There’s a lot of confusion about underpainting in watercolour. It’s somewhat similar to underpainting – or blocking-in in other mediums. In other words blocking-in colours strategically (or playing it wild to leave strategy at the door!). I have 2 processes for underpainting:
There’s another idea to consider:
You can either leave it to dry or keep painting into it while it’s wet/damp becoming dry. Most watercolour painters are reluctant to paint into wet or damp but, personally, I find this the most fun, rewarding and absorbing element of watercolour. Just use thicker paint/less water and having a play with placing values to tell your story. Like me, you might need to change your brush to accommodate the amount of water you need so you can avoid blooms where you don’t want them.
I map my painting out and consider my process before I start. For example, I need to know where to place the yellow for a lemon if I want a yellow lemon (next lemon with be pink!!). I stick with transparent colours and leave opaque and granulating pigments for later, this way I know that everything will work together nicely. Remember, for brighter more saturated colour, if you want purple, paint purple on top of purple, if you want red, paint red over red and so on. For more neutral colours, glazing complementaries over your under painting can have incredible effects. Having said this, one of my students pulled out an old painting with a French Ultramarine background. She overpainted with reds and yellows – I was so pleased that she made it work – fearless – excellent - ‘nuff said!!
Underpainting in watercolour can enhance your colours making them stronger, richer and more exciting. Soft-edged background shapes add depth, volume and mystery, further, continuing while damp add richness of colour and value plus more soft edges becoming harder edged as the paper dries. Totally delicious!!
By this time your painting is probably dry (or you need a break!) and your painting will be ready for some calligraphy detail marks with some lovely rich colour straight from the tube – can't beat it!
Give your painting a final check – does your painting say what you want it to say? The cool thing is you don’t have to decide right now!! But do consider if it looks balanced, pleasing? Is there anything annoying you? I just discovered a problem area in a painting I thought I had resolved – so annoyed as I deliberately added “the problem” thinking I was so clever! Prop your painting upside down so you can see when you are walking past, this will give you a better understanding of the composition and structure, if it looks right upside down it will be right in its frame!!
ciao cari pittori
let me know what you think in the comments below!!
PaintBox Tips, secrets, random thoughts,
Poetry in watercolour is made in the freedom of the here and now. Amanda Brett
Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working - Pablo Picasso
There are no mistakes in watercolour, just some extra surprises!!
What my readers and viewers have to say
Your emails are so informative! I must confess I've watched a couple of your demos from beginning to end, and it makes me want to watercolor!!! I've only ever painted with oil or acrylics and haven't know how to begin with WC. Your content is excellent!
Thank you for your tips. They inspired me to practise and I realised I haven’t been loading the brush properly. I learnt about adding more paint, and not water, to washes. In today’s tips I like the idea of painting with purpose. Your tips are very helpful. I very much appreciate receiving them. Elizabeth
Hi Amanda I enjoyed your post and generous tips. Looked up Dan Burt I begin to see that you can colour any subject to give it pizazz so long as the tone and form is correct Certainly adding value now to my attempts Thanks heaps Annie
Yes very wise words. Agree with not fussing and agree with comments about good quality paint. Well written and inspirational as always. Cheers Janet xxxx
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