Studio Views – Grounds We Paint On

Drama Queen

Drama Queen

Grounds We Paint On

Lately I have discovered how a painted ground [also referred to as “imprimaturas” by the Italian Renaissance painters or “coloured background”] provides a rich and interesting surface on which to paint an image. This technique was introduced by Jean Pederson in her 4×4 Master Class of which I am a student. So don’t I already paint on canvas, paper of wood?

Let me explain.



With one approach, an artist does what is called a “pre-painting” which is the first layer of colour or colours painted on a blank canvas These pigments are carefully chosen in order to enhance the subject that will be painted on. The subsequent final image is made up of as many layers of paint that is needed to complete the painting.

Using another approach instead of a pre-painting, the artist creates a ground by applying coloured gesso with a swirl of hues in a variety of shapes and values. Sometimes the finished results could culminate in a beautiful abstract. It is important to use coloured gesso which binds acrylic paint to the surface. In addition to gesso, texturizing mediums such as fibre paste or pumice gel are incorporated into the ground. Lastly, the surface of the painting is finished off with other mark-making tools. So far my favourite mark-making tool is a piece of carpet underlay. Most recently I have discovered stencils which come in an amazing variety of patterns available at any art store.

©Andrea Slack-Aqua Ground

Now the secret with using ground is to create one without any pre-conception of the final image that will be painted over. Often a lot of the ground is covered leaving bit and pieces that show through. I find it fun to work with a surprising texture that does not seem to belong but if I can be flexible it will enhance my painting in a way I would never have thought of.

©Andrea Slack-Red Ground

Grounds have opened new doors of creativity for me and given my paintings an added personality and enriched the images. Taking time to paint a ground also encouraged the flow of intuitive creativity. But that is a topic for another day!

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