Burnt Umber Underpainting for Color

In WattsAtelierOnline, I’m now in a series of videos introducing four methods of painting the portrait in color. This is the first method – Burnt umber underpainting with color.

First, a detailed pencil drawing is done. It is sprayed with workable fixative so that the pencil won’t smear when oil is applied.
Burnt Umber Color drawing Marlene Lee

Then just using only burnt umber and Gamsol, I create a value study. I used various items to remove lighten the value – cotton swab, rags, fingers, kneaded eraser. This took about 4 hours to do.
Burnt Umber underpainting Marlene Lee

The burnt umber pick out becomes an underpainting for the color painting. I still use the Zorn palette of ivory black, titanium white, yellow ochre and cadmium red light. Another 3 to 4 hours were spend on the color painting.
Burnt Umber Underpainting with Color Marlene lee

This method is great for portrait commission.

Watts had set up his palette for the 9 values of each color – grey, yellow, red, green and purple. I had not been working with the 9 values setup but only three values for the light and two values for the shadow. To extend the life of his paints, he uses clove oil. I’ve been using walnut oil and seems to working for me…but one I’ll buy the clove oil.

6 thoughts on “Burnt Umber Underpainting for Color

  1. Hey Marlene – Fantastic! Your value study is impressive. Like you, I limit my values as well and use Burnt Umber for underpainting, but paint directly without a sketch. Can clearly see the advantage of the sketch. And your color painting! Wow! You got vibrant skin tones in the Zorn palette. Great transitions and brush work. Focal point of the dominant eye. Intensity of the facial expression in the brow, eyes and mouth. Painterly!

    1. Thanks so much for your encouraging comment. These assignments are being “graded”. It’s a pass/no pass. I pass with this one but their comments about the color was “too monotonous.” (*sigh). There’s so much to learn!

      1. Thanks for link. Actually it’s the same set up that Jeff had us do…create a Zorn palette chart which I find cumbersome to do. He does add more colors in his painting…but restricted to the Zorn palette. For instance around the cheek area he used some blues and greens. Very subtle. But that comes from many years of painting.

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