Ninety per cent of the painting will be done with three colours and a white – Michael Harding Ultramarine Blue, Yellow Lake, Crimson Alizarin and Titanium White. The one colour that is difficult to achieve with this set is turquoise, which I use for the underpainting of the skin.
The underpainting is the engine of the work and it is these colours that power and affect the top colours. For example, the turquoise might scumble through in areas to guarantee my flesh tones are chromatically balanced, and do not appear too sunburnt. I give a lot of thought to the underpainting and how much of it I am going to make visible. I try to work out what colours will produce the maximum effect for each object, relying heavily on a colour wheel to confirm instincts.
1I lightly rough in the shapes with an H4 pencil and block in the underpainting with old rags to keep everything loose. Using a soft pencil would leave graphite smears and reduce the brightness of the ragged-on oil colour. The slate tabletop was underpainted in a warm dirt colour – to complement
the cool blue-grey colours that will be scumbled and knived over it – and a warm, orange-brown under the blue jeans. For maximum effect, I used Michael Harding Magenta for the pink shirt and Crimson Lake for the tomatoes, letting the white of the canvas illuminate the colours.
2Outlines are worked in using a large brush. There is a lot of still life on the shelf and, at this point, I can’t help myself
and complete some of the objects to help get
88 Artists & Illustrators
a feel for the final
image. The window is
formed to give me clues
about the side-lighting
and shadows, and I also
start making colour tests
on paper to work out the
best colour for underpainting the
shed and the best top colours to give a silvery, aged appearance to the wood.
which can really punch out. This colour is also used on man by the
I block in the shed with a bright green
shed look old and silvered. I use a palette knife to roughly scrape various warm and cool greys and blacks over the green, letting some of this show through to give it a bite. When dry, I pick up on the texture by running a palette knife with black lightly over the wood. It was a simple and effective way of creating a wood texture. Careful consideration is given to the light from the various sources and how it is illuminating the scene, and the final objects are added to the walls. When the portrait is finished,
I lay it out on the floor and start splattering areas to mess things up a bit, and unify the painting. I splatter a dark purple into some of the darker shadows to give these areas another visual lift.
with rags, splatter the colour with Gamsol and quickly blot it dry to create a chaotic, spotted appearance. I will let some of this show through for visual kick and interest. The slate is formed using a palette knife to create the surface texture, and the snails are painted in using fine brushes. I often stand back from the painting and squint to see which colours could be chromatically amplified and adjusted. I spot that I should add a flash of blue on the central guy’s shirt because it is too muted. Mixing Ultramarine Blue with Titanium White produces the most amazing Kings Blue,