Several years ago I saw a fairly large painting in a gallery window. The glow of the colors amazed me. As I squinted to read the small card beside the painting I was shocked to discover that I was viewing a work of art done in colored pencil.

The next day I unearthed my supply of colored pencils from the cobwebbed corner where I store supplies that do not vibrate with my internal frequencies. I was determined to breathe life into my pile of colored sticks. It was at that point that I decided to begin a more careful study of ‘color’.

My success was limited at best. After executing (the perfect word) two 5″ square pieces I returned the lifeless colored pencils to the cobwebbed corner.

A month ago I came across a book, “Masterful Color” by Arlene Steinberg. I was hooked by the cover before I read the small print ” vibrant colored pencil paintings layer by layer”. Though I knew well the practice of underpaintings, I had never used the method myself. Having started as a plein aire painter, underpaintings never found their way into my life.

A year or two ago I decided that I wanted to make a giant leap to a new level of painting. In order to do so, I knew I would have to break out of my habits, perhaps all of them. My ultimate goal was to create color in my paintings that made my heart sing rather than sleep. I had decided to try my hand at underpaintings a short time before I ran across Arlene Steinberg’s book. She presents the idea of creating an underpainting using the complement of the final desired color. Though I thought this a bit absurd at first, the idea began to make sense to me, especially in light of the subtractive color theory I have been using lately with far better results than the additive color theory I’ve practiced for thirty years.

Yesterday I painted three underpaintings, illustrated here. I will post them again as they progress into full color paintings. I’m anxious to see the difference between painting the greens of the trees over the yellow-orange underpainting and the red-orange underpainting. These three paintings are all oil paintings. I’ve accepted the fact that colored pencils block the flow of my creative energy.

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