applying a ground with lady hue

I'm excited to talk about some painting tips again!  As you may remember, we last talked about how to gesso a surface last time.  This time we are going to talk about the next important step: applying a ground to the prepared surface.

The "ground" of the painting is the first color you choose to apply to a canvas.  There is no wrong answer for color choice (although some options may be better than others) and the color you choose for your ground will effect the entire mood of the painting.  I painted some intensely colorful paintings for my senior project way back when (I thought they were awesome at the time and now I look at them as firewood at best...).  I chose a very bright ground, either a bright alizarin pink or bright cadmium orange.  Then I built colors on top of them always working in complimentary colors (opposites on the color wheel - red and green, purple and yellow, orange and blue... etc) so the colors of the paintings turned out very intense and vibrant as they resonated against the bright ground.

Forgive me for the naked baby photos, but you can see a little of the alizarin ground of this painting popping through the tiles, walls, and other spots.  It is especially noticeable in the shadow of the little angry girl.  Ah, such lovely firewood.

Most artists choose a mid-range value for their ground color.  On a scale of 1-10 of value, 1 being white and 10 being absolute black, a mid-range value may be somewhere in the 3-6 range.  As you begin to build values on the ground it is very helpful to ease into your light and dark values from your mid range rather than working from a 1 to a 10 or visa versa.  I used a burnt sienna black-blue mix for this ground.

In the past I painted directly onto the muslin and kept that ground for the whole painting, but lately I've been trying something new.  After the ground dries I pull of the muslin to find an interesting  ground effect...

Then I apply a secondary ground, this time I used a yellow ochre/black-blue mix.

While the ground is still wet it is easy to dab away at areas for your lighter values and apply more liberally for darker areas.  Just in this initial stage you can begin to establish a broader range of values to get you started.

You can apply the ground as an opaque, thick in consistency, solid color with minimal medium (medium: water or gel acrylic for acrylics, paint thinner or linseed for oils) or you can keep it thin like I did.  I like to keep things very light and I use a lot of medium, but that may not be the method that feels the best for you.  I'm working with acrylics right now so I'm just watering it down and applying it generously.  I start to use more gel mediums later in the process.

Even though I'm painting in more mild tones than I used to, I am always very aware of my compliments when I paint.  You can think about it in general terms, cool vs. warm - if you're painting is going to be primarily blues, greens, etc., then start with a warm ground to really make things pop.  You can get very specific and match your seafoam blue-green hue with a burnt sienna orange-red.  You can buy color wheels at your local art store and pin that near your painting space to refer to color ideas as you go.

Good luck on applying the ground to your painting, let me know if you have any questions!  You can email me (hueandhum@gmail) or tweet me (@ladyhue).  Happy creating!

>>>[Welcome to a new series here on the twig blog, how-to tips from artists who are authentic, real, and inventive. Each month a few of our favorites will spill their secrets and skills to help you in your creative path. We're excited to learn a few things ourselves. Come soak it up and share the love.]



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