Friday, July 23, 2010

Toning Canvases

hi there!

i find that any little thing - like having my supplies in disarray, or the palette not clean, or no prepared canvases/supports - will be enough of a hitch to make me procrastinate even more than i am already genetically inclined to do - which is a lot! wednesday i toned 10 canvases so i won't have any excuse (once they're dried, of course!) to not grab one & start painting!

the process is really simple, so i'll show that first - then i'll talk abt why i do it!

i've used a number of different colors to tone supports - one at a time, that is! (the other week i saw an oil painter out on the bluffs - and it looked like he'd toned his canvas with at least four or five different, light hues randomly placed on the surface - one day i'll be brave & try that!) in the past i've generally chosen cad yellow light. but when i finished my cherries, i decided to use all the leftover paint to do it - well, all the lighter colors. but there wasn't enough so i decided to be bold & went - gold! i mixed titanium white, raw sienna, and cad yellow.

i used a 2 1/2" hardware store bristle brush (even on the smallest canvas!) & distributed the paint all over the surface:

i used cross strokes to get the paint spread evenly, then ended with strokes all in one direction. this is what they look like finished:

i already have plans for some of them. the biggest (16x20) will be the largest i've ever done! and the smallest (1"square!), the smallest! it's a good idea (especially if you're a procrastinator like i am!) to have a goodly selection of prepared supports around, so you can have be ready for any painting project. (i love fun canvas sizes to play with, too!) these will take a while to dry, even tho i tried to keep the coat pretty thin. but i've found, for me, it's best to let them dry thoroughly before starting.

a number of the authors i've listed over there to the right don't suggest toning at all, believing the white of the canvas is the best color to judge values by as well as provide luminescence to the finished painting. on the other hand, there are lots of reasons to tone the surface first. many of the books suggest doing it so that the resulting painting will be unified, figuring that some of the color will show through throughout the painting. others suggest it's easier psychologically to make the first strokes if there's already color down. still others say it's easier to judge values if you already have a constant value on the surface.

for me, the last two reasons to tone work. when i paint, i cover (or have to now!) the surface too completely for much, if any, of the original color to show through. the rare cases it does, is when i've deliberately used a transparent color over it, in backgrounds or shadows, that i've chosen to combine with the tone color to provide depth & a feeling of luminescence. but i do find it really is easier to make those first few strokes on a canvas i've already had fun smearing paint all over! and i do find it easier to judge values than on a white surface.

but even if all that weren't true, i'd still pre-paint the canvas, even with white. when i first started painting, i used gessoed cardboard. i found that even with two coats of gesso, the support absorbed a lot of the oil in the paints, giving a matte finish to the painting - which i totally didn't like! even when i switched to commercially prepared 'real' surfaces (as opposed to cut-up soy milk boxes!), the same thing would happen.

part of this is because i tend to paint fairly thinly, especially my backgrounds, and i don't add extra oil to the paint. areas that have thicker paint do tend to be more glossy, so if there's a mix of thick & thin, the painting dries splotchy-looking in terms of the sheen. totally not cool, at least for me! (i'm also beginning to wonder if the more white a color has mixed into it, the more matte it is likely to dry. have any of you noticed this?)

i've tried several things to avoid this. one that didn't work was to cover the finished, completely dried painting with a layer of clear walnut oil. it took forever to dry, and still looked splotchy to me. i like the pic, tho, & have framed it under glass to hide the unevenness!

other times, i've tried adding a bit of clear oil over still-damp areas that looked like they were trying to dry matte. oh dear! didn't dry well & if i weren't very careful, i'd end up diluting or even erasing the original paint!

then at some point, i painted a couple of pics that i really wasn't happy with, & i wiped them out - while they were still wet. this resulted in a smooth layer of oil paint over the surface which i let dry. one was, in general, orange, and the other yellow. i decided to paint matching pictures - on the yellow, a brown couch, and on the orange, a blue. the paint went down really nicely - smooth, clean, easy to wipe out if i wanted to change something - a whole different experience! and even tho i painted pretty thinly over large areas of each one, they dried to an even gloss.

and here they are, hanging together at a local gallery!

(they're based on manips i did of the same image, just playing around with the 'curves' setting.)

they were a lot of fun to do - in good part due to how easy it was to lay down the paint. so now i'm toning all of my canvases. i'm hoping the gold will provide a more middle value to judge by than the cad yellow light, and also it is closer to the color of the table that shows through my glass palette where i mix my colors!

till next time - take care - and thanks for stopping by!


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