First handout: landscape painting class objectives & procedures
- prepare and apply an imprimatura with acrylic paint
- mix medium and paint to proper consistency
- sketch landscape forms in prespective with charcoal
- create a grid on canvas to plot location of shapes
- treatment of paint brushes
- prepare canvas before applying color
- load and shape brush, deposit paint, shallow angle scumble
- know and use perspective cues with paint
from Wikipedia: Imprimatura is a term used in painting, meaning an initial stain of color painted on a ground. It provides a painter with a transparent, toned ground, which will allow light falling onto the painting to reflect through the paint layers. The term itself stems from the Italian and literally means ¨first paint layer¨. Its use as an underpainting layer can be dated back to the guilds and workshops during the Middle Ages, however it comes into standard use by painters during the Renaissance particularly in Italy. The imprimatura provides not only an overall tonal optical unity in a painting but is also useful in the initial stages of the work, since it helps the painter establish value relations from dark to light. It is most useful in the classical approach of indirect painting, where the drawing and underpainting are established ahead of time and allowed to dry. The successive layers of color are then applied in transparent glaze or semi-transparent layers. Care is taken not to cover the imprimatura completely allowing it to show through the final paint layers, this is effective in particular in the middle to dark shadow areas of the work.
HOW TO: Squeeze out 1” of raw umber paint into a container. Gradually add small amounts of water, working paint and water together with an old brush, until the paint has the consistency of cream or india ink. (We use raw umber for this class but you may use any color that pleases you and I encourage you to experiment. Historical examples: Venetian red, burnt sienna, raw sienna, raw umber + yellow ochre.) Imprimaturas may be made of oil paint with liquin, oil paint with turpentine or OMS (odorless mineral spirits) as well as with acrylic paint. We will use acrylic paint because it dries quickly and provides a durable surface.
Use a sponge brush or cheap china bristle brush about 3” wide to spread the paint over your canvas, working in one direction first vertically, then horizontally, turning the canvas and keeping your strokes very light and quick. Stop when the paint dries enough that you no longer see marks when you stroke. It should be ready to use in a half hour or you could use a blow-dryer to speed up the drying.
50% Liquin, 25% linseed oil, 25% odorless mineral spirits
May use other brands of alkyd medium such as: Gamblin, M.Graham walnut alkyd medium. Walnut oil may be used instead of linseed. Turpentine may be used in place of OMS (odorless mineral spirits.)
Titanium white paint for underpainting mixed with a small amount of medium; aim for consistency of mayonnaise or sour cream.
Raw umber for sketching: use directly from tube, work it with a palette knife a bit first and load brush very lightly--you may need to touch brush to rag first to remove some paint.
Grid: Depending on the complexity of your design you may want to divide your canvas into 2 or 3 areas, both horizontally and vertically. Make these same divisions on your photograph. If you’re painting from a monitor, you can set up grid lines in Photoshop (PS) or Photoshop Elements (PSE).
For organic forms like shrubs: first sketch a curve that describes the outside edges of the forms, then come in and lightly draw in their most important details.
to calculate the angles of lines that recede into space, hold one brush vertically, take a second brush and sight this against the line you need to measure. Relate this angle to the hands on a clock. You may want to move the two brushes to your canvas where you need to paint the line.
Don’t worry about correcting your charcoal lines, explore freely with a searching sort of line. When you have all your forms laid out, take a pencil and trace over the lines that best please you. Bear down more on nearer forms, use less pressure on more distant shapes. Now wipe away the charcoal with a rag. (If you prefer the look of the charcoal and want to make it part of your painting, use fixative to prevent the charcoal muddying your colors. But remember also, that the charcoal lines will diminish the sense of 3-D space we’re attempting to capture on canvas.)
Care & Feeding of Brushes:
New brushes: work the bristles between your fingers to loosen the starch a new brush has been treated with to keep its shape. But if you have time for your brushes to dry before use (especially soft hair brushes), wash them with soap and water, shape them to dry.
Before painting: put a small bit of linseed oil on your palette. Dip the brush you’ll be using into the oil to get a small amount on your brush. Massage oil into the bristles or hairs before picking up paint. Do this at the beginning of a painting session, only to brushes that you’re actually going to use. It will make it easier to clean your brushes later.
While painting: rather than constantly dipping brushes into solvents, try
wiping your brush clean before changing colors. Or dip your brush into your medium, dab it a bit on the palette to loosen the paint, and wipe it clean. Solvent dulls your paint, so it’s not optimal to go back and forth between the brush cleaning can and your palette! It’s also not good for your health to release solvent fumes into the air. Save the can for the end of the session. Work the bristles or hairs gently against the coil, grid or whatever you’ve put in the bottom of your solvent can, use paper towel to absorb as much solvent as possible, then rub some Go-Jo or other waterless hand cleaner into the bristles or hair until it liquifies. Brushes may be washed with soap and water now or the next day--or if your brushes are mostly clean, you can wipe off the excess with a paper towel.
Take some paint onto your brush by touching it to the edge of your pile of paint and draw it out a little. Load one side of the brush. You want to judge how big a stroke to make and load your brush accordingly. Sometimes it’s necessary to remove a little paint with your rag.
With your loaded brush, decide where the stroke will begin. Deliberately aim for that spot and deposit your paint there, lifting the brush from the canvas. With the paint that remains, you can apply paint to areas that don’t need such a large amount of paint--such as cloud shadows. When you hold a brush almost parallel to the canvas, you will deposit more paint. When you hold the brush more nearly vertical, you’ll deposit less paint. Always pull your brush, don’t push--it will cause your bristles to splay and splinter. Likewise, don’t dash your bristles against the canvas, it will ruin the shape of your brush. If you’ve gotten into this bad habit and have brushes that resemble brooms, don’t despair: keep them for making imprimatura or maybe for random marks of grasses.
Notes on Perspective:
While the suggestion of 3-D space on a flat surface always intrigues us, we cannot SEE space. What we can do is learn the cues that artists have used for
hundreds of years to make this magic happen on canvas.
- Superimposure, or Overlapping: First on our list, near things hide more distant things.
- Light areas on a form advance, darker areas on the same form appear to recede.
- Specific vs. General: Detail advances, softer focus objects recede. Brighter colors advance, duller colors recede. Contast of dark and light brings objects forward, softer contrast recedes.
- Foreshortening: large advances, small recedes. Think of railroad tracks converging to infinity, or a line of fence posts that appear smaller as they are farther away.
- Lighting: highlights, half-tones and cast shadows all suggest an object occupying space.
- Associative cues: ellipses, or the forms of circles in space, placement of objects--things placed high on a page seem to recede while those placed low advance (ex. foreground objects.) Curving stripes on an animal give clues to it shape.
copyright 2011, Susan Downing-White