Checking the Possibilities

King Korn (watercolor, 22×15)

I consider underpaintings to be the painting equivalent of background scenery for a play or a floor to a beautiful rug. They can even be used to establish color dominance. This week I’ll show you my checkerboard-underpainting pattern.

You can create this simulated checkerboard by using a series of vertical and horizontal lines, none of which are parallel. I choose the color dominance (warm, cool or gray as in the examples at right and below) and then paint some of the small rectangles to form a pattern. I usually save a large area of white toward the center of the underpainting. Although some interruption within the subject is expected, I find the checkerboard pattern especially effective when used at the edges of the composition.

It’s important to choose light midtones for the underpainting—they’ll be light enough to not overpower your overpainting, but dark enough that parts of the underpainting will vibrate with the colors of the overpainting. As well, the grid provides unity throughout the painting.

The checkerboard creates a visual pulsation when viewing the painting. It’s like walking on a checkered tile floor. The rectangular pieces almost seem to lift off the paper. At the same time, the sheet of paper appears to tilt—to rock diagonally, corner to corner. A checkerboard pattern is a great way to get movement into your painting.

Loraine Crouch is assistant editor for The Artist?s Magazine.

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