The Acrylic Painting Academy: Underpainting - Part 1

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Lesson Description

Part one of a series on indirect painting in which a monochromatic underpainting is developed, followed by applications of color glazes. The background of the underpainting is developed in this module.

Lesson Materials

Stretched canvas, acrylic paints (Titanium White, Raw Umber, Payne's Gray or Ivory Black), HB graphite pencil, various nylon brushes, water.

Lesson Resources

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Reference Image

Lesson Discussion

  1. Hello, would you be able to make the photo references from ALL modules, not just this one ( if there are any for the module) available to download? I can then view them in higher resolution and larger format. thanks

  2. Hello, great video! – a question regarding the light reference drawing you did prior to your underpainting. When you are applying your greyscale background over the reference lines it looks like you are completely covering over / eliminating those lines – (at least i couldn’t see any lines showing through on the video). Do you want to have a trace of those lines peeking through the paint so that you can use them as a reference point? It would seem like quite a lot of work to be covered over on the first paint application. Thanks!

    • Hi Skee,
      Since the light drawing is done to capture the overall contours, it’s ok to go over them with the underpainting. The underpainting then serves as the framework for the rest of the painting and the light lines are no longer needed.

  3. I can’t tell you how helpful this course has been, but this lesson in particular. It’s like you showed me everything I’ve ever done wrong in painting inside of 30 minutes! haha. Amazing. Thank you!

  4. This changed my entire concept of the meaning of “underpainting” which was completely wrong! So happy to be here and be learning! I’m skimming through these videos and then I will come back a take it one step at a time. Very eager!

  5. Hi Matt, when I put the grisaille,I covered all the drawing and needed it for the trees and the location of the bushes. What can we do when that happened? Do it again!!

  6. Hi Matt
    Is underpainting a superior method compared to direct painting? Why would one use this method when practically we are going over the painting twice. What are the advantages of underpainting over direct painting? while looking at a painting can one make out what method of painting was used? I thoroughly enjoy your course material and hence am eager to know more. Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Soma,

      Creating an underpainting allows the artist to approach the painting in terms of value first and then color after the values are in place. It simplifies the painting process so that the artist can focus on making decisions regarding value without having to think about color. And then decisions about color after the values are in place. This usually results in greater accuracy in each case. With direct painting, both the value and color are addressed at the same time. You can’t always look at a painting and determine which method was used. Sometimes an underpainting is created, but then direct painting methods are applied over the top. And sometimes, a direct painting will also have areas that have been glazed.

  7. Hi Matt. When observing the reference photo, how do you determine what values to apply in the background where the foreground tree is covering it. I’ve been following your painting but wouldn’t be sure how to determine shapes and values from the reference photo alone. BTW….I’m absolutely loving your courses. You have a amazing way of communicating in a organized and simple way that I can finally understand. I’ve already learned so much. Thank You!

    • Hi Lori,

      I use a black and white version of the subject when matching values is paramount. This is the case with this painting approach. I mix the grays that I need and compare them to the grays that I observe. Sometimes, I may print out the black and white photo and touch the surface with my mixed color with a brush before going to the canvas. This helps to ensure that I have a close match.

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