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Almost-completed Ebauche stage by Joshua LaRock 2011

This post will continue our journey we began several posts ago, picking up where we left off at the last stage of rendering the drawing.  We are beginning this post with the assumption that you have in front of you a canvas with the transferred drawing on it, the very correct drawing that you’ve been working so hard on!

These are notes that I am sharing with you again from that particularly helpful workshop led by Joshua LaRock that I took at the Grand Central Academy of Art this past summer.

I remember when this day came at last, it was the beginning of the second week, and a Monday.  I was so excited to begin painting!  However, the teacher lectured for a while before we could begin…which was exactly what most of us needed.  I gained a wealth of information, without which my painting would not have improved.

We began the morning with some basic definitions, and built from there.

The Ebauche: Layer 1 of paint, a thinned down value study with mostly turpenoid and a few drops of oil.

Beginning the Ebauche, by Joshua LaRock 2011

Value: the lightness or darkness

Hue:  Color (red, yellow, green, blue)

Chroma: the intensity relative to neutral (gray)

All skintones are a mixture of yellow and red.

The plane most perpendicular (most facing) the light is the most chromatic (the most color, ignoring the hightlights).  As a form turns away from the light, the color gets darker in value and less in chroma.  The highest chromatic (color intense) colors are straight from the tube.  The hightest chroma paints are the cadmium colors.  When painting shadows, remember that black is actually a very dark blue.  On a one color object, keep the HUE (pure color) at all costs, no matter how light or dark things get.


Mandarins, 11″x14″, Joshua LaRock 2009

When setting up the pallete, try to stay organized.  Your pallette is a reflection of your mind.  Start out to the left with the yellows, then go to the reds, then the greens, and lastly blues.  Below is a list of the exact paints we used for the full pallette, in order of how they should be laid out on the pallette.

1. White

2. Lemon Yellow

3. Cadmium Yellow

4. Naples Yellow

5. Yellow Ochre

6. Raw Sienna

7. Raw Umber

8. Cadmium Orange

9. Cadmium Red

10. Venetian Red

11. Alizarin Crimson

12. Burnt Umber

13. White

14. Cadmium Green

15. Sap Green

16. Viridian Green

17. Cerulean Blue

18. Ultramarine Blue

19. Cobalt Blue

20. Violet (Dioxazine Purple)

21. Ivory Black

22. VanDyke Brown

25% Raw umber, 25% burnt sienna, and 50% black make a perfect neutral, that you can make lighter or darker with white.

As far as a medium when you are painting, I personally use Walnut oil, because it’s so environmentally healthy you could theoretically eat it and be fine.  However, the traditional method is to use linseed oil or poppy oil to mix with the paint to make it more buttery.  Poppy oil doesn’t yellow as much as linseed oil, however.

Either way you go, you DO NOT need to use an oil at this point while doing the traditional Ebauche (underpainting).  If you use too much oil with your paint at this point, then in subsequent layers, your paint will bead up.  When doing the Ebauche, use paint thinner to thin the paint, or an odorless turpenoid (natural substitute for turpentine).

When beginning painting the Ebauche, keep in mind that it is to get the overall general effect of the painting, with colors, values and feel of the work.  Don’t lose your drawing at this stage.  You can start correcting your drawing if needed.  When you paint a dark over a light, you get a chromatic rise–this is what happens when you glaze.  So overall, your ebauche should be a little lighter in value than what you want your painting to look like at the end, if you’d like to glaze over it.

Start painting the ebauche with the lights, the highest in chroma and value (for instance, typically the nose and forhead), and go darker in value and lower in chroma in the shadow from there.

Mix up a separate mixture for the shadows, and use a separate brush to keep the painting as clean as possible.

Also, mix up a separate mixture for the hair.

Protect the hight value, high chroma parts of the painting!  Get all the lights and darks established before going into detail.  For example, do a section on the forehead, side of cheek and shadow and hair, then do the rest of the face, using those sections as keys of light or darkness on the form.

Sometimes, when two complementary colors are set next to each other, they both appear brighter.  This is a similar optical effect to simultaneous contrast.  Don’t let your eyes deieve you!

Think again of sculpting, same as the drawing!  You want the picture to leap out of the canvas into life.

The legendary William Adolphe Bouguereau painted in for layers, and this was the first.  Only three more to go!  Below, check out his unfinished painting, where you can clearly see the ebauche stage showing through.

Unfinished painting by Bouguereau