Today I’m working through a lesson in form painting from Juliette Aristedes’ book “Lessons in Classical Painting.” I spend a lot of time with art instructional books working through the lessons, sometimes doing them over and over. Here I’m not trying to produce a painting that is meant to be shown, but just learning and developing skills. I’m practicing a number of things from using a monochrome value scale to define form to experimenting with a variety of brush types and sizes, while going through the steps that Aristedes lays out for doing an underpainting. It’s called an underpainting because after it’s complete and allowed to dry, you could paint on top of it using color for a finished painting. In this approach you use the underpainting to work out the shapes and values (light to dark), and when you do the later stage to add color, you keep these light and dark areas by reproducing these values within your color scheme.
The stage you see here is incomplete — it’s about halfway through the second stage of the underpainting. I photographed it at this stage because it’s interesting to see the steps.
This exercise is done on a hardboard panel that was coated in gesso and toned grey. Lately I’ve been exploring oil painting on a variety of supports, from stretched canvas to oil paper to hardboard panels as in this case. The panel is somewhat absorbent for the first layer, then if it is allowed to dry, it becomes somewhat slick and slippery in brushing on the second layer. For the first stage, I brushed on a layer of thin layer of raw umber oil paint thinned with mineral spirits, then found the light and dark areas of the form by wiping away the lights with a rag and brushing in the darks and the outline. I gave this several days to dry and then began on the second stage, the grisaille. For the second stage, I mixed a dark solid color using equal parts transpartent oxide brown, transparent oxide red, and cobalt blue. Using this as the darkest value, I then used white to make a 9-level monochrome value scale from 1 (white) to 9 (darkest). I then massed in the large dark shadow shapes using a value of 7, the midtones using a 4, and very roughly massed in the light areas using white. You can see these roughed-in masses on the model’s dress. Now I’m in the process of working around the various parts of the form, using the full value scale (1 to 9) and blending the values to decribe the form.