Ask The Experts
Margaret Evans (Past President) Painting Tips
When painting in an opaque medium it can be inspiring to start off with a coloured base, whether it is a coloured paper or a background colour you have underpainted, to create mood and depth. Traditionally, it was normal to underpaint oil paintings with one colour of paint, working out composition and tone in shades of black and white (or brown diluted). The colour was then glazed on top to build up the painting in layers, leaving the tonal study underneath to show through. This same technique can be used today, not only in oil painting, but also in pastel, where we are used to working on a coloured base. Watercolour or gouache can also be used to tint a paper before starting a pastel painting, and help influence the mood of the subject.
Underpainting for drama and mood
One of my favourite methods of creating impact in pastel work has been to use bright coloured papers that give contrast to the scene, for example, using blue papers for warm sunny scenes and hot red papers for cold winter scenes. Complementary coloured papers always add an extra dimension to a subject and at other times a particular subject just cries out to be painted in a favourite paper colour, even if it is a close match instead of a contrast. (See Fig.1)
Don't forget Gouache!
Whatever choice you make, you have to feel excited about the prospects that the marriage of paper and painting will offer and go for it, overcoming any fear or trepidation that may be lurking! One of the methods I use for adding depth and intensity to pastels is to underpaint with gouache, a medium I have always enjoyed from my art school training, but has sadly lost popularity over the years. As a painting medium on it's own merits, gouache has a lovely flat, bold painterly feel about it, is excellent for outdoor painting and is portable for travelling. (See Fig.2)
Laying foundations with Gouache
As a medium for underpainting, gouache offers an immediate contrast to the paper colour, allowing me to create an impact at the start by putting a strong opaque light tone on top of a dark toned paper. Enjoy gouache for it's opacity, and in other words 'being allowed' white when water-colouring! I can put light on top of dark as well as bold darks on top of light paper colours and immediately my painting has depth. As the painting develops, those initial strong contrasts keep me focused on the important areas of the picture. (See Fig.3)
The Finished Piece
By the time I am finished I have a powerful statement of light and dark, which still shows the original colour of the paper in places, but also has a painterly approach with the contrasting washes of gouache in some areas giving different textures to a normal 'pastel-only' painting. (See Fig.4)
Hopefully it will make you realise that 'anything goes' in painting and will automatically encourage you to take risks, gamble and try different approaches. Have fun!
From Photograph to Painting with Matthew Palmer
The Italian Job with Malcolm Cudmore
Spring Fervour with David Hyde
Market Day in Brittany with Marilyn Allis
Cromford Canal with Matthew Palmer
Portraits in Pastel Pencils with Heather Jolliffe
A Passion for Watercolour Painting