Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Playing with pears and grisaille painting - yep, you can do it in watercolor but I'm not sure why you would want to do it in watercolor.  This was a lesson shared on WetCanvas (http://www.wetcanvas.com) from a member who tried it and got a much better outcome than I - you might do a search to try to find it there, if you can (I'm not sure how long I've had this lesson lying around as a printout I intended to try sometime).  The member's name is Asel Syzdykova and she goes by the member ID Aselka at WetCanvas. 

In the demo, she used a mix of Prussian Blue and Burnt Umber (she doesn't say what brand) to create a grey underpainting, putting in the shadow shapes of the pear before putting in any color. 

My mix of PB and BU was a bit too greenish or too brownish and I never got what I would call a good neutral grey using Daniel Smith colors.  But I tried it anyway.

My front pear is done this way. 

The back pear is done using transparent colors of Hansa Yellow Light, Hansa Yellow Medium, Quinacridone Gold, Quinacridone Coral and a touch of Perylene Green.

Not a good painting but you get the idea - and the fact that, when doing an underpainting or grisalle in watercolor, you do lose what vibrant light watercolor has - if I went in again on the darker pear, I could get it more modelled and more like an oil painted pear but I think trying this has proven it's not something I want to do again.  I like the light of watercolor too much. 

Have you ever underpainted a watercolor painting?  What colors did you use?  Did it work out for you or did you think it muddied things up too much?  (Now maybe you have a lighter hand than I and can do underpaintings well - if so, you might want to give this a try.)


Anonymous said...

Rhonda, How interesting that you posted this today, as I am writing up info about how to use an underpainting with glazing in watercolour for my Fall colour class!!!! The trick is to use one colour such as Winsor Blue (also known as Thalo Blue) and keep the initial underpainting thin…(note I call it an underpainting, not a grisaille which has connotations of thick black and white paint). You should also really focus on light direction and keep these passages white or washed out with a lot of water…. as this underpainting sets the tone for the entire painting.
Once dry you can adjust values a little if needed with more of the same colour…but it should not be saturated with pigment or else the pigment will re-constitute when you start on your glazes.
You can build thin layers (glazes) of colour up using either the primaries of Yellow and red in various mixes or different transparent (or very thin opaque) colours in thin glazes. I have done this successfully, but it takes patience for each layer to dry, as is not my preferred way of painting!
Winsor Blue is perfect because it is a clean (non granulation) and staining pigment…. also transparent…. (I’m so glad I did my transparency/opacity test sheets the other day!!!!) Hope this makes sense. Would you like me to post a demo on my blog some time?

RH Carpenter said...

Maggie, thank you! I would love to have you share a WIP of an underpainting for pears on your blog - when you get the time, that is. I'm sure you will have more patience and a lighter hand than I when it comes to that underpainting, too! I may have to try again with Phthalo Blue very very very light :) I really wasn't happy with the mix of colors used so one color may work better - but I will still have to have the patience to glaze glaze glaze (not my favorite thing to do, I admit).

Christiane Kingsley said...

Most interesting thread, Rhonda and Maggie. Thank you!

AutumnLeaves said...

I see I'll have to read again. I've only gessoed a board and then painted watercolor over it. Didn't care for the look of that one, I must say. Still, something to try in the future!

Anonymous said...

Rhonda, One way around glazing and waiting for passages of colour to dry is to work on several paintings at the same time, this way you can make good use of time working on one while the other is drying! You could begin with yellow as an underpainting, but make sure it’s transparent and staining, not cadmium…. maybe Hansa Yellow or HY light…. or even Indian Yellow? By beginning with a yellow instead of blue it will have a bearing on the finished outcome. Many watercolourists who pour (which is just another type of glazing) begin with yellow. Look how delicate your latest floral looks…. why not try that again, or something similar working on two paintings at the same time, one with a blue underpainting and one with a yellow underpainting…It would be a good exercise to say the least…. and you might fall in love with layering and glazing!!!! You could also use masking fluid to save clean passages if that's better for you....or think about the underpainting as a negative painting, painting all the dark areas as the underpainting.....there are many possibilities....but the main thing is to have fun while trying them out!!!!

RH Carpenter said...

You're very welcome, Christiane - one never knows what one will find in a comment to a post!

Autumn, I've enjoyed pouring - first misket and then yellow and then red and then blue, trying to get a good painting without putting a brush to it. I found it fun and challenging but don't do it often.

Maggie, I used to work on 2 or more at the same time but thought I had gotten past that impatience enough - I see it's still with me so this is a good idea to go back to 2 at a time so one can rest while I work on another. I have had success in yellow underpaintings and using glowing colors. Perhaps two simple pears testing the blue vs yellow underpainting is in order :) I found a Pthalo Blue Red Shade I like (I don't normally use Phthalos because I end up with them all over my fingers and arms and clothing!) Thanks again for the tips and the incentives to give this another go :) I have a feeling this technique would teach one to be more aware of shadows in a painting because your focus is on the darks first.

Vandy Massey said...

Hi Rhonda,

I love your pears. Thank you for posting their progression - really clear illustration of their development. And I do love the white bits: too often I forget to leave the white spaces and only realise when I step back to look at the painting. Grrr!