Saturday, March 19, 2011

Underpainting Demo

Today, at the request of Forstall Art Center management, I did a free demonstration of under painting techniques using Gamblin's new FastMatte fast drying oil paint. It is an alkyd resin and linseed oil binder. The paint is designed to be used instead of acrylic for toning canvases or doing under paintings.

I set up a still-life of a clementine orange and red grapes. I have a set up made of foam core sides, black fabric covers the back and sides and a sheet of black foam core on the top. There is a hole in the top to clamp a light from above, this blocks the overhead studio lights.  This way the drama of a single light is not diluted by the studio lights.
I toned an Ampersand Gessobord with Fastmatte thinned with a mixture of Galykd and odorless mineral spirits. This mixture was drying very quickly even as I worked. It will be completely dry in 18-22 hours. I did a rub out or reductive value study, simply rubbing out the paint with a t-shirt scrap.
On a second panel I did a pencil drawing, then restated it in a permanent sepia Faber-Castell artist pen. Then I did a rub out painting on top of the sepia drawing, this time trying the paint with a mix of linseed oil and odorless mineral spirits. This mixture stayed wet longer and gave me more time to work the study. Using a sepia pen to secure your drawing works well with more complicated paintings.

Either one of these methods will dry quickly and could be continued in a day or two with full color. Here are a couple of other studies I've done at the local life drawing group.
 5-minute rub out gesture sketch
1 hour rub out oil sketch
 And here's one I did on the Women Painting Women on Expedition last November.
I'm enjoying this technique very much and find that if the study is pushed far enough it is beautiful even with out adding any color. It takes the place of doing value studies when used as an under painting and helps me resolves problems relating to placement on the canvas or value. 

Find out more about FastMatte at the Gamblin site.


  1. Very informative post. I have been painting in oil for many many years and always was frustrated by the problem of wanting the underpainting to dry faster. I will definitely try the Gamblin FastMatte. I mostly use Gamblin paints these days (except they don't have their Naples Yellow colour right!) and Gamsol thinner, which allows me to paint longer without feeling ill. Can't get near most other solvents now - I remember the halls of the Cleveland Institute of Art reeked of turpentine in the early 60's when I went there and we thought nothing of it! I switched to acrylics in the 70's but it never felt the same - I just love oil paint so I went back to it once my son was old enough to know not to try to eat the paint:-) Thanks.

  2. Thanks for posting Terry, I have been back several times to check out this post :) Do you mind if I as what ratio of Galkyd/OMS you use? I tried to do a wipe out yesterday and just got so frustrated as the paint kept lifting and blotching up :( I am sure it takes practice too but wondering if I am using too much/little mediums and working against myself, I tend to do that ;)

  3. Tracey, sorry you are having trouble! The Galkyd does dry very fast. I have the best results using a mixture of linseed oil and odorless mineral spirits, 60/40, and I don't use much medium. You can also do this technique using regular oil paint. And if you have a nice juice paint use very little medium, and scrub it into the surface putting it on thinly but darkly, that way when you do the rub out, your darks will be fairly dark. The mistake I see most often when I show this my students is they use too much medium then it just gets sloppy wet. The Galkyd should not be mixed more that 50/50 mineral spirits. But I would only use this on small pieces because it will start to dry before you have time to work the entire surface. Good luck!

  4. thanks Terry, I just noticed your reply today when I was reviewing your tips before jumping into my wipeout :) They did help and it turned out better than the first attempt. I kept reminding myself to "linger, linger" as it was definitely uncomfortable at times as I kept wiping off too much and adding more was tricky business as it seemed so blotchy (glad I read your note first about not using too much medium as I am sure that was part of my problem still :)) Going to wait until it dries and the do the additive technique you posted about overtop :) Thanks again for all the tips!

    Tracey Costescu (for some reason my profile says art now :)



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