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Edward A. Kole
07-11-2007, 09:29 PM
The Pros and Cons of Underpainting:

Several members described "underpainting' as a means to start the oil painting process. Also other artists, after having under painted, decided to abandon the practice and start painting in full color. Still, rarely have I read the step-by-step underpainting procedure before the application of color. Neither have I read of the advantages gained in underpainting other than as the precondition for “glazing.”.

For instance, I underpaint in Raw Umber because it is an easier process than deciding upon and mixing diverse colors while addressing all other issues just as crucial to the painting’s many and diverse qualities. Farther, I use Raw Umber because it is near the color of flesh in the shadow. That all the elements of composition, movement and direction, drawing, lost and found edges, hard and soft edges, lights, halftones, and shadows, distance, atmosphere, and textures may be solved without the time consuming and encumbering color and chroma decisions. Finally, underpainting is quick and may be completed in one session before any noticeable change in the morning light. Rarely have I spent more than three hours to complete a 16” x 20” head and shoulders portrait.

Other than my reasons, I can only guess why other artists underpaint in variations of Gray, Blue, Red and Green. I imagine much of the decision deals with the artist’s preference or the subject painted.

In this post I am interested in learning why the artist chose his particular style of underpainting and his reasons for [or against] that practice. Also, I understand there is no one "CORRECT" way to plan a painting, and that we may relegate any method to a personal decision. Still, I am confident that reasons other than mine exist. It is that I may learn those reasons that I address this subject.

Ed

zcdz
07-12-2007, 10:01 AM
I use underpainting with a media which allows for glazes and mixing through refraction. (oil/acrylic/egg)

I do not use underpainting when using a media which does not allow for glazes and uses optical mixing. (casein, ink, gouache, watercolor)

The exception to this is digital imaging which I will often "layer up" images and textures in Photoshop and change their transparency. In this case it's more of a series of collages for form and texture than underpainting for color.

Ziska

WFMartin
07-12-2007, 12:11 PM
Ed,

Please check your Private Messages.

LarrySeiler
07-12-2007, 03:43 PM
if an artist uses a limited palette..an undertone can expand the sensation that many more pigments must have been used. This helps greater efficiency and expediency, for example...those that paint outdoors with more portable setups.

Emile Gruppe once sais that we don't know how red a red is unless there is green nearby to tell us.

A reddish undertone can enhance and make the greens of nature vibrate and feel more energy, more excitement and yet pull together harmoniously.

Edgay Payne spoke often that really good paintings require a "color vibration" where color feeds off each other. An undertone assures that one color can be hinted or sensed all over that pulls the work together.

I have done a good deal of experimentation over the past near two years with undertoning...referring to the writings of past painters/teachers.

Check out my thread in my sticky in my partner forum on experimenting with Gruppe Reddish undertones...take the link below by my signature.

samhill
07-12-2007, 05:13 PM
if an artist uses a limited palette..an undertone can expand the sensation that many more pigments must have been used. This helps greater efficiency and expediency, for example...those that paint outdoors with more portable setups.

Emile Gruppe once sais that we don't know how red a red is unless there is green nearby to tell us.

A reddish undertone can enhance and make the greens of nature vibrate and feel more energy, more excitement and yet pull together harmoniously.

Edgay Payne spoke often that really good paintings require a "color vibration" where color feeds off each other. An undertone assures that one color can be hinted or sensed all over that pulls the work together.

I have done a good deal of experimentation over the past near two years with undertoning...referring to the writings of past painters/teachers.

Check out my thread in my sticky in my partner forum on experimenting with Gruppe Reddish undertones...take the link below by my signature.

Good stuff, Larry. My wife has used underpaintings for many years now. Often cad red when the painting is to be bright and vibrant. Or burnt sienna when it's to be toned down or more serious. Allowing bits of underpaint to show through can have quite a harmonizing effect.

.

tchance
07-12-2007, 08:22 PM
I use underpainting (and colored grounds) for psychological reasons: it makes me feel more secure, like I have solid ground to jump from and not just empty space - I need something to "push against", so to speak. I imagine it's the same as a writer wanting to avoid the paralysis that can come from staring at a blank page. Just write/draw/paint....something will come of it eventually. Just start.

Shadia
07-15-2007, 08:31 PM
As I'm experiencing many different ways, I think it's possible that doing a monochromatic underpainting will become my preferred method.

Not only to glaze afterwards, but also, the established tones on the canvas interfere with the colors I use, and then, simplify the mixing process.

A little exercise will show rapidly that fact: like painting tones of red for a rose, for exemple, on a white canvas, and then on a monochromatic underpainting.

Ìn my opinion, colors are richer, deeper that way. It's like a guide, a support, for the painting process, even if the painting is done with opaque colors. But like you said, it's only one way and there are many!

Happy painting!
Shadia :)

Edward A. Kole
07-17-2007, 08:58 AM
Thank you, your comments on “underpainting” made me aware of reasons and purposes not previously considered. As you may have read in the few messages I wrote, for the last forty plus years I have excluded myself from the fine art of oil painting. It has been two months since my re-emergence and much has happened since. In the first two weeks I completed no less than eight three-hour, head and shoulders, self portraits. I painted them on stretched 16"x 20" cotton duck canvas. Only one color, Raw Umber or Burnt Umber, was used. No white or black was added though white and black may be added should I consider it necessary.

First, I evenly cover the canvas with straight from the tube W/N Umber paint. With a #4 Pig Bristol Flat and commercially sold paint rag covering my index finger, I drew the lines and wiped the tones into the flat Umber paint. I learned this technique from Mr. Frank Reilly as a student in the Art Students League. I must give you this brief history for whatever I do in drawing and paint is in a large part due to what Mr. Reilly taught.

Since I started to under paint, the local "Senior Center" has offered me a room to teach this method. In anticipation of that happening, I have focused upon producing at least four self portraits a week. As my memory and skill improved I began to appreciate Mr. Reilly’s underpainting process and thanks to your comments have come to think of "underpainting" in a way not previously considered. The Reilly method is so simple, complete and structured that underpaintings can, on an equal footing with all other art forms, compete for museum and gallery space. Line and tone renderings in conte crayons, charcoal, india ink, graphite, copper, wood block and linoleum block prints, Serigraphy, Lithography, Watercolor, wash and line renderings, and pastel sketches can be completed as monochromes, so why should not monochromatic oil paintings be as complete an art form as well? It is fast, forgiving [to an extreme], economical and just as fluid and detail friendly as full color oil paintings.

Ed

ps: I will post examples of my work as soon as I can figure out how it is done. Secondly, I have a 35mm film camera and have made CD's of each roll. Because the painting is vertically oriented [16" x 20"] the image was "shot" as verticle rather than horizontal. Part of the problem is I do not know how to submit the photo as an upright. Still, I will reshoot the paintings so they will without adjustments, print vertically. All other suggestions, technical and procedural, will be greatly appreciated.

Ed

sireeljill
07-17-2007, 03:27 PM
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/17-Jul-2007/81409-slides_5-07_014.jpg

I've been doing some grasaille (glazing color over a monochromatic underpainting) as well painting in the method without an underpainting (applying color direct). I like trying different methods. I am recently working on a still life series in the grisaille method. I'm working on painting number 8. The underpainting is a wonderful study in value. I believe it has helped me grow in everything else I do. I really enjoy the glazing phase. The images magically come to life.http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/17-Jul-2007/81409-squash_still_life_001.jpg

Here's one of the paintings in my series.

Jill

stoney
07-17-2007, 08:03 PM
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/17-Jul-2007/81409-slides_5-07_014.jpg

I've been doing some grasaille (glazing color over a monochromatic underpainting) as well painting in the method without an underpainting (applying color direct). I like trying different methods. I am recently working on a still life series in the grisaille method. I'm working on painting number 8. The underpainting is a wonderful study in value. I believe it has helped me grow in everything else I do. I really enjoy the glazing phase. The images magically come to life.http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/17-Jul-2007/81409-squash_still_life_001.jpg

Here's one of the paintings in my series.

Jill



Mindbogglingly exquisite! :thumbsup:

Andrew
07-18-2007, 10:18 AM
I don't know if there is a downside (con) to underpainting, any more than there is a downside to not underpainting. Since Larry mentioned one of my favorite artists of all time (Emile Gruppe), I will differ to that master. He found a good solid "happy medium." Of the pieces of his work that I have seen in-process photos, he did not underpaint in a traditional sense. He did tone his supports and he did occasionally do a loose tonal underpainting to establish a base color and to lay out a basic value pattern.

I don't know if he did this all the time, I only have the few examples in his books (which deserve to be brought back into print btw), but that was one way he started a painting. Coulton Waugh also worked in a similar manner. Both artists painted very thick, brushy fashion. Up close, their paintings looked like someone barfed in technicolor. Step back a few feet, and WOW! They just come to life.

Since I prefer to paint in a alla prima fashion, I don't do a monochromatic or a grayscale (grisaille) for glazing. I have tried it, and I probably will do so again. That is one of joys of painting, there is no right or wrong. Every subject suggests an approach.

Andrew

queenmargot
07-18-2007, 09:28 PM
I am new to the wet canvas forum.. I do an underpainting of ink drawing, burnt umber layer , 2 dead layers, and than the glazing and adding paint and in between each layer I rub on linseed oil and dry with a paper towel and than put on the paint... It is a long process with the drying and such ... but so far I like the results.. maybe it gives me the chance to go at this slowly and I don't realize it is something that I enjoy and can analize as I go along? I usually have about 14 paintings going at one time however.. I might try some different ways in the future.. Margot

PVHooper
07-20-2007, 03:46 AM
After trying both ways, which yes have their pros and cons depending on application I have a third way of looking at it for oil painting. For instance the best way to work with oils is from lean to fat so I do a thin color block wash to start off with, for instance a bluey blocking in of sky, light brown for clouds, dark for the dark areas, etc, leaving the highlights, etc. This is done very roughly, just blocks of color but helps me to set out the painting, composition and building of color depth. Each layer then is worked on top of this until slowly you get more and more detailed or what I call focused.

LarrySeiler
07-20-2007, 08:13 AM
I don't know if there is a downside (con) to underpainting, any more than there is a downside to not underpainting. Since Larry mentioned one of my favorite artists of all time (Emile Gruppe), I will differ to that master. He found a good solid "happy medium." Of the pieces of his work that I have seen in-process photos, he did not underpaint in a traditional sense. He did tone his supports and he did occasionally do a loose tonal underpainting to establish a base color and to lay out a basic value pattern.

I don't know if he did this all the time,

Reading two of Emile's books, and reading Edgar Payne, and getting the feeling they were contemporaries and wrote of common techniques of good painters of their day...their aims were to understand foundational principles well enough that at an educated mastering time of the painters life, the secondary next step or aim would be to work off foundational principle and then flying with a "gut hunch"...

in fact, Payne speaks quite a bit to this aim, that the purpose of foundations is to give freedom to the artist to go with the gut hunch.

Experimenting now for sometime and teaching some of their thinking in my own painting workshops, I have seen and experienced how some of this works quite well, and that fun of the gut hunch.

Remember too both Payne and Gruppe painted on location quite a bit if not most of their painting experiences and you get your clues on the best approach from nature, its moods...the nature of the light and so forth.

Gruppe often painted complementary colors under masses where the over painting would be excited. Both spoke of "color vibration" as a most important principle for good paintings, and it must have been more common knowledge in their day among painters.

Payne addresses well the deficit that faces all painters painting from life, pointing out that the eye sees all the intensity and purity of color struck by light and is 200 to 300 times more intense than what pigment can record. The eye seeing about 400 variations in values, but only about 40-50 being able to be painted.

When that really gets into your head, you must come to accept that attempting to paint is necessarily an abstract notion. One can only imitate, and we do so with varying devices...utilizing compare and contrast for effect.

Light delivers so much energy to color and Duracell has not yet gone into the pigment making business.

Color vibration seeks to allow hints of opposing color come thru in a cohesive rhythmic manner that feeds off and strengthens dominant color. For example, Gruppe said we don't know how red a red is unless green is nearby to show us.

A neutral/gray undertone sets the pace of the painting to feel harmony and some limited vibration by the emphasis of values. I used to add warm color to my grayer neutral undertones of my gessoing, to a midgray value which does a couple things. One...it is difficult without a good degree of experience to anticipate how color will read once most of the canvas has had paint added. If you begin with a few strokes of paint, it looks one way against a bare canvas...but as other many strokes are added, the initial strokes lose their emphasis and one finds themselves feeling the need to beef up what was originally painted.

A midgray undertone allows lighter strokes of paint to register and read immediately, whereas how long with a white canvas must that take? (for example). Midgray will also allow dark values to register right away. The first thing I noticed right away when I began undertoning my gesso to a midgray was that painting just seemed to happen faster. You eliminate a lot of second guessing and a lot of going back and tweaking or fixing. In other words...you get it right, right off.

Secondly...color out of doors is more often than not warm in color temperature.

Now...here is something I learned from reading the thoughts of painter Paul Strisik...

You would think a cooler undertone would then cause warm color to read warm...and yes, it would. But...problem is...it doesn't take much warmth in the pigment to read warm against a cool undertone, and you'll find as more of the painting gets filled in you have to go back and strengthen those prior strokes that no longer (by comparison) read so warm.

A warmer undertone of a neutral...or a redder/brown undertone forces your hand to have to mix your pigments stronger and warmer to read as warm as you would like against the undertone. What this does then is raise the chroma intensity naturally (without great anxiety of trying to effect this) of your pigment and as the painting comes to a finishing feels closer to imitating nature's light.

Strisik strongly suggested using the warmth of a wood palette for mixing for that very same reason. For many years I (like so many do) mixed my paint against a white surface or premade white palette paper. The problem is, an attempt to mix warm color reads immediately much warmer against the cool white. Applied to the canvas is another matter. By having a warmer wood palette you are forced to mix the color warmer by degree to read warm, and thus are not later finding yourself tweaking and fixing, muddling and fussing.

This of course for the outdoor painter is tantamount, because nature often gives you a very short window of opportunity to capture the light's mood before it suddenly changes. The artist feeling the need to tweak and fix outdoors finds themselves quickly feeling doomed and unable to work fast enough before the light is gone.

The advantage of the redder undertones is that warm color put down must be warmer still...yes, but also that the greens of nature painted suggest greater variation, greater life charged nature's energy. Again, I have a whole thread of experiments with Gruppe reddish undertones in my partner forum with a lot of examples.

yes...to sum up, a good number of strategies at hand, various undertones, palette strategies give the artist tools...like a good number of offenses and defenses offer options to win for coaches in football.

Who would have guessed that using only three piles of paint to build this painting I did last week...plus white would create so much color? But, a bit of undertone where needed...and knowing what a palette strategy can produce is really powerful stuff to come to understand. This was painted on location, and by the way...I had full rain gear on because when I set up...it was drizzling, gray, quite windy and I was thinking I'd have a stormy Lake Superior day to paint. I was quite pleased when the sky suddenly parted, and nature provided such a lovely light. Glad that break came before I had mixed up my paint and started with the former... :)
11"x 14"
http://larryseiler.com/images/presqueisle_westsidePA105dpi.jpg

No black was used, my darks were made mixing my paint. I used also a bit of experience as a painter as Payne advised to allow gut hunch to deviate, but basically this painting was done selecting to mix up a bluish-green as my dominant color, then red and a pile of orange that I mixed up...plus white. I was surprised how lovely of a green that bluish-green and orange makes, lovely variations...

Larry

Andrew
07-20-2007, 08:54 AM
Great painting Larry! But then I think I have liked everything you have posted on WC. It is hard to beat a good basic palette. My favorite is Aliz. Crimson, Cad. Yellow light, and Ultramarine, plus white. I also have used Cad Red lt., Yellow Ochre and Cerulean blue and my primaries. There is something about the color harmony and depth you can get out of a solid limited palette that is hard to beat.

Andrew

LarrySeiler
07-20-2007, 10:04 AM
There is something about the color harmony and depth you can get out of a solid limited palette that is hard to beat.

Andrew

thanks Andrew....

you get the most power out of color when you understand the fuller potential of that color, and the broader the palette...the more pigments that are introduced...the longer time will be needed to paint and intimately come to understand their increasing possibilities and sometimes alleged advantages.

The strength in a limited palette is that this intimacy and understanding comes quicker and stronger. Not having to labor over the questions of what they will give you, you find freedom to put your focus on other matters yet requiring greater proficiency. Indeed...that is a service to oneself and purpose in painting.

peace

stoney
07-20-2007, 05:24 PM
Reading two of Emile's books, and reading Edgar Payne, and getting the feeling they were contemporaries and wrote of common techniques of good painters of their day.

I checked Emile's last updated book out of the local library yesterday. I read a few pages earlier today.


Payne addresses well the deficit that faces all painters painting from life, pointing out that the eye sees all the intensity and purity of color struck by light and is 200 to 300 times more intense than what pigment can record. The eye seeing about 400 variations in values, but only about 40-50 being able to be painted.

Yes.


When that really gets into your head, you must come to accept that attempting to paint is necessarily an abstract notion. One can only imitate, and we do so with varying devices...utilizing compare and contrast for effect.


I had no trouble with the stuff way in the background, the water, or the foreground rocks. The top area of the cliff wasn't bad, but the vertical area of the cliff generated a lot of disquiet. Colours were fine, too. Disquiet does not equate to bad.

I'm trying to figure out why the reaction. The subject wouldn't generate a sense of disquiet. Neither would the colours. The only thing I can think of is, for me, at this point in time, the area is too abstract. That I haven't yet gotten to that level of 'seeing,' yet.

I'm sure you must have seen a reaction such as mine over and over again. Is my 'reaction analysis' correct? If not, then what is it I'm not seeing?
[/cue great puzzlement]



Light delivers so much energy to color and Duracell has not yet gone into the pigment making business.

Color vibration seeks to allow hints of opposing color come thru in a cohesive rhythmic manner that feeds off and strengthens dominant color. For example, Gruppe said we don't know how red a red is unless green is nearby to show us.

A neutral/gray undertone sets the pace of the painting to feel harmony and some limited vibration by the emphasis of values. I used to add warm color to my grayer neutral undertones of my gessoing, to a midgray value which does a couple things. One...it is difficult without a good degree of experience to anticipate how color will read once most of the canvas has had paint added. If you begin with a few strokes of paint, it looks one way against a bare canvas...but as other many strokes are added, the initial strokes lose their emphasis and one finds themselves feeling the need to beef up what was originally painted.

A midgray undertone allows lighter strokes of paint to register and read immediately, whereas how long with a white canvas must that take? (for example). Midgray will also allow dark values to register right away. The first thing I noticed right away when I began undertoning my gesso to a midgray was that painting just seemed to happen faster. You eliminate a lot of second guessing and a lot of going back and tweaking or fixing. In other words...you get it right, right off.

Now I'm flat lost.

You mentioned;
"A neutral/gray undertone sets the pace of the painting to feel harmony and some limited vibration by the emphasis of values. I used to add warm color to my grayer neutral undertones of my gessoing, to a midgray value..."

The key text I indicated with bold.

Then you indicated;
"...Midgray will also allow dark values to register right away. The first thing I noticed right away when I began undertoning my gesso to a midgray was that painting just seemed to happen faster..."

'Used to' is past tense. However, the appearance to me is you stopped doing one thing then started doing it again. Help?

One thing which comes to mind as a possibility is you used to have a neutral gray undertone which you warmed up at various points. You stopped doing that and started toning the whole canvas that way instead of selected points.

Edward A. Kole
07-21-2007, 06:30 AM
Because the results of my photographs prove that I have much to learn about photography, I decided to post a "detail" rather than wait to post the whole self-portrait. The "details" being the lions share of the 16" x 20" the canvas. First I covered the whole canvas with a flat distribution of Burnt Umber, without other pigments or colors added. Two Bristol & two Sable Brushes were used to draw into the Umber and later to reestablish the drawing as the painting grew in complexity. I wiped the tones out of the Burnt Umber with a cotton paint rag wrapped around my index finger. The "underpainting" was done in three hours using my mirror image as the model. The purpose of this method of underpainting is to eventually cover the underpainting with full-bodied textured colors. Glazing in portraits is always an option, but [for me] painting in a creamy, textured, impasto style is preferred.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Jul-2007/108143-ekoleSelfPortrait.JPG

LarrySeiler
07-21-2007, 04:10 PM
'Used to' is past tense. However, the appearance to me is you stopped doing one thing then started doing it again. Help?

One thing which comes to mind as a possibility is you used to have a neutral gray undertone which you warmed up at various points. You stopped doing that and started toning the whole canvas that way instead of selected points.

well..before I started experimenting with undertones applied with turps just prior to painting, I added black to white gesso and toned at the priming stage of the panel or canvas. I would add a bit of umber to the gray so that it was a warm gray.

Thing is..I am more inclined now to apply an undertone over the lightly gray toned primer...and it is not so critical or important to me any longer if I add umber to warm up the gray primer. I set the pace of the painting with the undertone I apply with turps in the block in...

therefore the use of the past tense "used to"...

Its not that I won't ever again...but, I haven't worried about umber or warming up my gray primer in quite sometime now...

hope that explains

stoney
07-21-2007, 05:01 PM
well..before I started experimenting with undertones applied with turps just prior to painting, I added black to white gesso and toned at the priming stage of the panel or canvas. I would add a bit of umber to the gray so that it was a warm gray.

Thing is..I am more inclined now to apply an undertone over the lightly gray toned primer...and it is not so critical or important to me any longer if I add umber to warm up the gray primer. I set the pace of the painting with the undertone I apply with turps in the block in...

therefore the use of the past tense "used to"...

Its not that I won't ever again...but, I haven't worried about umber or warming up my gray primer in quite sometime now...

hope that explains


Sure. One's approaches have a tendency to vary as they learn. The past tense 'used to' was meant in comparison to 'this' point in time. I think your response did explain, but it will take me a bit of time to assimulate it.

I've picked up a few things already reading the Gruppe book. I might be halfway through the initial 'read thru.' As a newbie focused on learning the basics the tendency is to 'look through one set of lenses.' It was a good reminder of another/other aspect(s). Thank you for the response.

Edward A. Kole
07-24-2007, 12:22 AM
In continuation, this post carries the full 16" x 20" self-portrait of my previously posted "detail."



http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/24-Jul-2007/108143-EdFront51318_13.JPG

PVHooper
07-24-2007, 02:38 AM
Edward seems a pity that you are now going to add colour or is this the final piece, nice stuff.

Edward A. Kole
07-25-2007, 08:50 AM
Mr. Monshall, Thank you for your questions and interest

Short Answers: "Am I going to add a colour?" No. No colors will be added.
AND,
"Is this the final piece?" Yes. As it is, it is in its final state.

Long Answers: I have asked myself those same questions. Each time I thought the "underpainting" was good enough to stand on its own merit but every time the next painting bettered the previous. This is so because I am in a continuing state of recollection. After forty years of inactivity as a portrait painter [less my drawings as a commercial artist] much of what Frank Reilly said is still forgotten. Underpainting is my key to total recall. Every canvas reveals some memory that unlocks information that I paint into the next underpainting.

In this beginning stage of rediscovery it is my sense that "starts" are more instructive than "finishes." That after every "start" I feel myself closer to the doing of a “finish.” Consequently, I will continue with underpainting "starts" until I know that I will learn more by overpainting in Full Color than by underpainting in Umbers.

Having said that I should also say that I am negotiating a commission to produce twenty portraits as 'finished underpaintings.” In consequence of spending more time on each underpainting, I am adding a few drops of "Oil of Cloves" to the paint. Clove Oil will keep the underpainting wet for a week. Without the Oil of Cloves, and in a few hours, the Umbers will be too dry to be fluid, making a finished underpainting portrait improbable at best.

Nonetheless, underpaintings are done to puzzle out the problems of reducing a grandiose story, told in three dimensions, into a selected story told in abstract on minuscule two dimensional surfaces. To this end the artist's role is that of a storyteller.

Also the “starts” convince me that underpainting, in a completed state, is as competitive an art form as other works of art. After all, an underpainting, just as line, charcoal, chalk, crayon,, lithographs, wood block prints, engravings, wash and tone drawings, contains all the elements that define fine art, less the Color.

Ed

PVHooper
07-25-2007, 09:45 AM
Ed thanks for the nice reply, very informative and make sense as an approach and while I think your work is stunning and that you are a master of some very difficult processes I think you are not that far away from adding color. Instead of trying to do an "overpainting in full color" why don't you, if you are keen on adding color, just experimenting by adding a bit of color in a subtle way, for instance just adding a bit of color to cool the darks and warm the highlights, or even a thin wash of one subtle color over the whole painting as this will add depth to you umbers or even thin washes of different colors in different areas will also have the same effect. The great thing about oil paint is that one does not have to use it in thick impasto or opaquely, a thin wash will let the work underneath shine through. Having said that I try and work from the point of view as a finished painting every step of the way, this means from my color block underpainting right through until fine details are added and finally one or two thick highlights. Remember I said "try to" as I still have much to master. Anyway I find this an interesting and very helpful discussion.

Edward A. Kole
07-28-2007, 10:00 AM
Mr. Monshall, Thank you for the message. I should have answered your comments sooner but several events demanded my attention. Still, however unfortunate those distractions, I had the time and opportunity to think through your suggestions.

Briefly you suggested:
1. Why don't I add a bit of color to cool the dark and warm the highlights? . . .
2. Why don't I add a thin wash of one subtle color over the whole painting as this will add depth to the umber underpainting? . . .
3 Why don't I add thin washes of different colors in different areas that will also have the same effect?

The answers fall into two categories. One pragmatic, the other theoretical. The theoretical answer has two parts and the pragmatic only one.

The easy pragmatic answer first. By concentrating on just the underpainting, I intend to remember and learn more about the "wipe out" process so that I could better teach others on how to do it. Starting in September, I will have my community's permission to teach this particular manner of "Underpainting." With that time drawing near I do not wish to Balkenize my time with other considerations.

The theoretical reasons come down to what I expect to accomplish in the fine art of oil painting and how I should best do it. My first consideration is in the question "Should I “finish” a painting when many problems remain unresolved and the plan and organization of its parts, incomplete?" I can see where some will want to take the painting as far as they could, and by so doing, learn how to add color to their underpainting. I however see establishing arbitrary additions of color as detrimental to the painting's development and the uneconomic use of my time. To arbitrarily color a painting compels the artist to work with insufficient and possibly false information. Such a plan can never result in anything more than a colorful incomplete painting.

Painting portraits develops in two parts, underpainting and color. I can best solve the second part only after the first underpainting part [drawing, composition, values, edges, atmosphere and depth] is fully resolved. Without injecting color into the puzzle, the underpainting develops briskly because I have uncompromised my decisions for the sake of appearances. Consequently, we bring every other part of the underpainting to completion" simultaneously. Every decision, from positioning the subject on the canvas to drawing the highlights on the side planes on the eyelashes is resolved before any color is considered.

With every square inch of the canvas planned, and all its parts simultaneously complete, the color part of the puzzle is all that is undone. I cannot satisfactorily puzzle-out a color without solving all the other elements of the first.

Perhaps, one day, I could visualize the underpainting and only paint in color, but until then adding color for the sake of appearance is not why I am painting.

Ed

stoney
07-28-2007, 11:46 AM
Mr. Monshall, Thank you for the message. I should have answered your comments sooner but several events demanded my attention. Still, however unfortunate those distractions, I had the time and opportunity to think through your suggestions.

Briefly you suggested:
1. Why don't I add a bit of color to cool the dark and warm the highlights? . . .
2. Why don't I add a thin wash of one subtle color over the whole painting as this will add depth to the umber underpainting? . . .
3 Why don't I add thin washes of different colors in different areas that will also have the same effect?

The answers fall into two categories. One pragmatic, the other theoretical. The theoretical answer has two parts and the pragmatic only one.

The easy pragmatic answer first. By concentrating on just the underpainting, I intend to remember and learn more about the "wipe out" process so that I could better teach others on how to do it. Starting in September, I will have my community's permission to teach this particular manner of "Underpainting." With that time drawing near I do not wish to Balkenize my time with other considerations.

The theoretical reasons come down to what I expect to accomplish in the fine art of oil painting and how I should best do it. My first consideration is in the question "Should I “finish” a painting when many problems remain unresolved and the plan and organization of its parts, incomplete?" I can see where some will want to take the painting as far as they could, and by so doing, learn how to add color to their underpainting. I however see establishing arbitrary additions of color as detrimental to the painting's development and the uneconomic use of my time. To arbitrarily color a painting compels the artist to work with insufficient and possibly false information. Such a plan can never result in anything more than a colorful incomplete painting.

Painting portraits develops in two parts, underpainting and color. I can best solve the second part only after the first underpainting part [drawing, composition, values, edges, atmosphere and depth] is fully resolved. Without injecting color into the puzzle, the underpainting develops briskly because I have uncompromised my decisions for the sake of appearances. Consequently, we bring every other part of the underpainting to completion" simultaneously. Every decision, from positioning the subject on the canvas to drawing the highlights on the side planes on the eyelashes is resolved before any color is considered.

With every square inch of the canvas planned, and all its parts simultaneously complete, the color part of the puzzle is all that is undone. I cannot satisfactorily puzzle-out a color without solving all the other elements of the first.

Perhaps, one day, I could visualize the underpainting and only paint in color, but until then adding color for the sake of appearance is not why I am painting.

Ed

A very adroit and informative reply. :thumbsup: Lots of information to consider.

PVHooper
07-29-2007, 02:24 PM
Dear Ed, a very interesting response. I agree that one cannot simply add "arbitrary color", but strongly disagree that color is a secondary consideration because you, for instance, specifically choose the color you work in for very fundamental reasons. You could work just as effectively using the same technique but choosing instead signal red or black as your color of choice with the resulting change in atmosphere, etc. Color is therefore a primary decision of yours as it is for any painter and your very limited color palette is nevertheless still a color palette. Choosing therefore to or not to extend your palette is not about beginning to work or not to work in color, it is simply about deciding to or not to extend the color palette you already work in. The decision of course remains totally yours.

The next issue is that you claim your technique is about an underpainting painting technique but this is also not entirely accurate. The actual underpainting of your technique is not the painting as a whole but simply the white primer of your canvas that you allow to shine through in the finished work. Underpainting techniques set out specifically to negate the white primer or at most to use its light to shine through other pigment to give a boost to tone and depth. The white primer is seldom used as an intrinsic part of the painting and your work is therefore not an underpainting or even the mastery of the first step of painting but rather a complete painting in its own right that uses wiping as another part of this approach.

So while what you are doing is very interesting it is not I believe, and as you would suggest, the uncompromised concentration on the foundation of painting so as to make addition , even of color unnecessary. Rather your work in its mastery stands triumphantly in its own right, not as a pointer towards an uncompromising approach, but simply as a joy to behold.

Edward A. Kole
07-31-2007, 01:22 AM
So while what you are doing is very interesting it is not I believe, and as you would suggest, the uncompromised concentration on the foundation of painting so as to make addition , even of color unnecessary.

Dear Mr. Paul Monshall, Again, thanks for your comments. As I expect to teach Mr.Reilly's underpainting method, your comments are fortuitous. Though some differences in my intent and practice may appear to exist, they are so few and insignificant I see no reason to address them.

Still, what I can offer is an explanation of the facts as I know them and by doing provide some reasons [history] for my position, temper, opinions and purposes.

Fifty-five years ago when I was just shy of twenty, I started evening art classes at the Art Students League. Not knowing anything about the instructors or my artistic style and preferences, I allowed the registrar to assign me to instructors that needed bodies to fill their near empty classrooms.

Two weeks later I asked for a transfer to another class. Again dissatisfied, I made it a point to haunt the 2d floor auditorium* to see what a cross section of students drew in their spare time. Within a few days I noticed the plethora of sketches were done by Mr. Reilly's students. It was obvious these students had the commitment, discipline and knowledge I wanted.

* A huge waiting room to hang while waiting for . . . . whatever.

I asked the registrar to transfer me to Frank Reilly's evening class. To which the registrar replied, "Sure, but you’ll be on a two-year waiting list." Not being one to take "NO" for an answer, I waited for Mr. Reilly to tell him of my decision to join his class. He spoke to the registrar on my behalf. After which, he told me that the school wanted its rules observed and the "Waiting Lists" honored.

Knowing his teaching schedule, I parked in the doorway, listened to his lectures and when possible, eavesdrop on his personal critiques. It is no exaggeration to say his students occupied every chair, stood by every easel, stood on every inch of unclaimed floor space, and sat on every windowsill, With such dedication it was not surprising that coffee breaks were largely ignored. Still, Mr. Reilly with all his students wanting his attention, he always acknowledged my presence with a smile and a nod. A few weeks later he walked up to me and said, “Go to the office, you start classes tonight.”

In the next thirty-six months I attended classes in the Art Students League Monday through Saturday, never missing a single day. Evening Classes ended at 10pm but Mr Reilly often remained past midnight teaching those students that wanted his critique. I and another student, “Frank L” [and often others] were listening to his comments and took notes. But more than that Frank L and I waited to accompany him in his walk to his apartment about five blocks away.

Because he walked along Central Park and its resident muggers, we were concerned for his safety. On those walks he often rewarded us with personal stories that complimented what he taught at the League. I was grateful to count myself as his student and friend. Fifty-five years later, I still do.

Back to “Underpainting.” Everything I know about drawing, underpainting and painting comes from Mr. Reilly. After being away from portraiture for more than forty years, my return naturally included a memory search for his instructions. Underpainting’s reason, then as now, was to draw, plan or organize the portrait’s every part, in preparation for overpainting it in full color. That has not changed. What has changed is my community’s offer of space and money to teach underpainting. The other difference is a potential commission to paint twenty portraits in the appearance of a “finished” umber underpainting.

When I restarted painting, I had no alternative other than to continue where I left off. Circumstances did not create a "fork in the road." Circumstances merely provided a few more opportunities. Nevertheless, before the last few months, never did I consider underpainting as something other than a preparation for a finished full color painting.

Just as a portrait painter may make sepia drawings in crayon or wash as a preparatory study for a painting on canvas, I assign the same logic for underpainting. Just as we may appreciate and display sepia drawings in Galleries, Museums. Public Buildings and Private Homes so is it true for underpaintings. The only standard considered is what I choose to do with the underpainting.

My purposes are threefold. To teach underpainting. To produce a floor plan that I will cover in full color. To complete an underpainting as a monochromatic portrait.

Whatever the underpainting’s purpose, I will do them in the manner taught to me by Mr. Frank J. Reilly.

Ed

An unfinished portrait drawn from a color photograph.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Jul-2007/108143-J51318_17.JPG

PVHooper
07-31-2007, 04:05 AM
Wonderful stuff, you have taught me a lot, and I would be the first to say continue. Good luck with the teaching you have a lot to share

Edward A. Kole
08-13-2007, 05:40 AM
My purposes are threefold. To teach underpainting. To produce a floor plan [underpainting] that I will [overpaint] in full color. To complete an underpainting as a monochomatic portrait.

The prospect of teaching this method of underpainting is moving along briskly. Two groups are presently displaying my work and one has started advertising the classes that will begin in mid September. I also decided to take my monochrome portrait "studies" to a formal state of completion. This decision is partly because I am painting more toward the finished state and this is the signal that demands a change in my strategy. Because Burnt Umber dries quickly, I will add two drops of Clove Oil to extend the paint's viscosity and provide at least twenty-four more hours to finish the painting. Nonetheless, I have made this change more because I will gain more by completing the painting than by starting a new one.

I still maintain that a beginner's "starts" are more instructive than in his "finishes" but I have, these past few months, matured to the point where I will learn and benefit more by finishing a study, than by reinforcing the "start-up study" procedures.

The following self portrait "study" is on stretched 16" x 20" cotton duck canvas, done with Winton brand Burnt Umber in about three and one quarter hours. I would have preferred to make a few "FEWER" changes in the shadow, but the paint got too solid to manipulate without the possible ruination of the painting's continuous and uninterrupted progression. Still, in a few weeks when the paint is completely dry, I may decide to glaze some diluted Burnt Umber over some unnecessary and distracting shadow halftones.

Ed

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/13-Aug-2007/108143-0712.JPG

Richard Saylor
08-19-2007, 03:20 AM
Ed, your paintings look terribly yellow to me. I'm thinking it's probably a technical problem with your scans (or my monitor), but if they look like that in real life, I wouldn't be interested in them. That's not to say that your technique isn't magnificent.

Richard

Edward A. Kole
08-20-2007, 04:16 AM
Ed, your paintings look terribly yellow to me. I'm thinking it's probably a technical problem with your scans (or my monitor), but if they look like that in real life, I wouldn't be interested in them. That's not to say that your technique isn't magnificent.

Hello Richard, Thank you for your comments.

I am using Winton Burnt Umber on Cotton Duck Stretched Canvas. Normally, on such a surface, the color dries a more neutral and deeper brown, but as I reuse the same canvas' I re prime with the "Discovery" brand of GESSO. It is the Gesso that visually changes the hue from the neutral dark brown on the original prime, to the warmer redish brown that appears to you as "terribly yellow." I personally prefer the warmer brown. Still, because I use only one color does not mean the same technique cannot be replicated in other colors which you find more pleasing.

I believe the aphorism “Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.” works well here.

Mr. Frank J. Reilly, who taught me this method of underpainting, encouraged his students to use Raw Umber because, If I remember correctly, Burnt Umber has a tendency to bleed through the "overpainting."

Because I am not using this technique to paint over, but to use it as an art form in its own right, the "bleeding" is not an issue.

Nonetheless, whatever Umber I use some Yellow is bound to appear. Beyond that fact, I do not see a yellow dominance in the original painting. Variations are bound to occur in every step in the reproduction of any color. My color photographs are done on 400 ASA Kodak negative film and print paper. This may effect the hue, value and chroma in ways that other films do not. With so many variables the best advise I can offer is that if the color on the original canvas is too yellow, change the color, but try not to judge this technique on how accurately or inaccurately the electronic and film technology reproduces color.

The following self portrait is the most recent monochrome [or monohue]. A major difference between this and most of my other paintings is the introduction of two drops of “Clove Oil.” I thoroughly mixed the Clove Oil into a half dollar size glob of Winton Burnt Umber. Two drops of "Clove Oil" will keep the paint on the palette and the canvas wet and workable for two to three more days. [I order the Clove Oil from iHerb. Their price is a lot more reasonable than that of a pharmacy.]

Also, I ordered tubes of Winsor & Newton brand of Burnt Umber and Raw Umber to see if this brand will further enrich the color of future paintings.

Ed

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/20-Aug-2007/108143-07_SelfPortrait.JPG

lam
08-22-2007, 11:14 PM
Mr. Kole,

It is an honor to meet someone who studied with Frank Reilly. I have used his procedure to paint several portraits since learning about it. I love the wipe out method of starting an underpainting as it is so easy to alter when necessary. I have written a bit about the procedure and shown some examples of the Reilly method on my site, www.laurelmcbrine.blogspot.com. I have tried to document the evolution of my paintings done using this method from underpainting to completed portrait. The one at the top is still in progress. I am sure your teaching will be most valuable for your artistic community.

Richard Saylor
08-23-2007, 01:12 AM
Ed, thanks for the response.

Richard

stoney
08-23-2007, 11:55 AM
Mr. Kole,

It is an honor to meet someone who studied with Frank Reilly. I have used his procedure to paint several portraits since learning about it. I love the wipe out method of starting an underpainting as it is so easy to alter when necessary. I have written a bit about the procedure and shown some examples of the Reilly method on my site, www.laurelmcbrine.blogspot.com. I have tried to document the evolution of my paintings done using this method from underpainting to completed portrait. The one at the top is still in progress. I am sure your teaching will be most valuable for your artistic community.

Larry Seiler has art demonstrations on youtube.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=144

Edward A. Kole
08-29-2007, 11:07 AM
It is an honor to meet someone who studied with Frank Reilly. I have used his procedure to paint several portraits since learning about it. I love the wipe out method of starting an underpainting as it is so easy to alter when necessary.

Dear Iam, Thank you for your [overly] generous compliment. I am sure the honor you feel, is for Mr. Reilly rather than one who merely has the good fortune and the good sense to have chosen him as his teacher. The 'wipe-out" method is, as you describe "is easy." It is easy, simple, and inclusive, because it frees the student from making premature decisions involving hue and chroma. Without considering hue and chroma, the "wipeout method" "frees up" the artist to rapidly, simultaneously and sequentially transfer his knowledge to every part of the canvas.

Joining Mr. Reilly's 'wipe-out" method to his instructions on related lines, lines of sympathy and symmetry, drawing*, values of light, halftone and shadow, composition, perspective, shapes and sizes, edges, atmosphere, and every other illusion producing tool are blended in just three to four hours. To complete the “wipe-out” as a finished art form rather than an underpainting, I would tack on another two to three hours for its completion. To that end I would extend the paint’s fluidity by two days by mixing a drop or two of "Clove Oil” to the sum of paint used.

*On the subject of "drawing" Mr. Reilly often reminded us to "Draw with a brush and Paint with a pencil."

The "wipe-out" procedure also serves to remind the artist of the "what" and "when" to do something. Not only does it act as a reminder for what needs to be done, but it serves the artist to see errors, and to choose their remedies.

So as you can see, I was amply rewarded with Mr. Reilly’s knowledge and friendship, but the lion's share of any credit for what I may achieve belongs to Mr. Reilly.

Still, thank you for reviving the memories of Mr. Reilly's conversations, critiques and lectures.

Ed

ps: The underpainting was done on a 16" x 20" cotton duck stretched canvas, with Winton Burnt Umber mixed with two drops of Clove Oil, overpainted on a prime coat of "Discovery" brand of white Gesso. The underpainting was done in less than three hours with almost fifteen minutes of details added the following morning.

Edhttp://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/29-Aug-2007/108143-07

Edward A. Kole
11-08-2007, 08:12 PM
Thank you, your comments on “underpainting” made me aware of reasons and purposes not previously considered. As you may have read in the few messages I wrote, for the last forty plus years I have excluded myself from the fine art of oil painting. It has been two months since my re-emergence and much has happened since. In the first two weeks I completed no less than eight three-hour, head and shoulders, self portraits. I painted them on stretched 16"x 20" cotton duck canvas. Only one color, Raw Umber or Burnt Umber, was used. No white or black was added though white and black may be added should I consider it necessary.

First, I evenly cover the canvas with straight from the tube W/N Umber paint. With a #4 Pig Bristol Flat and commercially sold paint rag covering my index finger, I drew the lines and wiped the tones into the flat Umber paint. I learned this technique from Mr. Frank Reilly as a student in the Art Students League. I must give you this brief history for whatever I do in drawing and paint is in a large part due to what Mr. Reilly taught.

Since I started to under paint, the local "Senior Center" has offered me a room to teach this method. In anticipation of that happening, I have focused upon producing at least four self portraits a week. As my memory and skill improved I began to appreciate Mr. Reilly’s underpainting process and thanks to your comments have come to think of "underpainting" in a way not previously considered. The Reilly method is so simple, complete and structured that underpaintings can, on an equal footing with all other art forms, compete for museum and gallery space. Line and tone renderings in conte crayons, charcoal, india ink, graphite, copper, wood block and linoleum block prints, Serigraphy, Lithography, Watercolor, wash and line renderings, and pastel sketches can be completed as monochromes, so why should not monochromatic oil paintings be as complete an art form as well? It is fast, forgiving [to an extreme], economical and just as fluid and detail friendly as full color oil paintings.

Ed

ps: I will post examples of my work as soon as I can figure out how it is done. Secondly, I have a 35mm film camera and have made CD's of each roll. Because the painting is vertically oriented [16" x 20"] the image was "shot" as verticle rather than horizontal. Part of the problem is I do not know how to submit the photo as an upright. Still, I will reshoot the paintings so they will without adjustments, print vertically. All other suggestions, technical and procedural, will be greatly appreciated.

EdSince I started to under paint, the local "Senior Center" has offered me a room to teach this method.

stoney
11-08-2007, 09:01 PM
Since I started to under paint, the local "Senior Center" has offered me a room to teach this method.

Cool! But why only after you restarted underpainting? Timing coincidence?

Edward A. Kole
11-08-2007, 09:56 PM
A few weeks ago, in two different locations, I started underpaintings for the purpose of demonstrating, in real time, to a live audience, how I will teach underpainting. I insisted that those participating must know what will be taught before enrollment began. The demonstrations were to satisfy two essential and distinctly different purposes. First, everyone was to be aware of exactly what I intended to teach and to decide if what I taught is what he wants to learn. Happily, before and after the demonstrations, enough people promised to attend the classes. The second test was for me to determine whether the quality of light was appropriate for what I will teach.

Chiaroscuro means "Light" and "Shadow" and describes the envelope within which everything is done. As Mr. Reilly taught, light and shadow divides into eleven equidistant values with "Zero" representing "Black,” the absence of light and "Ten" being "White,” or the presence of pure light. In this relationship, "Four" separates light and shadow. Commonly, it is consistent that no values from "Zero" to "Four" [Shadow] will be in the Light, and no values from "Four" to "Ten" [Light] will be in the Shadow.

In both locations, fluorescent were the dominant light source. In fluorescent light no values between Zero and Four are evident. With fluorescent, the darkest darks begin at Four making the darkest tone in the shadow equal to the darkest darks in the light. It was because “Shadows” were not evident, I decided to “deep six” both classes. It is interesting that Form Light is where two-fifths of the form is in Shadow. I would guess that “Form Light” portraits comprise 90% of all those painted since Rembrandt’s time. Perhaps, in the future, another opportunity to teach underpainting will arise.

Until then, I decided to paint over an underpainting using a fifteen color palette. Because I added two drops of “Clove Oil” to each color, this portrait should be completed only after the paint dries. Afterward, I anticipate that will take five more hours of detailing to complete. Until then, I hope some of you will offer some insights for me to consider.http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/08-Nov-2007/108143-43270016.JPG

Edward A. Kole
11-09-2007, 06:33 AM
Cool! But why only after you restarted underpainting? Timing coincidence?

After forty years of artistic inactivity I doubt if I or anyone else would offer me a teaching opportunity out of the clear blue. It was only after several of my "underpaintings" were in seen by others were offers to teach underpainting suggested with the necessary space allotted.

stoney
11-09-2007, 12:03 PM
A few weeks ago, in two different locations, I started underpaintings for the purpose of demonstrating, in real time, to a live audience, how I will teach underpainting. I insisted that those participating must know what will be taught before enrollment began. The demonstrations were to satisfy two essential and distinctly different purposes. First, everyone was to be aware of exactly what I intended to teach and to decide if what I taught is what he wants to learn. Happily, before and after the demonstrations, enough people promised to attend the classes. The second test was for me to determine whether the quality of light was appropriate for what I will teach.

Chiaroscuro means "Light" and "Shadow" and describes the envelope within which everything is done. As Mr. Reilly taught, light and shadow divides into eleven equidistant values with "Zero" representing "Black,” the absence of light and "Ten" being "White,” or the presence of pure light. In this relationship, "Four" separates light and shadow. Commonly, it is consistent that no values from "Zero" to "Four" [Shadow] will be in the Light, and no values from "Four" to "Ten" [Light] will be in the Shadow.

In both locations, fluorescent were the dominant light source. In fluorescent light no values between Zero and Four are evident. With fluorescent, the darkest darks begin at Four making the darkest tone in the shadow equal to the darkest darks in the light. It was because “Shadows” were not evident, I decided to “deep six” both classes. It is interesting that Form Light is where two-fifths of the form is in Shadow. I would guess that “Form Light” portraits comprise 90% of all those painted since Rembrandt’s time. Perhaps, in the future, another opportunity to teach underpainting will arise.

Until then, I decided to paint over an underpainting using a fifteen color palette. Because I added two drops of “Clove Oil” to each color, this portrait should be completed only after the paint dries. Afterward, I anticipate that will take five more hours of detailing to complete. Until then, I hope some of you will offer some insights for me to consider.

Interesting about fluorescent light. At home I paint under incandescent light and sometimes daylight.

stoney
11-09-2007, 12:06 PM
After forty years of artistic inactivity I doubt if I or anyone else would offer me a teaching opportunity out of the clear blue. It was only after several of my "underpaintings" were in seen by others were offers to teach underpainting suggested with the necessary space allotted.


Forty years of artistic inactivity seems a bit on the odd side, but sometimes life works that way. Glad you're finally able to get back into it. :wave: