This is the current state of an oil on linen monochromatic underpainting of a Bosc Pear. I will add color this week. It is (11x14") and is a commission for a client who saw an old study of mine posted years ago and requested a larger version of it. You never know what the web Gods of yesterday will yield, I was so pleased to have this request and the opportunity to visit this old friend of a painting. I usually will do a small study before going up in size, in this case, it simply took five years to do so...it will be fun to see how the painter I am today differs from the result of this same image from five years ago. Anyhoot, here below is the first steps in how I created this underpainting to this point.
This is the first step, shown above...after I do the drawing in charcoal, I go over the lines with an India ink pen and let that dry for a few minutes. I then cover the entire surface with a whisper thin coat of refined linseed oil...this is super thin, if you run your fingers over it, it will leave a thin residue. This oil step is simply to seal the surface and combat subsequent layers of oil from being absorbed into the canvas....It also serves to enable the coming layer of oil paint to glide on smoothly and evenly. I then cover the entire canvas with a thin, what amounts to a transparent layer of raw umber oil paint. You can still see the drawing through the umber. Observe above, the layer of umber all around the pear is what I laid in, I then used a paper towel to wipe away the light areas, (The pear). I wrapped a paper towel around my finger to get to those small areas. Note that I have not wiped away anything but the light family, (the pear) and have resisted the temptation to wipe away any foreground. Intellectually, I can discern the clear difference between the foreground and background but I am not going to wipe away any more paint to establish that contrast. Instead, I will add another layer of umber to the background to darken it, therby making the distinction between the back and foreground planes. See below...
Here it is clear once you see the additional layer of raw umber that I added to the back ground and cast shadow of the pear...pow, the foreground now pops from the background and we can begin to clearly see the two planes and also begin to feel the weight of the pear on that surface by way of the newly established cast shadow. A key element to note here is the decision to distinguish the foreground from the background by adding paint and not wiping away. By understanding before I begin that I will have three value families; A light (the pear), A dark (The background and cast shadow) and a mid-tone (the ground plane the pear is sitting on), I now have a simple and bold design plan based on the strength of clearly defined value families. Paintings pass or fail based largely on the success of a well thought out and realized value plan...a distinguishable contrast between light and dark. Squint your eyes and look at the image above and see for yourself the three families, light, mid-tone and dark. From here I will further enhance these families and eventually begin to glaze thin, transparent layers of color over this under painting.
Thanks for posting your process - it's quite helpful to see the structure beneath.
Hi Todd. I have tried oiling my canvas before to keep the paint from sinking in so badly, but the oil then interfered with the application of paint and took FOREVER to dry. You even oil right over the drawing! How do you apply the oil? Thanks so much for sharing this process.
Thank you David and Beth. Beth, I'm sorry to hear of the troubles you are having in attempting your underpainting. It sounds to me that you may have added too much oil in the beginning. I was careful in the post to mention using a whisper then application of oil in the beginning. I put a little linseed on a rag and wipe it over the surface. If you take your fingers and run over the painting after you apply the oil, there is just a little bit of residue left on your fingers. I am willing to bet 100 kittens that you used to much oil in the beginning. I will do a post on this matter soon. I think it will be helpful. Where do you live? I teach classes if you are interested. Shoot me a private email.
Hi Todd. I'm so glad to see your notes about the process of painting the pear listed here. Very helpful to be able to refer to them. Thank you for your patient instruction with the class today! It was all so helpful and interesting.
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