This is when the blocking comes in, I work in a whole painting process. I don't paint in a direct style as many plein air painters do, for me it just doesn't work. I don't start at one point, finish that area and move up, down or across the image. I tone my paper, canvas or board. I work in a reductive-additive process. If my paper is pre-toned then I can do a rough sketch, adjust proportions as needed and block in under colors.
Under color, what is that and why is it needed? They are the colors that you don't really see. The colors that bring the complementary pigments forward in the painting. I work in blues a lot but there can be just as much of the orange color family within or under those blues. I often try to work a limited palette, using a base color to tone the paper, one other color in the same family, black and white. Animals like cheetahs, leopards, tigers, lend themselves to that limitation. Other objects in nature, like rocks have so very many colors in them that it is hard to not play with them all.
Since a picture helps to tell the story of how things get blocked in, here are a few step by steps of rocks from Fox Island in Alaska, along with an eagle feather. I did start this piece plein air, getting the sketch done on blue Rives BFK paper. Blocked in the under colors and took lots of photos to finish up the work in the studio.
|Blue Rocks and Eagle Feather - pastel on Blue Rives BFK Paper|
|Plein Air sketch & blocking in of under color|
|Continued working plein air, it was 9 pm in Alaska worked for an hour|
|Working in the studio from photo references|