It’s time to start my new painting! As always, I begin with the underpainting. Above, I’ve mixed 8 values of raw sienna and lead white, and numbered them from lightest to darkest. It’s easier to remember a number than a color!
Above, I’ve begun painting in the large areas. In the underpainting, I want everything to be several values lighter than the correct value. I’ve found that the finished colors look more luminous with a paler value beneath them. It doesn’t matter at this point if the values are correct relative to each other or not. My main goal is to get a layer of paint down to serve as a base for subsequent layers. I’m careful not to lose the drawing, as it will be my guide.
Above, I’ve added the obsidian and started on the vase. Usually, I paint the underpainting very loosely, without much detail. Since it will be painted over, It would be wasted effort to be too precise. But on the vase, if I don’t paint the details, all of my drawing would be lost!
At my next session, I’ve mostly completed the wrinkled paper. It turned out that my drawing wasn’t quite right, so I ended up redrawing many of the wrinkles (using paint instead of a pencil!). It happens so often that I think I’ve been accurate in my drawing, only to discover errors later!
Above you can see how loosely I’ve painted the paper. That’s really all I’ll need to guide me.
The vase will take a little longer. I’m what I call ‘drawing with paint’ here, mostly trying the preserve the drawing and make the lines clearer.
I considered not doing an underpainting on the vase, and proceeding directly to painting the correct local colors, so I could save some time and not have to paint all of these lines again. However, in the end I decided that I want all parts of the finished painting to have the orange tones of the raw sienna underpainting beneath them. Not only does the underpainting show through thin glazes and scumbles, it is visible in small areas that I leave uncovered, to serve as a finished color in its own right.
If I didn’t underpaint the vase, it might stand out in the finished work as not being lit by the same light as the rest of the painting. One of the advantages to using an underpainting is that it helps brings a unified color to the finished work.