Monhegan Headlands from Start to Finish ~ Stage 1

This painting is on a melamine wood (masonite type) board that I primed with a couple of coats of white gessow.  A lot of the old masters painted on hardwood boards.  A masonite type product creates a more stable product than wood and is less likely to warp.  Eliminating the canvas weave is sometimes desirable in order to create a smoother surface and I go back and forth between board and canvas.

I printed out an 8” x 10” photograph to use for the drawing.  I used a proportional scale wheel to determine the enlarged size which came out to 20” x 28”.  Then I drew a grid on the photo and the board in order to help transfer the enlarged image onto the board.  The drawing is a simple outline in most cases, with details to be painted in after the first few coats of paint are applied. 

A little tip that I use at this point is to spray the pencil drawing on the board with Retouch Varnish before I begin to paint.  This keeps the lead from smearing into the paint and losing the lines when putting on the first coat.  It also makes the paint adhere onto the board better.


I used a mixture of ultramarine blue, mars black and a little white to outline the rock formation over the pencil to not lose the drawing while blocking in the underpainting.  I used these colors because they create nice variations of warm gray that as an underpainting will add a warmth to the cooler blues and greens that will come later. 


 As I fill in one area and start to establish values in the underpainting, creating light and dark and contrast, I compare it to the rest of the painting.  What looks like a dark value at first on the white board becomes less dark as the middle tones are established.  I then go back over the outline with darker blends of the same colors to keep from losing the outline as the paintings values progress.  This process was repeated several times in order to get the darkest and lightest colors established. 


I start to introduce some color at this point, bringing in some yellow ochre to the rocks and the distant headlands because the island during most seasons has a goldish hue to it.  The initial greens are a combination of ultramarine blue and yellow ochre and white.  This creates a green that combines the same blue that is in the rocks, water, and sky and creates a harmonious blend of color and balance throughout the painting.  The dark green algae covered rocks in the foreground and along the coastline become more defined by introducing olive green and purples. 


At this point it is hard to not jump ahead of myself and apply a bunch of color and try to move the painting along more quickly.  But I have a vision of where I want to take the painting and it requires a methodical step by step process, building up layers of paint, mixing in some glazing to create depth and shading. 

It is helpful to be able to visualize the desired finished product in advance in order to not waste a lot of time experimenting.  Although having said that, spontaneity sometimes creates some of the best effects in a painting.  In this painting I know I want to keep it Impressionistic and I have a good feel for the palette I want to use.  I’ll keep posting each stage of this painting until it is done. I hope you find my painting process interesting.  Any questions or feedback would be most welcomed.