Monday, January 17, 2011

Starting an acrylic painting with a charcoal drawing

Still life set-up • © photo 2011 Karen Lynn Ingalls

Here's a new way of starting a painting with an acrylic drawing. Above, I've begun with a simple still life arrangement.

I've underpainted the canvas in a mid-value color (in this case, Cadmium Yellow Deep). Since these photographs are of a second demonstration over the top of the first, you can see something of the first demonstration underneath.

Still life composition, drawn in charcoal • © photo 2011 Karen Lynn Ingalls

This method uses vine charcoal, a drawing medium that can be easily erased - but that also can be absorbed into and darken the paints, when you paint over your initial composition. How can you prevent the charcoal from getting into the paint? Some people draw their composition, and then erase it, leaving a ghost of the drawing to guide them. Here's another method that allows you to draw in charcoal, leave the lines, and keep the charcoal from getting into your acrylic paint.

Draw your composition in, using Vine Charcoal (not compressed charcoal). Vine charcoal is easily erased with the edge of a paper towel as you make alterations to your composition. Look at the composition upside down, to make sure it works. Do you see shadows of the alterations I'd made on the first demonstration, underneath this?

In this second demonstration, without the arrangement above in front of me, I also altered it by leaning two of the apples in towards each other, a change that I think creates a more interesting dynamic.

Mixing a gesso solution • © photo 2011 Karen Lynn Ingalls

For the next step, mix gesso (primer for canvases, pronounced jess´-oh) and water in about 50/50 proportions. I prefer to use a pourable gesso rather than a thicker gesso for this. For my demonstration here I've used Liquitex's student grade gesso. Make sure the new gesso solution is not too thin and runny (the results then would be like what you see above, from my first demonstration. The wateriness of my solution allowed the charcoal to run more than you'll want).

Still life composition • © photo 2011 Karen Lynn Ingalls

Next, you will apply the gesso solution to the canvas, allowing it to fix the charcoal drawing (make it permanent, so it can be painted over). The best way to do this is to brush the solution inside and up to the lines, not brushing it across the lines, which will smear the charcoal into the gesso solution.

Still life composition • © photo 2011 Karen Lynn Ingalls

Finally, once each area is covered, go back over the entire canvas, painting the gesso solution over any parts of the lines you haven't covered yet. Allow it to dry, and then you can move to the next step, blocking in your colors.

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