Underpainting Loosely for Bold Paintings

A guest post by Annie O’Brien Gonzales

The following intuitive technique shows how underpainting loosely sets the stage for bold paintings. In my expressive painting workshops I am frequently asked how to stay “loose” when painting. To stay loose you need to start loose and stay “process-focused” not “product-focused.”

Materials:

  • fluid acrylic paint: three colors
  • squeegees and/or pieces of mat board in different sizes to use as scraping tools
  • painting surface (canvas, panel, or board)
  • mark-making tools (water soluble crayons, pencils, etc. whatever you have)
  • bucket of water & paper towels
  • your favorite music
AOG-Underpainting-Step-1

Find your favorite “feel-good” music—nothing sad or contemplative here—something that makes you want to dance and is definitely up-tempo! Crank up to your personal vibration. Lay out the canvas or panel on a flat surface that you won’t worry about splashing paint on.

Squeeze blobs of one color on the painting surface.

Squeeze blobs of one color on the painting surface.

Use a scraper to create bold swathes of color.

Use a scraper to create bold swathes of color.

Add blobs of two additional colors and use different sizes of scrapers to make random quick swatches of color.

Add blobs of two additional colors and use different sizes of scrapers to make random quick swatches of color.

Use a scraper or credit card to create bold swathes of color.

Use a scraper or credit card to create bold swathes of color.

Using mark-making tools, scribble and scratch adding random marks across the surface.

Using mark-making tools, scribble and scratch adding random marks across the surface.

Fling water randomly on the surface and scrape again or blot with paper towels to remove some paint. Continue until the surface is covered with paint, then stop, set aside and do another! This whole process should take about 10 minutes and be done in sync with the music. I recommend laying out several canvases or boards to create several underpaintings for a series of paintings.

Fling water randomly on the surface and scrape again or blot with paper towels to remove some paint. Continue until the surface is covered with paint, then stop, set aside and do another! This whole process should take about 10 minutes and be done in sync with the music. I recommend laying out several canvases or boards to create several underpaintings for a series of paintings.

Time for laying in the composition! I look for shapes in the underpainting which suggest objects (vases, flowers, etc.) and go with those as I build the composition.

Time for laying in the composition! I look for shapes in the underpainting which suggest objects (vases, flowers, etc.) and go with those as I build the composition.

 

Here is the finished painting.

Here is the finished painting.

Advice to readers: Underpaintings set the tone for the whole painting. Stay loose, don’t think or analyze, and stay in the moment. You will surprise yourself. Enjoy the process and carry that feeling forward as you paint.

 

Annie is a professional painter, teacher and author from Santa Fe, New Mexico. She paints colorful, expressive, still life, landscape and abstract paintings in acrylic, mixed media and oil. Her work is represented by galleries across the US, exhibits in juried shows, collected by art lovers, and recently included in a museum permanent collection. She teaches painting workshops across the country including at Ghost Ranch and at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Her book Bold Expressive Painting: Painting Techniques for Still Lifes, Florals and Landscapes in Mixed Media will be published by North Light Books in February, 2016 and is now available for pre-order.

www.annieobriengonzales.com

E-mail: anniego@mac.com

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3 Responses to Underpainting Loosely for Bold Paintings

  1. AdrianK says:

    This is a wonderful book for mixed media painters. The introductory page states,” Paint in a Way that Makes You Happy”. Oh, my! Just what I have been looking for. There’s lots of technical info in the first chapters that are accompanied by beautiful photos and art. Just my kind of book!
    I crave visual information and feed on color and there’s plenty of that in this book. Annie gives you lots of ways to organize your artist self.
    I never have been able to create a step by step method that would give me predictable results. What I mean is, now I have a way to start. If I take the time to make a simple sketch, choose my palette of colors, get out papers for collage based on colors of the painting I plan to use, I’m less likely to get distracted along the way.
    I find this approach very liberating! Make a plan. Go step by step. Do it again.
    Eventually, doing all of this will feel natural and making art that I love will not feel so difficult.
    Thank you, Annie for sharing what you know. This is the only book I need next to me on my art table.

  2. cristyjones says:

    I have tried this,but mine was not so good as your’s.

  3. Oh my gosh . I love your painting . Thanks a lot for sharing.