Oil Painting Underpainting Tutorial

Terry-stricklandAbout the Artist

Terry knows she is doing what she was meant to do. After graduating from the University of Central FL with a BFA in Graphic Design she had an interesting and varied art career, working in the imprinted sportswear, gaming and publishing industries as well as courtroom sketch artist.

Since devoting herself to painting full time in 2005 her work has won numerous awards and been widely published and collected.

Visit Terry’s Websites:



Oil Painting Tutorial – 2 Methods of Underpainting

(Click images below for larger views)

Today I did a demo of underpainting techniques using Gamblin Fastmatte alkyd oil paint and Rembrandt oil paint at Forstall Art Center where I teach oil painting class, here in Birmingham, AL.

Thanks to Randy Webb, local artist and demo attendee for generously allowing me to use his pictures and video for my blog!

I did two paintings, the first was an open, color grisaille. Basically it was a wash using Fastmatte paint, thinned with odorless mineral spirits. It’s considered open because you leave the white of the canvas to indicate the lights of the painting, much like a watercolor painting. Fastmatte is designed to dry fast so you can do an underpainting and it will be dry by the next day so you can begin the second layer quickly.


I started with a pencil drawing on Ampersand Gessobord, professional quality.


After the pencil drawing was complete I redrew it using a Faber Castell sepia pen. Next I mixed up a few strings of color, some interesting grays and a couple of reds.


Using odorless mineral spirits I thinned the paint and began washing in areas working from the background to the foreground and from the darkest to the lightest.


Finished local color grisaille. 9×12

Next I did a rub out, or value study, open grisaille. I used Rembrandt burnt umber mixed with a little medium mixture that is linseed oil/mineral spirits, 60/40 ratio. I do not use the Fastmatte for this type rub out since it dries too quickly.


The entire panel is covered in paint using a large soft brush.


I use a soft T-Shirt scrap to wipe out the lights.


I will add back in more paint if I have rubbed out too much.


Final open grisaille value study. This could be painted over in couple days with full color.

Here’s one I did with my class, so you get the idea of full color and how the rub out can inform subsequent layers.



And here’s how that one started. Value Study With a Twist, 9×12

One last note, this one about the still life set-up. (you can see it in a couple the photos and the video).

I use a box made of foam core that folds up. The sides are 3, white pieces, that I have hinged together with packing tape. It is then draped in black cloth. A large piece of black foam core is laid on top. I have cut out space for the clamp-on lamp and the cord to stick out the top.

This has turned out to be a great solution to the problem of blocking light pollution from the ceiling, while adding a dramatic light to the still life and the problem of storage of the set-ups. I don’t have a dedicated space for my class so the still life has to be packed up after every class. It travels back and forth from the center easily and I have 4 of them. They lay flat and don’t take up much room. I can fit three students to one still life.

My first set-up nearly caught fire and cooked the fruit so this is a much better solution! It pays to have an engineer in the family.


  1. Theodore Kelly says

    While some classes are completely solvent-free, like those taught by Professor Stephen Knudson (refer to his tips on Solvent-free Painting ), SCAD recommends that students using solvents for their paintings use an OSHA-approved charcoal filter mask. One filter lasts approximately 30 minutes, so you will need to buy multiple filters. SCAD also provides disposable rubber gloves to students working with solvents. As an alternative, you can also try a barrier cream as a minimal means of protection.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *