View Full Version : Sketching onto the surface

08-20-2001, 02:18 PM
A lot of people seem to recommend sketching the basic picture onto the canvas (or whatever you're painting on). I don't understand this at all. The second you lay the underpainting or basic background (sky and ground in a landscape), the sketch is gone. Then what do you do? I don't get it.

08-20-2001, 03:29 PM
What I do is prepare a sketch on tracing paper, attach the paper to the canvas or board with a masking tape hinge at the top, and trace the drawing to the surface with transfer paper and a stylus. For a stylus I use a colored roller-ball pen -- to distinguish the pencil sketch from what I've traced. You might use a hard pencil, a pointed copper wire, or anything you can apply pressure with without tearing or cutting the tracing paper. The transfer paper can be carbon paper, Saral, or dressmaker's transfer paper, but these all leave a slightly waxy residue which is difficult to paint over. I prepare my own using a sheet of tracing paper (not the one I sketched on) smeared on the bottom with a graphite stick.

By keeping the sketch attached to the surface with a hinge it remains in registration with the painting. You can flip it back down over the painting to check your progress (possible because of transparent paper) and redo some transfering when necessary.

08-20-2001, 04:39 PM
Thanks. That's a neat idea about hinging the trace at the to of the canvas. I'll probably try that.

08-20-2001, 04:54 PM
All good suggestions. Another is to paint the background first, then transfer your drawing. Acrylics dry fast and are opaque enough. If your background is dark, then use a white transfer saran.
I've also seen artists save their preliminary transfer with artists contact paper cutouts.

08-21-2001, 03:17 AM
I forgot to mention:
When you flip the sketch over a painting in progress, be sure the paint in place has dried first. This usually isn't a major inconvenience with acrylics (they dry quickly, and you can hit some obviously wet areas with a hair dryer for a minute to "skin" the paint if you're in a hurry. Be careful to avoid flattening the paint if you're trying to maintain impasto effects), but can be a major problem with other slow-drying media like oils, or even dry pastels since they are easily smudged if unfixed.

Keith Russell
08-22-2001, 12:27 PM
Wow, this 'transparent overlay' technique is almost exactly the way I paint--

--except that I use a frisket overlay, rather than tracing paper, and I 'trace' my pencil drawing with an X-Acto knife.

Then, the pencil lines are erased completely, and the frisket stencil holds registration perfectly.



08-22-2001, 01:16 PM
Thanks for all the input guys. I really appreciate it. I complete my first painting in about five years last night. It's okay I guess. I'm particularly disillusioned with the clouds. I'll post it when I get it scanned.