About the Artist
Jim Serrett holds degrees from Southern Illinois University and Vincennes University in painting and drawing. He has been an instructor at the college level and worked professionally as an artist producing advertising art, murals and illustration.
“I would define my works as realism, because I am interested in depicting the subjects I choose to paint, as I see them in nature. I am fascinated by the way things look, painting is for me about seeing. It forces me to study and understand a thing or an idea, to spend so much time with something that I can really begin to see it and explain the subject with as much clarity as I can, observing those things that might otherwise might be overlooked. I hope to seduce the viewer into the painting and if they meditate on it for a while, they may discover deeper, more specific layers of meaning.
I work from life or en plein air using traditional painting techniques. The work of the Masters leaves me with a sense of astonishment over the depth, luminosity and technical virtuosity these artists possessed. Varied in style and approach, they each began with similar foundations and fundamentals on which they developed the skill of oil painting. Understanding the core principles of traditional painting techniques, is a foundation from which an artist can evolve and acquire that greater knowledge, the real and honest expression of art.
These days I concentrate on fine art work, mainly working in oil and charcoal. I believe painting is a permanent attitude of mind. It is a scheme into which the general run of experience fits, which is not an abstract of the intellect but a part of life that needs mental and spiritual concentration. That synchronicity is my goal, the more I paint the more I learn about painting, the more I see as an artist.”
Jim and his wife Linda live near Murphysboro Illinois, where they spend their spare time kayaking and hiking the beautiful Southern Illinois forest and waterways.
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Underpainting Tutorial – Oil Painting Demonstration Spring Flowers
(Click Images Below for Larger Views)
In the following posts I will be demonstrating my approaches to the use of an underpainting in the Classical Method. I believe that the majority of the Old Masters used this approach and edited it down to their own needs. How much of a foundation they used I think became a very personal choice for these artists. The various types of underpaintings gave different effects that become unique tools for these painters.
The nature of oil paint is such that it can be applied in transparent glazes or in opaque layers. It was the ingenious methods that they developed to take full advantage of these qualities that produced some of the great masterpieces of all time. For me it is the sense of light and form that gives these works the amazing Realism they have. I am continuously exploring these Classical Painting approaches to increase my understanding of them and applying them to my work.
Any person who has viewed or studied the work of the Masters, certainly came away with a sense of astonishment over the depth, luminosity and technical virtuosity these artists processed. Although varied in style and approach they each began with similar foundations and fundamentals on which they built their art as they explored the craft of oil painting. Some started with very detailed drawings such as Durer, or highly finished underpainting in values like Vermeer and others develop a sketch in umber such asCaravaggio. Yet some seemed to combine all of these approaches. Their working sequence can only be speculated upon, some of their approaches are obvious and others are truly obscure lost to time and history.
Today the best we can only do is emulate what we think these artists did and put it into practice in our own work. There is probably as many ways to start a painting as there are artist.. But the basic idea in the method is building your painting in transparent layers becoming richer and more detailed in each additional layer. Taking advantage of the luminosity of transparent color over top of an underpainting where the preliminary draftsmanship and composition has been refined.
I begin with a drawing of my subject, in this case a small glass bottle with spring flowers. I am working with charcoal and graphite, the graphite for the initial contour drawing and charcoal to build masses and tone. Charcoal moves freely and is a very “painterly” medium. It can produce very fine lines as well as tone. You can build a full range of values very quickly, corrects easily, and use a subtract and add method of drawing. Being that you can lift out areas with a kneaded eraser and put them back in if you wish. Making it very fluid and spontaneous. Certainly my favorite drawing medium.
I transfer the image to the canvas panel with tracing paper. I map out the contours of the drawing, sort of a typographical map of the high and low spots of the image. Once transferred to the panel I fix these lines with ink. And wash over the entire surface with a neutral mixture of yellow ochre and burnt umber referred to as the Imprimatura. Which will fix the drawing and give me a mid tone value to judge color on.
The traditional method would have you producing a full underpainting in values on top of the Imprimatura. You can see an example of that here with the painting, Still Life with Two Pears from an earlier post.
However in this variation I will move on to color layers. Working very transparent I block in each object with a thin basecoat as close to the local color as possible. I model light and shade into each object using the tone of the Imprimatura to create shadows and values. For example a very thin coat of white in the flower will tone that passage while thicker paint will block the underpainting. Producing transparent shadows and opaque full lights giving an immediate optical sense of depth.
Final Images – Completed Painting – Spring Flowers – 8” x10”
I allow the painting to dry overnight. And go over the entire painting again with passages of transparent color and opaque highlights. I refine areas, picking out a few details and modeling light and shade with glazes of color. The results are very rich and luminous, with a wonderful sense of space that only heightens the realism of the image.