View Full Version : Choice of ground color:

04-01-2006, 08:46 AM
The color temperature of a painting - that is whether it leans to the warm or cool side can create a mood.
This is particularly true with pastels where the ground color is allowed to show through.

I show two examples: Both are plein air sketches of the same scene, done at the same time of day. They were done during that fateful month of September in 2001. Actually I think it was the week before 9/11. The location was Snow Farm at Williamsburg MA. On my drive back home to Florida the next week, U.S. Flags were flying on every overpass.

Both were done on print paper primed with Golden's Acrylic Ground for Pastels and an acrylic wash.

The first one was toned with either (?) a wash of red oxide or burnt sienna.

Smithy Road 1
7-1/2 x 8"

The reddish ground shows through the broken color giving a warm sunny afternoon feeling. The interaction of complementary colors -- the red ground color and the green pastel -- can produce an exciting vibrating effect to the viewer's eye.

The next sketch was done over a cool pthalo-blue ground color.

Smithy Road - 2
9 x 8"

Obviously, from the direction of the light, it was done at about the same time of day as the first. Even though it was mid to late afternoon, which characteristically gives a warmer light source, the over all mood is of a cool morning light or maybe a hazy day.

04-01-2006, 08:49 AM

Not only does the choice of ground color influence the mood of a painting, it can help to tie it together.

04-01-2006, 10:13 AM

Once I read the following about a painting that had a road with more or less the same colours as yours.
That the painter used on the road several colours that he used on the rest of the painting. This permited to give balance and unify the work.
And for what I can see, you did more or less the same. Correct me if I'm wrong.



Bhavana Vijay
04-04-2006, 02:22 PM
I see what you mean Jim, it makes a huge difference!! I like both very much but i think the first is my favourite.:) Thanks for the demo.

04-04-2006, 02:32 PM
Ground color is so important. especially since sometimes this shows thru. I tend to use mostly white or cream as I like to cover a painting and get frustrated with a darker ground but, I know it's important.

04-04-2006, 03:42 PM
Oh thanks for this! I love the first one! So hard to guess sometimes - you have saved me some trial and error!

04-05-2006, 11:12 AM
Jim, these are beautiful sketches, FINISHES in my eyes.....love them as they are. Thanks for the discussion on background colors/underpaintings. They make such a difference in work and it's nice to see your examples.

04-05-2006, 01:26 PM
Thanks for the comments..