Sunday, 10 April 2016

Dog Project - Part 4 - Painting En Grisaille

So, yesterday, I kind of started again, working from a new picture of Dog and in a new medium - gouache. There are many different ways of working in gouache and I'm going to use two for this painting - the first is an underpainting, the second is the midtone method. The underpainting in this case is en grisaille, that is to say, entirely done in shades of grey and focusing only on levels. The underpainting is then overpainted in coloured gouache and this helps get the light and shadow just right.

Now, when working in watercolour, one normally mixes one's own black by neutralising a colour with its complement - a yellow with a purple, a red with a green, a blue with an orange (ultramarine and either of the siennas make nice blacks) - or, if doing a three-colour painting, you just mix your red, blue and yellow and get a black that will "sit" well with all of your colours and won't look too...well...black. If one doesn't want to do that or needs something much more black, one still doesn't reach for a tube of black paint - one would use Payne's Grey. This is a mix of colours and varies by manufacturer as follows:

Payne's Grey Compositions
Winsor and Newton, Cotman Water Colours (465): PBk7, PB29, PB15.
Winsor and Newton, Professional Water Colours (465) : PBk6, PV19, PB15.
Daler and Rowney, Artist's Water Colours (065): PBk7, PB29.

PBk6 - Shungite - this is a natural carbon mineral that contains Buckminsterfullerine - I know this cuz I have a bracelet made out of it, it's kind of "posh coal" as I think of it! It's a beautiful mineral to wear and I guess Winsor and Newton use it because of the unique properties the fullerines must give to the paint?
PBk7 - Lamp Black - powdered carbon.
PB15 - Phthalocyanine Blue - yup, good old phthalo blue.
PB29 - Ultramarine Blue.
PV19 - Quinacridone Violet. 

See the problem yet? The problem is that if one does an underpainting that contains ultramarine, quinacridone violet and phthalo blue, they will seep into the upper coloured layer and give you mud, ruining the painting. Thus, when painting an en grisaille underlayer, one has to use a proper black!


I just found this picture of me wearing my shungite (PBk6) bracelet. The large pendant is obsidian (volcanic glass) and the rest is all jet (coal). I took this photo to show my dear friend J what I will be wearing after he gets married next month, as a joke, given we have a pseudo-jealousy thing going on for the sake of banter.


The lovely thing about gouache is that you have a WHITE PAINT! No more having to remember to leave white space, you get a nice white paint instead. I have a semi-opaque 748 Zinc White , which contains only PW5 - Lithopone (a mix of barium sulfate and zinc sulfide) - cool fact - if you take any 5mL tube of watercolour and add to it 0.75mL of this Zinc White gouache, you can make yourself a custom gouache of that same shade. Cool huh? Dunno where I heard that, but it works. I can then take this white and mix it with my black - 331 Ivory Black - which contains only PBk9 - Bone Black (a kind of charcoal made from charring animal bones - it used to be made from ivory back in the good old days when people did unbelievable and unspeakable things and no one cared) - this makes a very clean black and of course, one can mix the black and white to get a series of nice neutral grey levels and it is with these that we paint en grisaille as an underpainting, safe in the knowledge that it won't give us mud!


It took me about 1h to paint the en grisaille rendering of the original image. I used my Sable No. 4 Round brush - the whole thing done with one brush - and I just really relaxed and gently painting in the shadows. I've not yet added any pure white - but I need to - I've used the paper as white, which is not correct, so I need to rectify that before I add colour. The original stopped just above the drawers with an empty fruit bowl and a phone, so I used artistic license and added a window, with a view of the park near to B's home, which I am going to add some special details to that mean something only to B and myself.
When put side-by-side you can get more of an appreciation for it - I've deliberately not done a perfect copy - what's the point? A painting is a painting, not a photograph, right? My next steps are going to be to start colouring it with gouache - I'm going to start with the view from the window which I will be using a midtone method for, effectively, as I'm only lightly sketched the trees in the distance thus far. I will then start work on the room and finish with Dog, as I've decided he would be lit slightly from behind given when the window is and it'll be a beautiful sunset outside, so that light will be warm and pink. Tune in next time to see my progress!

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