Finished Painting: Underpainting, Pattern and Dry Brushing

I have spending my evenings working in the studio, I have now finished my still life painting that I have been producing in and outside of a paint workshop I have been attending every Monday and I highly pleased and proud of the result. At first, I was unsure of the benefits of underpainting, especially using green tones but I have been pleasantly surprised. The green tones coming through under the colour I have dry brushed over the top has definitely helped add depth to my painting. It has also changed the colours on top and undoubtedly helped inform my decisions when painting in shadows and highlights.



In my opinion, this is an incredibly successful outcome and I have learnt so much about painting that I didn’t know before.  I think the depth in the work and the three-dimensional quality it has is one of the most successful elements. The addition of a dotted pattern in the chair and thin line work on the book edges has shown me how to create subtle detail and add texture to my work when working on a flat surface. This has been such a valuable exercise for me and I will definitely be using underpainting and techniques such as dry brushing within my work in the future and  within this project.


PAINT WORKSHOP: Session 2: Colour, Pattern and Dry-Brushing

We were asked to bring our Green tone underpaintings along to this session with a view to working on top of them with more realistic colours. The idea was to see how the underpainting informed the painting produced on top. The tutor showed us an example of a green underpainting that he has been working on and showed us a few techniques to think about when painting on top of our pieces. He asked us to think about pattern, and how using pattern in painting can be effective. He used the example of wood grain within our still lifes and delicately showed us how to apply thin brush strokes using a small brush. Next, he showed us a technique known as “dry-brushing”, which is when you almost scuff the surface with paint. It is best to use an old brush for this and it was a valid way of applying paint for us in this workshop, because the highlights, lowlights and green tones of our underpaintings could show through the new thin layer of paint being applied.


We were then left to experiment with these techniques and start building up a more realistic image of our still lifes using more accurate colours. I started my piece by observing the texture of the surface that it was on, this week there were no tables left and I had placed my items on an orangey brown canvas chair which worked out really well for adding colour to my painting. I used a dotting effect and spotted pattern to render the chair and then used the dry brushing technique to add a scuffed orange colour over the top, allowing the green to show through slightly. Dry brushing over the pattern also gave emphasis to the dots themselves and it started to look highly textured and effective.



I continued employing these techniques and built up a substantial amount of colour within my work. It was really interesting how I found myself being informed by the shadows and highlights that I had thought about when producing the underpainting in the first place. The green tones showing through also seemed to give my painting a lot more texture made it look more three-dimensional. The green underpainting definitely effected the colours that I painted on top. For example, The photograph that is laying on the book was painted in dark greys but when applied on top of green, pink tones were emerging, which was highly interesting.

I have learnt a lot from these sessions and underpainting and dry brushing are definitely techniques I will be using in my painting in the future. I will now continue working and finish this piece in my own time ready for the next session on Monday.

PAINT WORKSHOP: Underpainting Finished

Today, I spent the afternoon working in my studio and finishing off the underpainting I started in the painting workshop on monday. There are many green tones used to make up this underpainting of a still life of my book, photograph and headphones. They are darkened with red and blue and lightened with yellow and white. It is now ready for the next layer of paint, which I will be embarking on in next Mondays painting session.


I am intrigued to see how the underpainting affects the final result of the piece and if and how the green tones beneath the colours that I apply on top change them at all. I am also excited to see whether the green ends up showing through the painting in any way and if the highlights and shadows that I have already created in the underpainting, inform the highlights and shadows I apply in the next layer.



I must admit that I don’t usually underpaint when producing artwork, I tend to just go for it on a white canvas or piece of board or paper. It is great that I am learning a new technique and I look forward to applying the skills and knowledge that I learn to the work I am producing in my City Project.

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.

Key Artwork: Natura Morta Series : Giorgio Morandi 1890-1964

“There’s little or nothing new in the world, What matters is the new and different position in which artists find themselves seeing and considering” – Giorgio Morandi

Giorgio Morandi is an Italian painter. He was highly inspired by Paul Cezanne’s still life paintings and limited use of colour. Cezanne was Morandi’s Ideal, He based his work on his influence and later went on to become a professor of engraving.

Morandi produced a large series of Still life artworks called “Natura Morta”. They convey abstract notions and are composed out of what look like very ordinary things. The pieces are very small-scale and there are lots of space around the objects within the composition, the objects are usually grouped together. The colour in his works is very muted in tone and restrictive. They are passive but not passive and for still life’s they are not always that still. He has created 1350 Natura Mortas and has reused imagery. He uses bottles and boxes that re-occur in a number of his pieces, jostling for space on the canvas. Sometimes little huddles of objects appear to present human relationships because of the way they relate to each other within the composition. Are they a metaphor for Human Relationships? They could be poems in paint or trying to portray distilled quietness. There is an amazing colour range within his works but the colours are very dampened down.


Morandi was also influenced by Ben Nicholson, Wayne Teabold and Paul Coldwell. There is a great amount of compression of space within his still lifes and sometimes it is as if we are at eye level with the objects or on top of the table they are on. Throughout Natura Morta the objects are viewed from different angles. Sometimes the shadows spread across significant areas of the painting and are facing different directions as if there were different sources of light.


Giorgio Morandi also produced engravings that demonstrated a very fine cross-hatching technique, but retained the same compositional style as the painted Natura Morta where the objects are fighting for space.
He created a whole series of paintings where he completely blanks out some of the objects within the works, creating negative space. Nearing the end of his life, Morandi produced a series of very economical watercolours which are “barely whispers” of his paintings. Within them there are dense groupings of abstract forms but they are delicate and convey exactly what he sees.


Morandi spent his life drawing and painting what he saw. I have learnt from his work, that going back and drawing what you see can help you to move on and create something interesting. Ideas do not have to be huge, they could just be another way of looking at things. “I don’t know what I’m doing but maybe I could just do that”.