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Painting the Manti Temple using Imprimatura

I have little formal training in painting, so most of what I know I learned from articles on the Internet. I have been reading about imprimatura in painting and I wanted to try it out.

Imprimatura is an underpainting process where the painter creates a monochromatic stain of color on the canvas and uses the color to establish values of dark and light. Usually an earth tone is used, such as raw sienna or burnt umber. When painting, the artist is careful to not completely cover the imprimatura with paint so that some of the earth color shows through in the final painting.

Once I had decided on my subject, I began my painting by creating a basic sketch on my canvas board with a pencil. I then traced my sketch with ink so that the lines would show through when I put down my imprimatura layer.

Manti Temple painting - sketch

I created my imprimatura layer by mixing water and acrylic paint at close to a 1:1 ratio. I then used a foam brush from the hardware store to spread the thinned paint onto my canvas board. In retrospect, a foam brush was not the best tool for the job because it caused streaks in the paint. After brushing on my imprimatura layer, I used a paper towel to wipe the sky out so that the paint would be lighter in that area.

Manti Temple painting with imprimatura

Once the imprimatura layer was dry, I began by painting the sky and the temple. I found another use for my foam brush while painting the sky. I found that if I put tiny drops of paint on the sky, I could use the foam brush to create cloud streaks. There are probably other ways to do this, but I really liked the way the streaks looked when using the foam brush.

When the sky and temple dried, I painted in a brown foreground and added dark green trees.

Manti Temple painting - first layer

To finish off the painting, I lightly painted over the trees with a lighter green color to give some depth. I also lightly painted over the ground with a light green color, allowing some of the brown to continue to show through.

"Manti Temple" (2020) by K. Bradley Washburn

And that’s how I used imprimatura to create this painting. Did I use the technique correctly? I have no idea, but experimentation and creativity is what art is really about anyway.

This article was originally published on Artistic Imposter Design.