For larger paintings I usually start by doing a clean drawing and projecting the sketch either by shooting a slide
and using a slide projector, which is the sharpest and cleanest projection- or by using an opaque projector, which can go
soft (blurry) at the edges so keep the image in the very center of the plate. I make sure to get the image squared up properly,
which is really important, and the easiest way to do this is to draw in a box and when projecting, square the box to the proportion
of the canvas edges. If it isn't squared properly, the image may shift or skew, which will make figures look off. I can
always redraw them with paint, but that defeats the whole idea of working out the design ahead of time, especially with much
of my made up work where I don't want to lay on paint heavy with initial color experimenting. This would make it more
difficult should I want to change areas later on, however on this piece it was fairly straightforward.
I used plenty
of mineral spirits to wash over some base color tone and kill the white. This wash also helps set up the opaque paint to come,
giving it more tooth to pull against the brush, giving me that much more control in wet-into-wet areas. A word of warning
if you prefer using turpentine to wash in this much color- all solvents are toxic, turps more so than mineral spirits. I think
it thins just a bit better, but is it worth the health risk? I tried some of the new supposed natural solvents and found them
to be somewhat greasy, but workable. If you are alergic to oil paint or solvents then a big wash like this would be an unsafe
approach. Some artists use acrylics as an underpainting, and I did too, for many years. It works well if you can control the
strength of the wash and really thin the paint initially, mixing in a bowl or container so that there are no soilds but just
thin paint. I can get the same effect with acrylics this way, and I think this thin of a wash is quite permanent. I have been
told that using more opaque acrylic as an underpainting is not archival for oil paint to go over, but I think by abrasing
the surface with steel wool, this will create enough surface adhesion to allow for acrylics to be used as an underpainting.
Work I did some twenty years ago shows no sign of degredation, but that really isn't a long enough time to say whether
its an archival technique.
Click here to return to the Demos main page