Monday, March 18, 2013

Preparing a Canvas for a Light Background

I've decided to prepare some canvases for some new work and I thought I would show you my process.  I want this to be a light, off-white background with some depth to it, rather like an old adobe wall.  There are eight layers of acrylic paint on this, the final result.

Here's how I did it:
First I painted a yellow ochre background and let it dry.  Over that I laid down burnt sienna with choppy strokes to let the yellow peek through.

Next, I mixed up more color to a flesh-like tone using yellow ocre, red carmine, and white.  I painted this mixture quickly over the entire canvas and then, before it dried, sprayed it with water and mopped it off with a wadded paper towel.  As you see, some of it came off, rather like an old wall.  This is still too blotchy to be a good background, so now I needed to lighten it up.

Next, I mixed up some white with a tiny hint of pink in it and painted this on quickly, sprayed it heavily with water and let it drip off the canvas (onto a waiting towel.)  When much of it had dripped off, I patted it with a clean paper towel and let it dry.

I repeated that step two or three times until the whole piece was a few shades lighter.

Finally, I needed to even out the color and lighten the darkest parts so that the blotchy areas would not distract from my subject matter.  I painted a soft white into the darkest areas and generally smoothed out the entire canvas with a layer of thinned white.  I mopped off any spots which seemed too white.  This gave me a white-ish canvas with real depth to the color.

Now these twin canvasses are ready for my next design to be painted on them.

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