Underpainting Loosely for Bold Paintings
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.”
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Advice to readers:
Here is the finished painting.
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.
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