With my last few paintings I’ve been using an underpainting, which is not entirely new to me, but a technique I haven’t used much in the last few years.  For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, an underpainting is basically just what it sounds like: a painting that goes under the final painting, usually monochrome, but occasionally full color. There are a number of reasons why an artist might choose to do an underpainting, but for me, the two primary reasons are:

  • to work out the overall value scheme of the composition, and
  • to mitigate for the difficulties that come about when trying to paint forms in deep shadow, especially when darker colors of oil paint tend to be relatively transparent.

For this composition to work the way I want it to, I need to keep the vignette of the boy reading the book in the foreground in a nice, moody, dark key so that the sunlight on the planet and the starships is bright by comparison, separating the two parts of the painting and making the composition more dynamic. I have purposefully limited the lightest value of the underpainting to force myself to work even darker. This will leave me a lot of room to really punch up the brightness in a few key areas when I make the final color pass over the painting.


For more on how to use an underpainting to augment an “overpainting”, let’s proceed to the next step.

For an overview on underpaintings in general, please click here.