Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Underpainting with Transparent Earth Red

Skyward 12x9 oil
by Michael Chesley Johnson - Available unframed, $300 incl. shipping
Will ship when dry

Lately, I've fallen in love with a new oil color and, for me, a new approach.  My new color is Gamblin's Transparent Earth Red.  This earth pigment, Venetian Red modified by a modern process so it is transparent, has a beautiful orange tone.  Because it is transparent, it allows light to pass through the paint layer and then bounce off the white canvas beneath, which makes the color really glow like stained glass.

I'm using the FastMatte version of Transparent Earth Red to tone my canvas or panel.  When I'm painting en plein air, I use a towel to scrub in the color with just a minimum of Gamsol.  Because FastMatte is an alkyd, it becomes tacky enough so I can brush on my next layers of paint without worrying about getting mud.

But I'm not using a brush – I'm using a small painting knife.  My approach is to apply the color quickly and intuitively and not worry about all the little orange spots showing through.  The orange  enhances the other colors, especially the cool blues and greens that one encounters in maritime scenes.  (The approach might not have that effect on a desert scene, which already has warmer colors.)  If there's a really big chunk of orange showing through, I  might cover it, but I try hard to preserve all those beautiful flecks of orange color.

At the top of this post is a 12x9 I did this weekend with this method plus some detail shots, below.  I've also included a photo of my favorite painting knife.  (It has gotten as sharp as a razor with use, and I have to be very careful when wiping it clean so I don't cut myself.  I've already done that a few times.)  I've created several other paintings with this cool color recently, such as the Castine Plein Air Festival.  You can see them in these earlier posts.

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