I start the painting by creating a preparatory drawing. Working from life I develop a simple but accurate “contour drawing” using a straight line "block-in" and use comparative measurements to find the big relationships "enveloping" all of the objects in the composition as one main shape. Drawing the largest shapes first and breaking them down into smaller and smaller components. The emphasis in the drawing at first should be simple straight lines, thinking in in terms of angles and tilts makes comparative measurements of one area to another easy. This helps in refining the block-in with confidence, creating a very accurate and economical map of the forms and objects. There are some prior posts here about the drawing process.
What I want in the drawing is a strong composition and a good foundation to work from, I want to look at the big picture not the details, check and measure the spatial relationships, and pay close attention to the negative and positive spaces. I will make many revisions on this simple contour drawing until I feel that I have established an accurate map of the major shapes. It’s not that I need a lot of information, I just need truthful information. When I am happy with the drawing I do a graphite transfer to a canvas panel.
Once I have my line drawing on panel I start the ébauche or first block-in with color. The term ébauche is a French word that in translation means “draft” or “rough sketch” and is most often associated with the French academies and traditional 19th century academic training. It is a form of underpainting that uses a thinly applied lay-in of dominant colors that describe the major forms.
As an underpainting “the ébauche” is used to approximate the qualities of color and value in their true relationship and quickly establish the overall appearance of the painting. Painted loosely and thinly, it somewhat resembles a watercolor. Unlike monochromatic under-painting techniques, the wash-in is fully chromatic, which allows the modeling of form immediately and gradually with hue, value and chroma. I like this process and use variations of it when painting on location and from life, it allows you to really establish the overall design and general effect of the painting quickly.
Next post - the first pass.
Pronunciation - ébauche: ay•boashLinks: