Friday, April 13, 2007

The Not So Empty Canvas

I've been busy on several paintings lately (I'm currently working on nine canvases, in various states of finish!).

Here's series of photos of a large piece (60" x 30") I've recently begun. The photos will give you a look at how I am crafting the piece, to show an in-process view of one of my paintings.

There are many ways to begin and develop a painting, but in this case I'm trying to be as painterly as I can be, so the finished painting will not only stand as a representation of reality (here, a meeting between Civil Affairs Group and Recon Marines and Iraqi citizens near Korean Village) but also as a painting to enjoy.

Blocking In:

It starts with a gray toned canvas, and a succession of areas and colors placed roughly in. This first layer is called the underpainting, or Blocking In.

From ArtLex art dictionary:

blocking in - Laying down the initial statement of a picture by a broad indication of line, color, and tone. After blocking in, artists typically develop their compositions from general to particular by ever-increasingly refining shapes, colors, textures, etc., until an artwork is finished. Also see abbozzo, sketch, and study.

underpainting - The layer or layers of color on a painting surface applied before the overpainting, or final coat. There are many types of underpainting. One type is an all-over tinting of a white ground. Another is a blocked out image in diluted oil paints that serves as a guide for the painter while developing the composition and color effects. Also see abbozzo, azurite, grisaille, pochade, and sinopia.

Here are the Step by Step photos (please pardon the poor quality-- I've got to get a better camera):

The first area is the sky and background. You can see the toned canvas with basic shapes of the figures. Hopefully, this will show a good relationship between positive and negative shapes.

The figures are then roughly blocked in, though not haphazardly-- it's important to me to maintain proper color and temperature, while establishing value relationships as well. If I can get it right now, then I will have less to adjust later, and the painting will also maintain a good "painterly-ness".

The figures take more shape...
More and more of the Blocking-in comes together:
Some details of the figures on the left:

Some details of the figures on the right:

I'll keep you posted as the blocking in progresses, and I'll show the middle and end-game steps in the painting process, so you can see the whole thing from start to finish.

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