I've been working on commissions lately and am often asked how I begin a piece. Unless I'm working on my abstract tipis and canoes, I tend to add colour to the white canvas...earlier on when I painted mainly interiors, I used a vivid lime green which acted like a movie green screen. As I would paint shadows and highlights, the images would pop out against the green ground. When I work on landscapes or any type of outdoors images, I tend to work on a burnt orange background. Something I learned from Tom Thompson of the Group of Seven.
When we lived in Manitoba years ago, I mentored under a painter through the Winnipeg Art Gallery where there was a large collection of Group of Seven works. At the time I was particularly drawn to Tom Thompson's small landscape studies on wood panel on which he always applied an orange ground. For me, this ground works in four ways:
1. A white paper or canvas can be intimidating so flooding it with colour helps to break that 'purity'.
2. Wherever paint doesn't cover the canvas, a beautiful warm orange glow shows up instead of the glaring white canvas.
3. Leaving spots of the orange strategically throughout the painting tends to tie the scene together.
4. There is just something beautiful about blues and greens against warm colours...kind of like a green or blue painted wall against hardwood floors.
So, I think I'll be finished one commission within the next two weeks and then can continue on the other...as well as continuing work on some new canoes for my own pleasure. I am so lucky...my studio is my happy place :)