The Importance of an Underpainting

The Importance of the


It is my contention that a solid drawing followed by an underpainting is crucial to create a painting with graceful lines and structure.

In art history, the underpainting was also known by different names. The word grisalle is one that was used in the 19th Century French Academies. The master, Ingres, used grisalle throughout his career.

I had also heard the phrase “dead color” to describe the underpainting. I imagine the phrase takes into account that when color is added to this monotoned layer, the painting comes to life. The underpainting could be in any monotoned color, although black and white is most often used.

When painting portraits the Venetian painters used a reddish-brown underpainting. This technique emulates the flesh and blood under the skin. This method is only successful when employing thin layers of color called glazes.

My approach to painting is very pragmatic. I like to break down the complex elements of a painting into simple steps that will get me to the desired completion when the painting is finished. The line drawing will take care of the contours and proportions, the underpainting will address the value relationships, while the color takes care of the chroma and the saturation. If this method was good enough for Ingres, it is definitely good enough for me.

When executing an underpainting it is important to create the values about 2 values lighter ( on a scale from 1 to 8, from black to white). This is because when you apply the color glazes over the underpainting it will turn the values darker. This will show up in the lightest of values. Where this is very dark areas (almost black) it’s ok to have the values closer in the underpainting.

It is so difficult to solve all three issues of line, value, and color all at once. If the end result is the same, why make the journey more difficult?

Work on the drawing, the underpainting, and then the color, as a chess player is planning many moves ahead; setting up his/her pieces before the attack. It is imperative that you have a plan that is both detailed and loose enough to adjust to any challenges you may face during the painting process. Nothing can prepare you fully for the painting progress itself, just as all the planning in war can never fully prepare one for the battle itself; However, you stand a better chance at success with proper preparation.

Let me further explain this concept to you. Let us say that you created a very sound line drawing and then in the underpainting process, you have pressed too hard with the pencil and a line can not be fully erased. It is in times like that you will need to think on the fly. I said that because this happened to me this week. It was upsetting however I stopped and assessed the situation. My resolution was to go back over the line area with the gesso mixture and a brush. It worked with a sigh of relief.

Remember what I said about painting like a chess player? I want you to remember those times of problem-solving with detailed notes that you may later refer to during the next painting. The best defense against any trouble is to not be there in the first place. Notes will help you to not make the same mistakes twice.

I can not stress enough to keep the underpainting lighter than your reference, by 2 values. Later in the color process it will be so much easier to darken subtle areas of shadow.

Painting as Prayer

Painting as Prayer

Painting is an amazing and sometimes mysterious process. Perhaps you have felt it. Sometimes when you are engrossed in a painting or drawing, the time seems to stand still but when you look up at the clock, many hours have gone by. I feel this is where we enter that meditation. A place where we are on a higher plane of consciousness.

All great art is a visual form of prayer.” ~ Sister Wendy Beckett

Each painting that I work on has its very own characteristics. This is one of the things I feel is so very special about being an artist; no two paintings are the same. There may be similarities but no two are ever quite the same. 

To work is to pray.” ~ John Singer Sargent

I am not saying that all artists feel this way or one can not be a very excellent artist otherwise. What I am saying is, this has always been my personal experience when working on my art. I have been an artist since my earliest conscious thoughts. When I was a baby, I would draw. As a child and young man, drawing was always an escape from the bitterness of life. I can measure the units of time through the paintings I have worked on.

I have gone through very rough emotional and mental patches in my life, as all of us have. My art has always been the tool to help me to regain balance. Spiritually, I have never been alone, never will I ever be alone. With each new painting, there is the hope of beauty, redemption, and greatness. It is an opportunity to be in meditation. In this act of painting, I am listening.

Don’t Stare at Your Home Runs

No Gaps No Way

When I say no gaps I mean that there should not be a long period of time between one painting or drawing to the next one. In that space, there is the enemy of growth.


You heard the advice that consistent effort is the key to success. I am going even deeper. What you need to pay attention to are the moments in between each accomplishment. Between stimulus and our reaction is a space. You are in control of that space. I find that I learn the most from a painting by applying the lessons learned immediately on the next painting or drawing.

Don’t Stare at Your Home Runs

I know its almost October and for the postseason of Major League Baseball. It was only a matter of time before I included a baseball reference in my blog. When some players hit a home run, they often stand and stare at the mammoth shot as it goes over the fence. It’s definitely fine to be pleased with a successful painting but while we are patting ourselves on the back for too long, we are missing an opportunity to learn and continue to grow. I always like the players when they hit a home run, put their head down and round the bases quietly and humbly until they cross home plate.

Finish Means a New Beginning

If you need to, have your next painting already started before the latest painting is completed. This way you decrease the space between the two works even more. Trust me, when you decrease the time between paintings or drawings, your learning, and growth as an artist will also increase.

I hope this helps you to realize that the inspiration is inside you. Check out my website at There you will find info on my YouTube Channel, My India Ink, and Airbrush technique as well as new artwork available.

Maintaining Focus During the Lean Times

Maintaining Focus During the Lean Times

Maintaining focus during the lean times is about keeping yourself inspired when it seems as though nobody is in your corner or our next achievements appear to be way off in the distance. How can we retain focus with the distractions of lean times? Let us explore.

Consistency is the Key

Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” ~Dwayne Johnson

Keep your head down and work is sometimes the most difficult thing to do. When outside inspiration has dried up, we need to look within to find the energy and courage to press forward. Stick with your success strategy and be consistent. Start a new painting and put in the hours. Work through the difficulty. Avoiding the easel is not the answer. In fact, it is almost never the answer.

Catch a Movie

I also like to watch movies about artists. These movies can be fiction, non-fiction biographies or documentaries. For me, they remind me that I am not the only one that has had the life of an artist thrust upon. Many art history documentaries of the Old Masters are a wonderful way to get your artistic blood flowing again.

Dig deeper, It’s in There.

Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.” ~ Simone de Beauvoir

Become more intense.  Amplify yourself and your talent. Like turning the faucet on your kitchen sink, let your power increase and fill you up during those lean times. Give just 15 minutes extra at the easel each day. Learn a new photo manipulation software or get a book on taking better photos for your paintings. The pathways and opportunities for you to amplify your talent and message are inside you.

I hope this helps you to realize that the inspiration is within us all. Nobody is going to be in your corner more than you will, especially when you are under construction. So do what you need to do during the lean times.

Please go ahead and check out my website at There you will find info on my YouTube Channel, My India Ink and Airbrush technique, and new artwork available.




Five Things That Will Make You a Better Airbrush Artist

Five Things That Will Make You a Better Airbrush Artist

Do you search for or wonder what would be the perfect advice for the airbrush artist that feels stuck or on a plateau in their learning and airbrush control?  I came up with these five tips that will help you to grow and be a better airbrush artist.

1. Practice the Art of Practicing.

What do I mean about this is that we need to practice but to practice on a higher level. Dagger Strokes, Dots, and Fading Lines are not just things we do to warm up. Each and every day, attempt to improve on yesterday’s Dagger strokes, Dots and Fading Lines.

2. Play, Play, Play with the Paint or the Ink.

When you are practicing daily, play and experiment with the paint. See what happens when the air pressure is low or when you over reduce it. Play with the distance and how it reacts when you add white to it. This type of thinking will go a long way to helping you become a better airbrush artist.

3. Look to the Old Masters.

The tradition of European Painting from the 1400s to the early Twentieth Century is rich with the inspiration and knowledge of painting that was passed on from generation to generation. There are so many artists and approaches in history. If you search through art history you will find an artist that will inspire you and give you a direction and focus that you would not have otherwise.

4. The One Second Rule.

This is one of my most important rules when it comes to becoming a better airbrush artist. It is much easier to paint what you are seeing when you are actually looking and studying your subject before you paint it. This rule is simple, the amount of time you paint is equal to the amount of time you are looking at the what you are painting. If you are painting for a second, look at the photo for a second. If you are painting for 4 seconds, look at the photo for 4 seconds. I guarantee that your painting will have a sharper and more accurate realism.

5. Use Up Those Art Supplies

You went out and purchased those paints and that frisket only to have them sit on the shelf in your studio. One of your main goals is to use up all of those supplies. This goal has two great results. The first is that you will get better through practice and the second, is that you will need to order new supplies when you run out. A win, win scenario if you ask me.

I hope this helps to give you a direction and guidance to reach your full potential as an airbrush artist. Please check out my YouTube channel where you find videos, live streams, and tutorials that will help you to become a better airbrush artist through my innovative technique of using India Ink with the airbrush. I also teach online, one on one through Skype where you will learn how to paint in airbrush side by side with me. For more information, please log onto my website:

Fight and Win Against Airbrush Procrastination

Tips to Fight Airbrush Procrastination and Go Forward Anyway

Do you ever look at your airbrush, look at the empty board or canvas, and look at the computer or cell phone?  Well, this happens to me more often than you would think.

This procrastination or lack of action happens to every airbrush artist. The difference between the active painters and the ones who seem to never finish their work is that the successful airbrush artist goes forward anyway. They fight the battle before it is ever fought.

Remember, it is not about whether or not it becomes a good painting or not, it is about the practice and putting in our hours to get to, reach for, or strive for our artistic potential. So how can we do this? I have some great tips that will help you.

Prepare Your Studio the Night Before

Just like dieters who prepare their healthy meals and keep junk food far from them, airbrush artists can prepare for the next visit to their studio and keep the distractions and time-wasters far from their work area.

One way is to get their airbrush perfectly clean the night before and double-check that it is working properly. This way when you come into the studio, you are not wrestling with a dirty and non-working airbrush. Second, have your inks or paints organized and ready to go. So when you are sitting down to work, you are instantly painting.

Distractions, Distractions, Distractions

Remember the dieter? They kept junk food away from them so they don’t eat those super high caloric foods and distract them from the fruits and vegetables they need to eat. The same principle is for the studio. I love social media, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, but keep them turned off when you are sitting down to work. Those sites will distract you from your painting time. After you are done painting you will have lots of time to visit my YouTube channel. LOL

I hope this helps you. When you grow as an artist, we all grow too. Don’t forget and follow my videos and live streams, there you will get more great tips and be able to see my unique technique of painting in India Ink and airbrush on tinted paper.

Don’t Sell Your Airbrush!

Don’t Sell Your Airbrush!

You are but a dilution away.

The Problems New Airbrush Artists Face

I find that many new people who get so excited about their airbrush purchase, face a daunting task of controlling their airbrush’s spray. They want to create the soft and hard edges that are the beautiful hallmark of this most versatile of mediums. All the time I watch as the new airbrush artists spend many dollars to get the best equipment, airbrush, compressor, a full line of airbrush paints, mediums, and even freehand shields only to have them start the process of collecting dust within a month of purchase.

I am here to share some very wonderful news. You are not being told the whole airbrush story. What you don’t know is exactly what is keeping you from growing as an airbrush and more importantly, keeping you from enjoying your airbrush to the fullest.

The airbrush was not made for acrylic paint. The airbrush was invented for inks and dyes. This is because the particles of acrylic paints are too big and they clog the nozzle opening very quickly. This clogging causes spitting and irregular sprays, in essence, a very bad airbrushing experience. The problem is not you. The problem is that you are just not being told the entire truth.

That is why my Ink Dilutions were created. With my dilutions, the ink flows perfectly through your airbrush with no clogs and no spitting. Its thin viscosity is perfectly suited for the airbrush and its narrow nozzle. That viscosity along with the lower PSI on your airbrush and micro-adjustments with a MAC Valve will help you gain that elusive control. That control can be yours.

Why Working in Black and White is Best for the Beginner.

I am a classically trained artist. I was working as an artist over 25 years in other mediums before I ever picked up the airbrush. In many of the classical art schools, the students will not touch color until some time of training in black and white or monochromatic paining. This is because the artist needs to learn to draw accurate contours and values as well as controlling and varying edges. These skills are very difficult to master and compounding color on top of that impedes the learning process. So, in the beginning, black and white is right for the airbrush artist!

This is why working with my Ink Dilutions will help you to rediscover your airbrush and have fun growing in your skills. So please dust off that airbrush, get my Ink Dilutions and start to have fun.

You can purchase my Ink Dilutions Set on my website:

Also, you can watch me demo my Ink Dilutions on my Youtube Channel

Tending to the Garden of Your Art

Our art is like a seedling. We must nurture and take care of it daily in some way.

We can not always make it to the easel because life does get in the way. These are life’s priorities that shouldn’t be avoided though. That is not to say, that we are unable to do other little things that help promote the growth of our passion, our art.

When I was living in Orlando, years ago, I started a vegetable garden one Spring day. That first year I bought some seeds, put them in the ground and watered them. I tended to that garden every day that summer but to no avail.  My harvest was a handful of green beans, some little green tomatoes, and weird looking broccoli.

That season of little growth was needed for me to learn from and improve on the following Spring. During the subsequent winter, I went to the local agricultural society and had my garden’s soil tested. I aerated the soil, added peat moss, and compost. My garden’s yield was tenfold. I was giving away tomatoes to my friends and neighbors. My diligence in watering, soil research, and weeding had paid off. The next year I had researched even further and I was growing stalks of corn taller than me.  My neighbors would stop their cars and admire my bounty of vegetables. I had everything from tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupe, cucumbers, and radishes, to name but a few.

I don’t  vegetable garden anymore but I take my experience of nurturing that garden and apply it to my art. With your art, it may look like nothing is growing but if you research, learn from past seasons, and water your art, you will eventually have a garden that many will stop and admire. So are you tending to the garden of your art?

Making a Living as an Airbrush Artist

For me, it has always been a matter of balance. I love to paint and draw so much that I don’t take adequate time to promote my work commercially. This can be a good thing, actually a very good thing because practice makes progress; However, it does leave me behind in revenue for my art business. So how do we find a balance between the need to be at the easel, improving our craft, as opposed the need to increase revenue from our art so we can survive?

For me, the answer is structure. I am determined to increase my revenue by setting a time each week for the promotion and acquiring more paid jobs with my art.  As artists, I am sure we all had to work a regular job in somebody else’s business. Let’s use those skills from those jobs and apply them to our art business. Face it, if you treat your art career as a hobby, so will your audience.

Every Friday, I am determined to spend the day marketing and researching, creating and calling contacts to grow my art business. You are your own best friend and business partner. Don’t let yourself down. I will keep you all posted on how my business Fridays go.

Don’t forget to check out my Amazon Store for the products I use to create my unique paintings and videos:



Airbrush, Pastels, Drawing, Inspiration