Painting Workshop: Session 1: Underpainting

Today, I attended a painting workshop with James Green. I was asked to bring a drawing, a photograph and an object, all relating to my city project. I didn’t know what to expect and was excited to see what we were doing with these items. When I arrived, I was asked to set up a still life using the things I had brought. I included my sketchbook, a photo I had taken highlighting the hidden loneliness of the city and some headphones. I was really stumped and couldn’t think of what object I was going to take so I put in my headphones and started listening to music, it dawned on me that people wear headphones on the streets and on public transport to avoid the loneliness around them so they seemed like an appropriate item to bring along. I  arranged my things and set up my still life and started making a really lose, quick and basic 5 minute sketch of it.


After this we talked about the task of the work shop and what we aimed to do. We talked about underpainting and how it is important. This obviously linked in with the grounds workshop that I took part in last week. We looked at the work of Simon Ling and how the underpainting that you do can show through the final outcome. You can see the orange underpainting coming through the untitled piece I have included below by Simon Ling and I think this is a highly interesting effect. We talked about the fact that underpainting is not typically considered by art students and that it can completely change the feel, complexity and outcome of a painting.


The tutor showed us some of his work built upon the foundations of layers and layers of underpainting and the outcomes were incredibly inspiring, there looked to have been so much work put into the pieces and the under colours had created new colours on top. It really interests me that the under colours inform the top colours and can change the way a colour looks. He gave an example of a tube of yellow paint that he had used in two different places within his work, it was the same tube of paint, but one part was painted over a white underpainting and the other over a blue underpainting, the results were completely different. We discussed edging and how we could move the edge of a paintbrush back and fore across a page to create a straight line, I used this technique when rendering the corners of the book within my work below.

We were given that task of using only Green tones to create an underpainting of our Still life set ups.



Using only tones of Green we had to pick up on light and shadow and create a variety of tone within our underpaintings, ready to paint on top of them in the next session next week. We were only allowed to use five colours and no black was to be used to darken our greens. We used yellow and white to lighten the green and blue and red to darken it.



 It was really interesting painting the different tones and highlights all in one colour. We only had two hours to complete this workshop, and I didn’t quite finish my underpainting, so I will be working on it this week ready for next weeks session. I was happy with the result of my underpainting and I think I have a good tonal range within it, however I do think that the book looks a little flat in places and I rushed a little so some of the angles within the piece are a bit wrong, which is something I will work on. I am excited to see what this painting will look like next week when I start adding more colour on top. I wonder how the green will change the colours I use? Will it show through in places? There seems to be endless possibilities when layering paint and I am intrigued to explore this.


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