Every so often I'll get a question about my painting process that I think might be an interesting topic to share here on my blog. Recently an artist friend asked me about the red ground I prepped my canvases with at one time. I'm sure I've addressed toning a canvas a few times here on the blog, but since I've been asked about painting on a red canvas a number of times, I thought it would be a good idea to address this question specifically. Here is his question, followed by my response: Question: Are you still using red underpainting most of the time? Is that landscape specific or do you switch up for sky/water?
My response: As for the red ground, I never use it any more. I really only used it for landscapes. It was fun because the underpainting gave vibratory effect due to it being a complement to the greens. But it was too much of a distraction for sky and water, and ultimately I personally found it so for all of my landscapes, especially as I moved a little closer to realism. Plus I got too lazy to tone my canvases that color as I'd have to let it dry first. Otherwise the red would lift and get mixed into my painting too much. Now in the studio I either just paint on a white canvas, or tone it with just a quick wash of transparent red oxide (a.k.a PR101- the color I used in the tonal underpainting here). That still adds a warm tone but is muted enough that it doesn't distract. It also isn't as high staining so I can apply a wash and then start painting immediately after.
*This artist is a studio painter, but I'll add here for the benefit of my blog readers that if I'm painting outdoors, I pretty much always use a mid-toned canvas of either gray, or a wash of trans red oxide or raw sienna, as sun on the white canvas creates too muchbounce and glare.