with their yet "untrained eye" when looking at a still life setup. So, I have returned to the basics--having each student paint in a five value gray scale. For a novice painter, removing color helps them focus on value first and foremost, and this method is also consistent with the traditional method. I even have them put a piece of tape down the center of their palette and mix their grays with the light values on one side of the line and the shadow values on the other. I am pleased to say, I am seeing real progress and so are they. Here is an image of an under-painting I did using raw umber and white creating a five value gray scale. I began with only two values, 2 and 7, and blended to create the halftones. When the under-painting dries, I will be working on the "dead" layer and adding the milky glaze of white to the objects. Later the color glazes will be added to bring the image back to life, followed by thicker impasto paint in the highlights as part of a finishing layer before varnishing. Did I say that this method is a tried and true one used by the Old Masters? I love it! It does take time and patience though, but it's worth the wait time (drying time, that is). I've played a little fast and loose here with terminology, but will tighten up here so that my process can more easily be followed. Questions . . . please comment and I will reply with hopefully good answers.