Join Will Kemp for an in-depth discussion in this video Blocking in and underpainting, part of Painting Foundations: Acrylic.
- So for our first study, we're going to be looking at this simple landscape painting. I've chosen it because it applies all the techniques we've just learned about, but also teaches you classical painting approaches. We'll see how a colored ground is used in painting, and how a good tonal range will give your painting depth. And when I say that, I mean having an image with strong lights and strong darks into it. We'll be creating balance and harmony to the piece, and it's very similar to the approach I'd use when choosing a drawing subject.
We'll cover how to balance warm and cool colors, and work within a fairly limited palette. So the first thing I'm going to do is choose a color for the colored ground. And this is a color that's going to link the foreground, the middle ground, and the background together. And you'll notice in the finished painting how this color here, this nice, warm yellow color, you can see elements of it all throughout the painting. So now we're going to mix the colored ground color, and see how you can apply it to your canvas.
So now I can start to apply the colored ground for this painting. What I'm going to be looking at is this midtone here, this nice, subtle yellow tone to it. It's going to be great as an undertone, and this is where Yellow Ochre can be such a good color to use as a base. I'm using the liquid Yellow Ochre because I just want a thin application. What I want it to do is to be able to stain the canvas to give us a tone to work on top of, but not be too thick that the next paint layers on top can't go on easily.
So just put out some Yellow Ochre to start with. Now we're just going to add a bit of Titanium White. And because we've used that Fluid paints with the Yellow Ochre, it's added that bit of liquidness to the paint mixture. I can add a little bit more by adding a touch of water, and that's getting a nice consistency.
So it's got this nice flow to it. You can start to see it's got that lovely warm undertone that's going to be great to add warmth to the painting before we begin. So that's looking perfect. So now what you can use is a decorator's brush just to apply this onto your canvas. So here's a decorator's brush that I'm using. It's about a two inch decorator's brush. And this brush looks blue, but it's just been stained by previous paintings that I've been doing, so don't worry about that at all.
All you've got to do is just dip it into some water to start with, and this helps to bring the bristles together onto the brush, and then you can work it onto your mix, and then just start to paint it straight onto your canvas. So you can work in any direction you like to start with, just so it really goes onto the canvas, and push it into all the edges.
Then when you've painted it all on, just before it dries off, work the brush so it goes the same direction and just pulls it all along, and you'll get this lovely, even stain onto your canvas. You can paint the edges as well just to neaten it up, and then you're going to have this lovely even tone very lightly applied that we can draw on top of.
So now we can just leave that canvas to dry, and then we can start to draw out the image. When I prepare a sketch for painting, I'm using very light, minimal lines. I'm not looking for any real details, just a general indication of the composition, and how the painting's all working together. If you're new to drawing, you'll find in the Exercise Files a copy of my drawing that you can just work along from, a line drawing to a line drawing. This will make it easier for you to see the actual shapes in the composition.
So here I'm just using a 3B pencil, and I'm working quite lightly on it, and because I've got that lighter tonal ground, you can still see the pencil marks on here quite easily. You don't want to put on too much graphite, it's just so that you can get a basis of the drawing to start our painting from. And again, I'm just looking at the angles that are in the scene, and trying to look at the composition as if it's a black and white composition.
So just looking for the general shapes that break through. I've got a post here that's got this nice dark shape onto it. And I've got another post over here, which is also nice and dark. So I've got these jumping off points from one dark area jumping to the next dark area, and it's making this nice pattern within the drawing and the composition of darks and lights.
Okay, that's great for us to start our painting from. So the first thing we're going to concentrate on in this painting is the darks, so I've put out some Burnt Umber, and I'm just using a small round brush that we can start to blush in some of these colors. Just out of frame, I've just got a pot of water, and I can just dip into that, and I'll get all the bristles together onto the brush, and then I'm just going to use the water to dilute the Burnt Umber so it's in a more runnier form.
And then when it's more liquid, it can be easier when we're painting on at these first stages. So that's all I'm doing to start with, just water and the Burnt Umber, and we can start to look for the darks within the composition. So when you look for darks to start with, it can be really handy just to tune your eye into them, and start to see how the constructs of your painting is made, and how the drawing is actually working within your painting.
You know if you've done the foundations of drawing, how similar this is to this approach of having a tonal ground, and then putting in the darks, and then looking for the lights. So by having these darks to start with, it just gives us an idea of how the tones are working within your painting. Again I'm just dipping into the water...
and the areas here, I'm not trying to put it into one solid block, I'm leaving odd areas that just break through into the tonal ground.
So experiment with how much water you put into it, see how far you can push it until it starts to run down. Then when it runs down you've gone a bit too far, so you can just add a little bit more paint so it holds itself onto your palette that you're working on. But these are fine, I mean if they're distracting you, you can just rub them out with your finger.
And even though these areas aren't a brown color, they've got an earthy color to them, and earthy greeny hue, but if I start to block in just the tones with the Burnt Umber, it can give you a really good idea of how dark or light you have to go in the painting. Same with this mountain here, very, very watery. We're painting over the top of it, but it's again just to block something in so you can start to break the difference between the tones, between the light here of the water and the dark of the mountain.
And even though it's going to be blue in the sky, just to illustrate how you can start to bring a painting to life just with one tone, I'm just going to very, very lightly blush some of this into the sky.
And you can start to see how the painting is forming in terms of the way that the tones work within it. I'll put a bit on here, on the roof, because again that's going to be a lot darker, even though that's going to be blue. This is what's so great about acrylics, you can just paint over top really easily, and you'll see that in the next stages of the painting. So that's our first stage, just with the Burnt Umber, and now you can have a try swapping to a thicker brush to have a go putting on more impasto paint to the painting.
So here I've just got a filbert brush. This is a Size 6 brush from Isabey. I find these are really nice, the filberts, because it's got this angle to it, and the angle that's on the side means that when we're painting the clouds, you can hold your brush at an angle and you paint it at an angle, and it keeps a nice soft edge to it. So you see on there, you can just soften the paint into the cloud, and give it that lovely smoky look. So areas here that I know that are going to go darker into the actual bushes, I can feel confident I can take thicker paint and then paint that on top knowing that's going to give me a really nice base to put in the next layers of the painting.
Okay, great! Now I'm going to add some white so we can get that contrast between the lights and the darks.
In this course, Will Kemp takes you on a journey that will unleash your inner artist, providing an introduction to the materials and techniques used in acrylic painting.
The course follows a progressive sequence, covering beginner and advanced acrylic painting methods, from underpainting and glazing to impasto and textural effects. It also addresses setup and materials, color mixing and pigment choice, brush-handling and palette-knife techniques, as well as gels and mediums.
By the end of the course you'll have a final still-life project you can hang with pride, and a solid foundation of painting knowledge, making the transition into more challenging subjects or mediums much easier.
- Choosing a brush, palette, and canvas
- Altering acrylic paint with water and other mediums
- Blocking in and underpainting
- Adding glazes
- Choosing pigments
- Understanding basic color theory
- Creating texture
- Signing and protecting your work