Michael Chesley Johnson, Fine Art, Landscapes, Seascapes, Maritimes, Paintings, Oil, Pastel

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Demo: Painting with a Monochrome Underpainting

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Reference Photo.
This scene, of the "Narrows" area of the El Malpais National Monument, intrigued me
because of the shadow colors and the little piece of road that winds beneath the cliff. One
of the issues with painting a wall of rock is that value can quickly get away from you
if you don't pay attention. To help with this, I print out a "grayscale" version of the photo and
decide to do an underpainting in monochrome.

I start with a 19"x5" sheet of Wallis sanded paper and sketch in the basic shapes with vine charcoal. I do a bit of rudimentary value work with the charcoal. To keep the charcoal in place, I spray the painting with a good dose
of Lascaux fixative.

Block-In with Monochrome Color.
I decide on a palette of blues, picking four values. I mass in the shapes, referring
to my grayscale photo to get the vlaues close to what the photo shows.

Turpenoid Wash.
In order to keep the underpainting from mixing with my next layer, which will be "true" colors, I scrub
in the pigment with Turpenoid and a big but stubby bristle brush. The purpose here is also to fill in all
the white holes that show between my strokes. Once the entire surface had been wetted with
Turpenoid, I used a small bristle brush, cleaned periodically in Turpenoid, to "lift out" some of the
light, small detail areas that will be in the final painting. This is to remind me of where these
spots will go. For example, I "lifted" the road you can see snaking through the shadows.

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