Cold Harbor Battlefield / underpainting

cold harbor underpaintingOne thing I love about painting in plein air is there’s no uncertainty in my mind about what color or value I need because I can see it in real life right in front of me and all I have to do is match it as closely as I can. Sometimes I see plein air landscapes with what our wise teachers at York Academy of Art called “forced color”. That’s when an artist puts in some unnatural color in to jazz up a painting. Like maybe violet and there’s no violet at the scene in life. They told us that is a trick to hide a weak painting. Maybe the drawing or composition isn’t good but the artist wants to get the viewer’s attention by using their favorite color of Periwinkle.

Some people think there’s not enough local color in our landscapes here in VA. I’ll admit I get tired of green and enjoy fall and winter colors. The light in the winter has orange in it because the beams of light travel through the atmosphere on a long slant. And the shadows look blue. So we do get good color here too if you can wait for the season to change.

In the underpainting it’s not necessary to get the colors and values exactly right. If you work with glazes you only need to decide where the shadows should be at this step. And with glazes you can build up the light and dark contrast on the next layers. Every layer is a correction.


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