Art Lesson 42, Part 7
Discover how to Paint Neutral Backgrounds
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How to Paint Neutral Backgrounds
It’s time to give some attention to background color.
We add Stand Linseed Oil to Burnt Umber. At this point, the Grisaille Underpainting should be completely dry. The background is covered all over with the Glaze, including lighter and darker areas as well as Madonna’s hairstyle. A large, rigid Hog Brush is ideal for this task. To darken up the background, we will later apply successive layers of Glaze. Now we can put the painting aside to dry.
This is how the first layer of Glaze placed over an Underglazing looks. A thin coat of Glaze allows the White Grisaille to show through.
Now we are applying a Second Glazing layer over the previous glazing layer, which is now completely dry. Once again, we use Burnt Umber diluted with Stand Linseed Oil. At this step, you can overlap the borders of the neighboring areas. This will not affect the overall color balance. With every glazing layer, we are deepening the tonal values. This creates interesting optical effects of light reflecting through the multiple layers of the transparent Glazes.
We continue over a well-dried surface. Again, we use Burnt Umber diluted with Stand Linseed Oil, but now we add less Medium. The paint is still transparent, if spread thinly, but if we apply it more densely, it will have good covering power.
At this point, I’ve decided to change the dark brown background for to a lighter one and also completely overpaint the architectural fragments that appear in the original intent. We prepare a new mix for the background: Titanium White and Mars Black without any Medium. The whole background is completely covered with a new coat of paint. For this task, we use the Dry Brush Method, rubbing paint onto the canvas with a stiff Hog Brush. This new color has totally changed the appearance of the painting.
Now, when the background is completely dry, we Glaze it to make it less flat and more decorative. For the Glaze, we use Burnt Umber well-diluted with Stand Linseed Oil. The thin coat of the transparent Glaze totally transforms the background. It is not necessary to try to smooth the paint perfectly. The visible traces of brush strokes add extra vividness and vibrancy to the painting.
We continue after the Glaze has completely dried. Now we are mixing Titanium White with Yellow Ochre and Mars Black. So far, the background looks too plain, so we can animate it with a stripe of incident light. The more diffused the light is, the more Stand Linseed Oil we add to thin the paint. You can soften a sharp border with a clean soft brush, lightly going over the border, up and down.
Session Seven. After the paint has dried well, we can proceed with the background. For the next Glaze, we prepare Burnt Umber well-diluted with Stand Linseed Oil. Spread the Glaze all over the background. If it corresponds with your colorite ideas, you may also cover the neighboring areas.
To recap, here is a speed demonstration of the background painting process.