The Importance of the Under Painting
It is my contention that a solid, light line drawing followed by an under painting is crucial to create a pastel painting with a strong structure of both line and value. In art history the under painting was also known by different names. The word grisaille is one term that was used during 19thCentury France at the ateliers and academies. I had also heard the phrase “dead color” used when referring to an under painting.
Here is an example of an under painting or grisaille done by the French Master, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.
La Grande Odalisque
Jean Auguste Domique Ingres
When executing an under painting it is very important to adjust the values to be 2 values lighter than the finished painting will be; 2 values lighter on a scale from 1-8 with number 1 being black and number 8 being white. This is because when you glaze color over the under painting the painting will darken slightly with each layer. Remember that it is always easier to darken something than to make it lighter in painting.
I like to use Higgins Waterproof India Ink, for the under painting on the marble dust treated panel. My preferred method is definitely with the airbrush. With the airbrush you can slowly work up the values, gradually getting darker until you get to the desired value. Here you will also be shading the forms of the subject. You may also use the India Ink with a conventional paint brush employing a water color technique; in both cases you will want to gradually work from light to dark. This example below is the look when I feel the under painting is ready for the color stage. Notice that the values are lighter than the finished piece will be and the major shading and modeling of the forms have taken place.
“Prosephone in Autumn”
The Under Painting Stage
Timothy John-Luke Smith
In the next chapter we will explore the initial color layers of our pastel painting using the “Pastel Palette Method”.