Wet Paint

This is the first in a series of posts as I work through my first black bear painting. The reference photos come from a trip to North Carolina.

Normally for something this complicated I wouldn’t have stretched the linen first. It is easier to mount the canvas on a flat surface for drawing than stretch afterwards. Instead of unstretching I bought a smooth painting panel that was 1 1/2” thick and placed underneath so I could have a firm surface to draw on.

Then I set about mixing greens. As this ins the underpainting the colors didn’t need to be exact; the subsequent layers would give me the colors I wanted.

This photo is after six days of painting. Looking for a change, the next update will feature the start of the bears.

Here we are at the completed underpainting.  Up to this point the only medium has been turpentine.  It has taken about seven weeks so far.

With the underpainting complete the real painting can begin.  Starting with the most distant and working left to right, top to bottom, you can see I’ve started in the lower right.  Those of you who know me, know I sometimes like to work on a painting that is up-side-down, hence the lower right.  All of the background will be painted this way.  This eliminates the need to stretch across a large canvas to get to the top.  I also make use of a painter’s stick, known as a mahl stick, (mine is a dowel rod with cloth taped to the end).  I don’t touch the canvas except when it is being stretched.

After the painting of the black bears I started mounting the canvas on a board for the drawing and underpainting phase.  It makes it much easier to draw on a flat surface and not worry about constantly pressing on the stretched canvas.  I set up a table next to my easel, or more importantly, next to my sound system.  As the initial drawing can take a week or more, drawing on a table is less strenuous than at the easel.  After the underpainting dries it is a simple matter to stretch the painting and continue with the final layers.  The photo above shows the top left section of the current painting.  When I cut this piece of canvas (actually, hybrid-linen) I made sure to have excess for stretching.  It was going to be 30 x 36, but that wasn’t large enough to get the the foreground I wanted.  Since it wasn’t stretched and I had enough excess I was able to add three inches top to bottom.  And another inch left to right.