Underpainting

I wanted to experiment with underpainting for some recent field sketches. First I put down a loose, cool, blue wash and on another page a warm orange-red wash. I kept it loose with some paint splatter and some ghosting.

Now I had to find a subject to lay over the wash.

My first subject was to be found at Harvey West Park in Santa Cruz. It was a Southern Pacific 0-6-0 switcher that is on static display in the picnic area. Southern Pacific Number 1298 is an S-10 class yard switcher that was build by Baldwin in 1917. The locomotive was retired in 1956 and was put on static display in Santa Cruz in 1961. In an earlier era, when things was less litigious, children where able to climb on the locomotive and tender. Now the tender was sold and the rusting Number 1298 sits fenced in, in need of a lick of paint.

The word static, implies “not moving”, which is a perfect sketching subject because, well, 1298 is not moving. It was a great subject to capture the form of the locomotive and the trees in the background. For this sketch I chose the page with the cool blue underpainting. I figured it would also work with the sky.

I loosely sketched in the form of the locomotive, tiring to keep details to a minimum. I failed to some degree because I think I added too many details, a problems I have with sketching a highly detailed subject like a locomotive or architecture. The running gear (the driving wheels that propel the locomotive) I simplified and left out a lot of information.

When you put wet watercolor paint over dried paint, it is called glazing. When you glaze in watercolor you can build up layers and depth. Because watercolor is transparent, the underpainting shows through in unexpected ways. And with using a fairly random underpainting the result can be a bit jarring but somehow seems to work. It’s just a sketch, after all.

For my sketch I laid over the warm orange-red wash I choose a jarring subject.

Just outside of Los Gatos, off of Highway 17, are two stone lynx-like statues that guard the driveway to Poets Canyon. The sculptures where created by Robert Paine and are named “Leo” and “Leona”. The sculptures have been in place since 1922. To get to this location is challenging because you can only turn west on Highway 17 (the direction whence I came).

Lucky for me, two 8 foot replicas are to be found at the Los Gatos Shopping Center on Santa Cruz Ave. The new cats are carved out of white marble and weigh in at 6,500 pounds each!

The underpainting is warm and I made no concessions to the true color on the statues. I like the way the sketch turned out (featured sketch).

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