Following is one of the monthly Saturday mid-day art talks provided during art mentoring. Above is Im’pear’fect, the monochromatic block-in.
These ideas are borrowed from the book Alla Prima by Richard Schmid (Oil painting technique)
The first stage is a nearly complete (transparent) value study done with one warm colour on a smooth, non-absorbent surface. Once the monochromatic underpainting is finished and dry enough, you paint opaquely over top, using the monochrome painting as a guide. The advantage to this system is you have worked out tonal values, drawing, design and edges. Begin with a line drawing, followed by blocking in the masses of various shades. A suggestion is to begin with the focal area and do less detail as you work outwards. You can go as loose or detailed as you like. If you like loose paintings, be careful not to be constrained by your line drawing. The lines are just for placement.
I use a triple gessoed canvas or board that is covered in 3 coats of acrylic matte polymer medium. The goal is that staining colours can be wiped back to the white surface. Next time I will use Gamblin Ground (it’s an alkyd), which is stiffer and less absorbent than acrylic gesso. Gamblin says it will dry in 3-5 days. It should be a better surface for deductive oil painting.
• Use neutral warm reds, red-browns, orange-browns for the underpainting. They enhance the final darks. (Transparent Red Oxide or Terra Rosa, for examples. I used Transparent Red Oxide and Ultramarine Blue to paint ‘Im’pear’fect’)
• Let some of the underpainting show through the opaques. Use from-the-tube-paint consistency. Use scumbling, feathering and scrubbing for a transparent appearance.
• Improve the working quality of the canvas with a very thin film of linseed oil, or a bit in the paint. Keep the additional oil to a minimum to reduce problems when later placing opaques.
• Go as dark as black on the underpainting. (If necessary, add Ultramarine blue to Transparent Red Iron Oxide for darker shades.)
• Use yellow or cools such as violets or greens which will cause a muddy over painting.
• Use Burnt Umber or Vandyke brown as they crack.
• Use white paint for the underpainting. Instead, wipe off paint and use the canvas as your white.
• Use ‘soupy’ paint to cover the monochromatic layer.Mastering Methods