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Underpainting in Oils

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

I have painted horse portraits and dog portraits professionally in both oils and pastels for many years, but pastels became my preferred medium, then subsequently Pan Pastels which have the same high quality pigment as traditional pastels but come in a compact powder form and are applied with an applicator so you get a lovely painterly look.

Bay Horse Pan Pastel Painting
"After the Show" Pan Pastels

Although I have painted plenty of oil paintings over the years I always struggled with applying the paints to get an affect that I liked, so I would always put the paints away and get the pastels back out.

Dapple Grey Horse Oil Painting
"Out of the Shadows" Oils (Exhibited in the Horse in Art 2012)

After a few years yet again the urge came to paint in oils and because I am pretty much a self taught painter I thought I would take advantage of YouTube and Google to refresh my knowledge and see if there was anything that could improve my ease of use of the paints.

I had always painted "Alla Prima" (straight on to the white canvas) and never felt that my paintings had the same cohesion that I get from my pastels. I discovered something I knew about but had never really understood - Underpainting. I haven't put the brushes down since! Underpainting gives you a ready made monochromatic "map" of your final image and the tonal values so you aren't fighting with a white canvas. Alla Prima works well for many artists but it is all personal preference, I have found my way forward with oil paints now and I am hooked!

I will talk about my oil painting process and materials in another blog.

Underpainting in oil paints of a horse
"Gaze" Underpainting
Grey Arab Horse Oil Painting
"Gaze" Finished Oil Painting

You can find further information about how to commission a painting of your horse, dog or cat on my commission page.


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