As practice for painting a large canvas, I've begun sitting on the Hot Seat every day, playing around with backgrounds. As this is nothing like watercolor, pen, pencil or the small, delicate illustration work I'm accustomed to, it feels like I am going back to school. Right now I am looking for how to create depth and texture. Here are two of my experiments to date, done on small canvases. I see the large, blank canvas watching me from the next room. On a good day it winks at me. On a bad day it snickers.
The first canvas, below, was made by layering several colors and medium, allowing each layer to dry before proceeding to the next. First I painted the entire canvas black. Then I drizzled gesso (next time I will use a thick gel medium) onto the dry canvas to create ridges and let it dry overnight. Next I painted the entire canvas again in a light layer of brilliant purple. Finally, I made a burgundy glaze (from burnt sienna, naptha red, and ultramarine) and quickly painted the entire canvas. Before it was dry, I lightly scraped over it in opposite directions with a large palette knife to reveal the texture of the canvas and the base colors. Unfortunately, my crappy camera didn't pick this up very well, as it is dark. This should make a nice background with some interesting texture.
The second example below was done in a similar fashion, omitting the heavy medium. Instead, I scraped the last layer off using a swirling stroke, first in a horizontal direction, then vertical. I like the resulting effect as it is but it remains to be seen if this technique shows up well as the background for a floral painting or if it just looks messy.