View Full Version : Seeing a landscape in an underpainting

07-20-2014, 12:04 PM
Lately, I've noticed that I see landscape shapes just by toning my paper, or by using aloose oil or watercolor underpainting. I just start putting color down and I begin to see the forms emerge. I have started using the forms I see to do my paintings....does anyone else paint that way?

07-20-2014, 06:50 PM
I would love to try it. I see forms all the time in the cracks in the plaster, the stains and smudges on doors and walls, anything like that. I live in a lovely old building from 1807 and can see how that works. I see various different things - just glanced across the room and on the wall saw bumps and ripples in the plaster that look for all the world like a fossil toothy fish.

I've often thought about carefully copying the marks on the wall and expanding the images, or in the case of something like that fish, do a rubbing and then detail it.

The main reason I haven't tried that with landscapes and toning paper is that I usually have an idea in mind with an underpainting. I've read articles by watercolorists on doing that - starting with just loose masses of color running into each other and then pulling out what's there by later detailing and layers. It'd work great in pastel.

What I have done in my journal sometimes is scribble and start making up a landscape with elements I'm familiar with, rocks, cliffs, water, trees, because I like them and felt like doing one and didn't have a reference. But not working like you do with forms already hinted by a random irregular toning. I tend to smudge or brush smooth when just toning so the variations to catch imagination aren't there.

You've just shown me I can do it deliberately but what I need to do is tone paper that loosely and not pay attention to what it's doing other than later to pull out what's there.

Thank you for giving me something cool to try!

07-20-2014, 11:31 PM
Funny you should ask... I did that on the painting below, several years ago-- just started smearing watercolor and gouache, as I recall. The images must have emerged from my subconscious. Any Freudian interpretations will be playfully entertained.:lol:

07-21-2014, 12:56 AM
It sounds like what you are doing is a sort of abstract underpainting, which you transform into something representative when you see the forms? I've read about other artists using some accidental effects of the underpainting as elements in the final painting (Richard McKinley calls it serendipity), but probably not to the extent you mean. That is really interesting. It sounds like fun, too!

Blayne - Freudian interpretations, eh? I can't resist! Hmm, I could give you some analytic hogwash about the fiery colors and violent strokes eluding to some allegorical cycle of destruction and rebirth, with the levitating figure of course representing your psychic self which is suspended safely above the chaos, but instead . . .

I'll just go out on a limb and say it is about your mother. :lol:

07-21-2014, 07:57 AM
Ha ha, Saskia. Violent strokes, fiery colors, allegorical destruction and rebirth--wow, I always knew that beneath this thin veneer of insipid shallowness, I'm SOOO deep! :) And your remark about the mother reminds me of a funny line in a detective novel I once read where the case profiler mimics Freud in a pseudo-German accent, saying, "Ve alvays look to ze mudder." But yeah, I see a mother-daughter thing going on, too. And I did a somewhat similar painting 30 years ago... OK, where's my analyst's phone number...

07-21-2014, 01:07 PM
Nice work and really enjoyed the "analysis" (no couch needed)

07-22-2014, 02:07 PM
I guess I'd better save my interpretation: the shaggy dog got into the box of blue pastels and the dog groomer is about to give up. I just won't share it. :-)

To answer the original question, yes I do see landscapes but without definite photos or whatever to follow, I usually just play and end up with an unsatisfactory image.

07-22-2014, 05:18 PM
:lol: :lol: :lol: OK, Jay, that is one very original interpretation!

07-24-2014, 03:30 PM
Jay, I can SEE that! Shaggy dog got in the blue pastels and groomer's about to give up.

To me she looks like an abstract artist combining beach toys and painted things to make a large whimsical sculpture. That large ovoid thing at the lower right looks like something you'd get at a Pride parade and take to the beach to ride on. She looks very creative and intense, even the background is bright and playful, I can almost hear cool music going on in this. I'd title it "Creativity" and let it go at that.

I could make innuendos about bunches of blue bananas but I won't. Gorgeous painting and yes, easy for everyone to interpret as they like. I love the bright, cheery, lively feel of this. Got to try that sort of thing sometime, starting point of a loose irregular wash with abstract forms and ripples.

07-24-2014, 06:32 PM
To be quite honest, the shaggy dog theory makes as much sense or more as anything the great Freud could dish out. I have studied him, but that doesn't mean I agree with absolutely anything he says. I'm in the neuroscience field myself (actual brain science as opposed to psycho-babble), and in modern scientific terms, the guy is basically regarded as a few nuts short of a can!

Edit: Oops, I just realized Rob that you edited your post (I read it in my email), so maybe what I said no longer makes sense. Oh well, that's alright with me! :)

07-25-2014, 10:34 AM
Thanks, Peg and Robert, for your compliments--and, Robert, for your further analysis even though you didn't espouse on the blue bananas.:) God knows, I need all the free analysis I can get!
Saskia, you're in a very interesting, exciting field. I always enjoy reading about new developments in neuroscience and believe it will eventually explain many inherited mental illnesses.

Debbie, this thread unfortunately devolved into dog grooming and my somewhat questionable mental health.:) I apologize for posting the painting that hijacked and derailed your thread but when I did so I was assuming others would follow suit. This has certainly been a fun thread but I would love to see some of your paintings (and others' work) done with the method you describe. With Saskia to keep us on track and Jay's sense of humor, we won't psychoanalyse you too badly!

07-25-2014, 10:59 AM
When I was a child, we used to play a game "Draw a line and make something out of it." Each person would draw a line, then trade with someone else's, and turn it into a drawing. I had creative sisters.

07-27-2014, 11:54 AM
That sounds like a fun game, Mary!

Saskia, now I regret editing my post! Like your answer. Sorry I deleted my comments about Freud. I was trying to tone it down so I wouldn't come off like flaming someone's favorite famous scientist and all, but he was so extremely sexist and classist and mired in Victorian Morals digging up rationalizations for why everything came back to "repression is a good thing" that he creeped me out. Reason: my physical disabilities went undiagnosed as a child and Freudian analysis was applied to every single abnormal thing about me.

Worse, I wrote and illustrated science fiction, fantasy and horror stories. In retrospect a lot of it was regurgitated Twilight Zone but my shrink was attributing all sorts of meanings I didn't agree with to the symbolism in my stories. I did sometimes use it deliberately and they didn't recognize it for what it was, because of the Freudian framework. Everything that you find in children's video and books today got labeled as Morbid. A decade later I was playing D&D and my entire generation got hooked on regurgitated Tolkein and Lovecraft.

In relation to my writing it had exactly the withering effect as a young artist showing off a fabulous best-ever drawing of a horse only to hear "How nice, what a pretty doggie!" I had to grow up to understand exactly how much of their attitude was Freud's Victorian social ideas and how much conservative 1950s social ideas mingled with Adoration of Freud.