Drawing on Paintings

One of the central concerns I wrestle with is combining beautiful, accurate color notes with graceful, exacting drawing. It's a lot to ask, particularly if you're a direct painter seeking high finish and adventurous handling.

Here's a solution my friend Lamb Chamberlin pointed out and that I've been experimenting with lately:

1. Careful, purely pragmatic drawing. Everything needs to be in its proper place and every major area should be worked out, but the drawing doesn't need to be particularly detailed or refined. What should be attended to are the large silhouettes and the main construction. The drawing can be transferred to the final surface or drawn directly with the brush.

2. Begin painting the overall forms, matching the major color relationships and the large modeling. Because everything is already properly placed (see step 1), you can work with great freedom and achieve a lively and fresh paint handling.

3. After step 2 dries, use some neutral pigment to draw on top of your painting (I prefer burnt or raw umber). Everything is already placed, so this linear drawing is primarily to extract as much character out of the painting as possible, seeking out every undulation and bit of gesture that you want.

4. Let the new drawing dry, then add smaller color relationships and more subtle modeling. As this work progresses, the lines from step 3 will become integrated into the final painting and remain only as rhythms felt, not seen. 

Steps 3 and 4 can be repeated as many times as necessary until the desired finish is acheived.

After studying a number of his paintings, I think Bastien-Lepage used this basic approach (or at least did on some occasions). These examples are all of his work.

ramon hurtado