Creating Lively Color with Underpainting

Looks Like Snow

Watercolor  (22″ x 30″) 300 lb. Lana

Hopefully the color looks very rich and lively as you examine this painting example. Creating vibrant color that is almost as intense when it is dry as when it is wet led me to explore glazing for effect. The real story began with a man by the name of Rex Brandt.  Neither he nor I  were the first to adopt this approach to watercolor but he planted the seed that enticed me.

Multiple Techniques

As I have stated before glazing doesn’t have to be tedious nor extremely laborious. It can be, if that is what your vision requires or it can have spontaneous effects as well.  If you look closely you will see wet ‘n wet techniques coupled with some dry brush  and some careful detailing. Each technique is orchestrated to create a special effect for a specific purpose. Once again the main rule is to allow previous washes to be completely dry before the next wash is applied. In this attempt there are no opaque paints, no masking agents; just simple layers of one color over another.

Paints

The list of paints used is very basic. The yellows are  M.Graham’s, Gamboge, and  American Journey, Indian Yellow.  The blues are American Journey, Joe’s Blue and Holbein Marine Blue. The reds are American Journey Fire Engine Red and Winsor & Newton Perylene Maroon. The portions that appear to be black are an optical  black created with almost equal mixtures of the maroon and Joe’s blue.  The bottom line  is you don’t really need a boat load of colors to get strong effects.

The Foundation, choosing complements

The genesis for this painting was a sort of remembrance. I was in the Cumberland Gap a number of years ago walking the old trail to the Gap with a number of my relatives. The sleet was beginning to sting a bit and the air was cold and crisp making it easy to imagine what it was like for my ancestors as they trekked through this area.  The chief was standing gazing at the sky with his blanket folded over his hands and arms. It was a natural.  I began the painting with an under painting of red and blue.

At this stage the colors are Holbein Marine Blue, dilute Fire Engine Red and a touch of Perylene Maroon. Reds can be tricky so at this stage they need to be dilute lest they bleed and sully the colors that come later.  The Marine blue is lively and helps boost some of the later applications of color. By necessity, the under painting is pale. However, primary features are established as well as major folds and shadows. Keep in mind all of these elements are still fluid.  By that, I mean to say  that stronger washes can over ride or modify any of these preliminary strokes.

  At this stage several layers of yellow washes have been carefully applied and the figure is now defined by the additional  surrounding colors.  No additional work has been done to the red/blue under painting on the figure. The effect is heightened by the use of complements to help set the stage for the final work to come.

A Clear Path

If you take the time to study the beginning under painting, then the color addition, as well as the final piece you should see the path. Everything is rather simple when you look at the layers. Allowing colors to blend wet into wet and then polishing some areas with careful, deliberate brush strokes helped to create a unity.   For some individuals winter is drab. For me, it is invigorating and full of rich yet subdued colors. The range of greens, oranges as well as rich reds all sprang from the selection of a few colors.

Summation

When you have an idea or inspiration; make a plan.  Without a concept or destination your journey is futile. Allow YOUR  senses to direct you. As you follow, remember the basic rules  of color.

Next 

I have been under a very demanding schedule and recovering from the adverse effects of an auto accident. The weather man says our temperatures will drop in the next few days. There is a stand of beautiful old gnarled trees not far from my studio that beckon me. Hopefully, I’ll be out doors for some plein aire work.  I hope to post that in the near future.

About masteringglazingtechniquesinwatercolor

Watercolor painter and author of several watercolor books on painting technique. Recent inductee/recipient of the Marquis Life Time Achievers Award.

Posted on October 26, 2012, in Don Rankin watercolors, watercolor glazing techniques, Watercolor painting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Don, That is an eye catching depictions! It doesn’t get any better.Your student’s should be thankful to have you as their instructor. Hal

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