Saturday, June 24, 2017

Using Grisaille With Watercolours

The latest issue Watercolor Artist magazine has an article about an artist using the most interesting approach for his watercolours.  Tim Saternow uses grisaille as an underpainting. This technique is normally associated with oil and acrylic painting.

I didn't know much about this technique and had to research it. Some artists execute a grisaille for its own sake  while others use it as an underpainting. A grisaille allows the artist to focus on composition, shape and values and not have any distractions from the colours.  Grisaille paintings often time resemble monochrome drawings.  When used as an underpainting, successive layers of transparent colors are glazed over the grisaille to finish the process. This layering technique helps achieving great realism and luminous effects.

This technique can also be adopted by watercolourists. First start with a monochrome underpainting. Once the underpainting is dry, add layers of  transparent washes.

There are a number of different ways to create the first layer of underpainting for your watercolour.:
  • You can use watercolours. Apparently, the most commonly used color for underpainting with watercolours is purple (a mix of cadmium red and ultramarine blue works very well). Artists also have had success with neutral colors, such as blue or green.  The artist in the article mentioned above uses Paynes Gray
  • A light wash of India ink also works, as long as the ink is waterproof so it won't smudge once dry, allowing you to paint watercolour on top.
  • It's also possible to use a graphite. Since you do not want the water to dilute and muddy your colours, add a fixative before starting to paint so the water doesn't disrupt the graphite. However, the fixative will impact the behaviour, including the absorbency, of your paper.
Depending on the colour of the grisaille, it will certainly set the mood of the painting.
This week's artist find is Tim Saternow (mentioned above)
Tim Saternow watercolour
Have a great week,

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