WTPD 006 - Fleming Art Group

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WTPD006 7 July 2018 - Shadows and underpainting
I recently went on a watercolour course with Claire Warner (www.saa.co.uk/profile/ms-claire-warner_74547) in which she introduced us to a modification of the wet-into-wet method. I enjoyed her course and I recommend her as a teacher. Here is one of the three paintings I did on the course.

Snow scene
More recently Sandrine Maugy (www.sandrinemaugy.com) gave us a demonstration of her methods for botanical painting. What surprised all of us was how much use she made of wet-into-wet, her painting the shadows first and her knowledge of paints and their pigments. Here are two of her paintings
Both these events used underpainting to some extent and I became interested in the subject especially as applied to shadows.

Underpainting also known as the Grisaille Method
After watching Sandrine Maugy underpaint the darkest parts of her leaves and flowers with a diluted wash of a black made from the paints she was using I decided to look into the subject more closely. I found the Grisaille method which originates from the French word “gris” meaning “gray”, the term grisaille stands for a monochrome painting or under-painting usually created in shades of gray or neutral grayish colours. This is used extensively in oil and acrylic painting but is also applicable to watercolour. Here is an example of the Grisaille method from Molly Hashimoto (link to her page)
Grisaille gray
Grisaille coloured
However, underpainting does not need to be confined to grey and Jo Taylor in her book Watercolour Wisdom has several examples of coloured underpainting two of which I show here
A more restrained example is Joe Cartwright’s Street Scene underpainting
I particularly want to use underpainting for shadows because I always have trouble painting them over a picture at the end. I find that when I paint a gray paint over the underlying paints they tend to lift off and it becomes a blurred mess. To avoid this you have to paint very lightly and quickly which leads to a lack of precision. Before I could start on underpainting I had to find out more about shadows.

Shadows are a big topic in painting, they are treated as if they are objects in their own right which is rather odd since they are essentially a lack of light! It is really a matter of how we represent a lack of light on our white watercolour paper that is the main issue.
So we read about the colour of shadow and find some paints have been made specifically for painting shadows, for example, Terry Harrison’s Shadow and Shinhan Shadow green shown below.
Terry Harrison Shadow
Shinhan shadow green
There are a number of other paints and paint mixtures which are suggested but they cannot all be right! In practice, none of them are, the colour of a shadow is the colour of the surface that is in the shadow sometimes modified by the colour of any nearby reflected light. 
Obviously the shadow is a darker form of the surface colour but it is the same hue, so we can use the shades, tints and tones method which I described in WTPD005 Wishy washy watercolours which came from an early version of Bruce MacEvoy’s site.
“Now, the lightness of any watercolour paint can be altered in one of three ways without altering its fundamental hue. These alterations produce shades, tones or tints of the hue, as shown in the figure below for a middle red. “
“Starting with the pure pigment colour (directly from the tube), paints can be altered by:
• mixing with pure water or a white paint to raise the lightness up to the value of the paper, or step 10 on a value scale, to produce tints of the hue
• mixing with a black or dark paint to lower its lightness close to the darkest value possible in watercolours, around step 2 on a value scale, to produce shades of the hue
• mixing with another paint of similar value to bring its colour closer to gray without changing its value, to produce tones of the hue.”
In the case of shadows we are only interested in the shades although the tones may be of some use.

Shades. Paints can be darkened, usually by adding a dark neutralizing pigment such as neutral tint, Payne's gray, carbon black or synthetic black. This progressive darkening produces shades of the hue, and this blackening mixture also expands the value range to values below the value of the pure paint, and can take any colour all the way to black (that is, the dark gray that passes for black in watercolour paints). (Remember, no material paint can produce a pure black colour, and the darkest ‘black’ watercolours only attain a very dark gray value, around 2 on a value scale.)

Tones. Finally, the lightness of the paint can be held relatively constant, but shifted toward a neutral gray, by adding a mixing complimentary colour of higher lightness or a synthetic black diluted to the same value as the starting colour. (Mixing complements usually produce a neutral tone that is much darker than either complementary paint, so once a neutral mixture is reached it must be diluted up to the same value as either of the complementary colours.)
All the tones in the figure above have the same value as the original red, while the shades darken in value toward black. They may not seem to, but the inset figure, with colour information removed, verifies that the tones have a constant lightness. Compare carefully the "dullness" in the tones with the "darkness" in the shades. Try to imagine the colour difference with the pure red as carrying you toward either pure black or pure gray: this is the fundamental difference between a shade and a tone.

There are two types of shadow, form shadow and cast shadows. We can use the standard sphere and cylinder to demonstrate these as below.
but I much prefer a picture I came across on the internet which shows a more realistic situation
Cast and form shadows
Now we have a bit more information about the shadows we can think about the grays we can use to underpaint the shadow areas. Sandrine Maugy used a combination of the red, blue and yellow that she was using in the picture and this works quite well but I prefer to use heavily staining paints for underpainting so that they do not shift when I overpaint them. Grays can be mixed from pigments on opposite sides of the colour wheel and I looked for pigments where a line joining them passed through the centre of the wheel and which I knew were staining. Here is the colour wheel
I selected perylene black (green) PBk31 and dioxazine violet PV23 with the result shown here in various dilutions.
We can edge the gray to be greener or have a violet cast quite easily but generally I prefer the neutral gray.
I have tried this method and here is an example
Not the best painting but it’s a start and none of the paint shifted!
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