Artist Tip: how to get started on a blank canvas/support using acrylic

underpainting-20170205_1731
PAINTING A GROUND (on canvas) TOP: is a single colour ground on canvas.    LEFT: is a canvas prepared with tints of one colour, marked out with lines and shapes.   RIGHT: a bright lime green ground as the base colour for a springtime landscape

It was wonderful yesterday to be part of Kirriemuir’s first Feel Good Festival.  So many people came out in support of the event and we had a constant stream of visitors in the Town Hall.  Have a look at some of the photos posted here: Kirriemuir Feel Good Festival.  One of the visitors to my table told me that she was often put off starting a painting because she was afraid to ‘spoil the white canvas’.  She asked how she could overcome this problem.

The white support, whether canvas or paper, can often be a barrier to the creative process.  Fear rises up within us at the thought of making a mark that will look silly or wrong.  And we all know that any mark stands out more prominently against white.  So how does one overcome this fear of starting?

One thing I would suggest is to get rid of the white as soon as possible.  Think of a background colour that would compliment your composition.  One that is sympathetic to the colour scheme you will be using or even a complimentary colour to help the composition/focal point stand out.  Once you have decided on what colour will work best then take a large flat brush and cover it with the mixed paint.  Experiment with a weak wash (this will allow some of the white canvas to show through) or try a thick application (this is useful for creating texture using brushstrokes).  Most of the time I use an in-between wash, one that will cover the canvas evenly and smoothly.

Let the ground, the wash you have used, dry then begin your painting.  Having this overall base colour will help to balance the painting, especially if some of it shows through the overpainting.  I have used some very bold colours to help me create a mood within the painting, such as magenta as the ground for an early evening scene or a lemon yellow ground for a very bright summer day.  My favourite grounds are usually ochre, terracotta and reddish browns to add a warmth to the painting, especially landscapes.  Although using an almost luminescent green can be useful for capturing the feel of spring.

Sometimes I will experiment a little with the ground and use tints and shades of the same colour, randomly applied.  This sometimes helps me to ‘see’ things on the canvas which is useful if I have no set idea of what to paint. On occasions I will even mark out lines and/or shapes that I can ‘see’ in a mix of burnt umber and ultramarine blue.  This often leads me to create an imaginary scene.  Have a look at the photo above to see some of the grounds I currently have lying around my studio waiting to be painted.

Working on a coloured ground is also useful for working in oil as well as acrylic, bearing in mind that traditional oil paint takes longer to dry than acrylic.

I am happy to answer questions online or in person.

Annie

 

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