Monday, December 20, 2010

Underpainting. I'm looking at snow and realize the snow is not white, but rich with color. It reflects sky and it displays shadow. Blue or pink, orange or purple, the snow is only sometimes, intermittently, white. And when it is – the white is blinding! Dazzling!

But it's the shadows and reflections that make the snow so interesting and give it form.

I've been using chalk pastels to lay out an underpainting on Strathmore charcoal paper. I must confess the paper I have is ancient paper. I inherited it from my former husband's grandmother in the early 1980's. It was old then, before she passed it down to me! It might have been purchased in the early 1970's. Yes. Well, now you know something about my weakness for accumulating art supplies. I have lived in six different homes in four different states since acquiring those art supplies from John's grandma. Those supplies have traveled with me, dwindling with use, all the way.

I have a (new!) box of Prismacolor pastels and a new tin of denatured alcohol. Laying down a bold underpainting color for sky and foreground with my Prismacolors I fix it to the paper using denatured alcohol and a bristly paint brush. The denatured alcohol dries quickly, sealing the underpainting so I can get right back to creating the local color without the worry of it getting stirred up and bleeding through.

But you know me. There's more to making art than technique. It wasn't long before I started thinking about the metaphor of underpainting. There's the person we see and there's the underpainting that makes that person so interesting. It's the shadow and reflection that gives meaning to a life. It's what makes us what we are. What is the underpainting in your life?