20 September, 2010

Monday's Art Tip 3 - A Giveaway and "What a difference a background makes"

I may be oversimplifying this tip, but I want to point out the difference between painting on a white background and painting on a black background. Of course, you could also paint on an orange or red or blue (or any other colour!) background (and I have done all of these), but for today, let's stick to black and white.

Can you pick the undercolours used in the two paintings above? And which do you prefer? Read on for details of my giveaway...

To demonstrate, I did these two paintings at the same time, starting with the sketch above. As a point of interest, I was looking at the composition and arrangement, making sure the focus in each picture would fall on a 'third' line, not slap bang in the centre or anything.

I then sketched the images onto the freshly gessoed canvases in yellow because it would compliment the eventual colours of the poppies.

There you go, now you know which is which!

When I got stuck into each painting, I was watching the tonal variations - making sure the black background didn't make the whole painting look dark... a problem I've had before. So I deliberately lightened the blue of the background towards the end, overpainting with zinc white (we'll talk about a couple of different whites next week).

I also underpainted parts of the white-background-painting in red and yellow - because red is the complementary colour (opposite on the colour wheel) to the green of the stems and grass that would go on the bottom of the painting, and yellow is almost the complementary colour to the mauve-y blue I planned to use for the sky... being able to see hints of these complementaries through the final colours adds life and movement to the painting. In group exhibitions, this can really make a painting stand out from the rest, and look more professional.

In general, I do like the effect that painting on black gives, as the edges of the poppies seem more subtle and blurred ... you can see here how the poppy was painted on the original black, but the bee was painted over the colour of the sky...

... and you can see the underpaint colour in the grooves of the canvas - which I think is more interesting in a painting like this than panes of flat colour would be...

You can see the yellow outlines a little in the white-background-painting, and the poppies are quite defined...

which is still a very acceptable way of approaching a subject like this.

So it really does come down to your personal choice. But if you've always painted on white, I encourage you to try black, and then other colours. You'll see your paintings come to life!

Now, which do you prefer?

or White?
Leave a comment on this post, with a contact email if you don't have a google account, telling me your preference, and I'll draw a winner in two weeks time - on Monday 4th October (which is the day my kids go back to school - so I won't forget!).

These paintings are painted with Golden acrylic paints on a canvas panel and measure 20 x 25cm. You can frame them without glass, or mount them in a box frame, or simply perch them on a shelf or windowsill, it's up to you.

I'm keen to hear your preference!

I'll be animating the process of these paintings for Animation Friday later this week.

If you haven't read them already, my other Monday Art Tips can be found here.

Next week, my tip is about white paint - now that sounds exciting, huh!


  1. Wow they are both great! But I do like the black background one best. You have amazing talent and skill!

  2. Painitng is quite a scientific process, really.

    I just thought you just "painted" ... but there's a bit of theory and mechanics involved.

    I like the dark background ... gives the subject more of an overcast day feel ... and I think a duller painting would suit my mid-century yearnings! What a prat!

  3. Beautiful! I really, really like the white; so much brighter to me & screaming of Spring. I could never paint, I absolutely suck at it; I have no comprehension of this sort of theory & rather just 'draw' & 'colour in'!

  4. I really like the effect that the black background gives .... but would never in a million years have thought to do this. Both paintings, are of course, really lovely.

  5. I'm really loving these tutorials! I have underpainted a painting with dark colours before, but never thought to do contrasting areas depending on the final colours. Great tip! As for which of these I like best, it's a tough call but I think its the one with the black underpaint. I think because I tend to paint with bright colours myself, its nice to see something a touch more subtle.

  6. love it Anna!
    I agree with Vic, the white background gives the flowers a chance to jump out.
    wonderful giveaway Anna, you are quite amazing.

  7. I'm a big fan of the black background and it's all I use which isn't a lot of gesso these days. I love the edges and the textures it brings to the background. Pretty poppies!

  8. I like the black one Anna, it would go perfect in my new office :)

  9. Gee you make it look so easy, but I know it is not! I have never painted on a background other than white so the black b/ground is interesting. However, I think I love the brightness and warmth of the painting on white. I'm definitely going to give painting on black a try. And I love the tip of painting the complementary colour underneath - I will try that too! Cheers!

  10. I love all of your work Anna, but if I HAD to choose... I love the freshness of the white background! Sorry Jono, it'd be perfect in MY office :P

  11. Hi Anna, I like the black background I think it has more depth, plus I like the composition too, it has that sense of lying in the garden looking up at the poppies, but both are lovely - Ros

  12. Oh yippee, back to art class, i love it!! I like the white background, only as there is more green & i'm loving green, but it would be an honour to have either, delightful work. Love Posie

  13. These posts have been so interesting Anna. I never knew that you painted on dark backgrounds until recently. I have to say that I like the dark background because it seems to add a richness and depth. I picked it straight away but probably only because I had read your previous tips.x

  14. both are magnificent - I love the white especially !

  15. Hi Anna - have just discovered your lovely blog. I am a keen (very) amateur artist so thank you for the fabulous tuition. I like the one with the black background - it just has a touch of extra intensity. Beautiful.

  16. I love the white- I can't scientifically say it's because of the background, but there you go. I remain, as ever, in awe of your supreme talent, and will continue to sing your praises. (Surely that suck -up deserves something ;-) )

  17. Stella1:00 pm

    Tough call, but on reflection - or maybe my non artist self is biased by your comments - I like the black more. Am sure you will be delighted to know that i smile at your flowers on the girls wall everyday and think of you - now I shall ponder if they be on black or white - I suspect white!
    Love you! x

  18. Fascinating! It's like having a magician reveal his/her tricks of the trade. Almost feels a bit naughty seeing the behind-the-scenes!

    I am hopelessly in love with the black background one ;)

  19. OH they are lovely......I'll say white :-) I have added the giveaway to my side bar also :-) fingers crossed!

  20. Anonymous12:05 pm

    Hello there !! Ohhh this is a tricky one cause they are both beautiful !! But I do prefer the white one...it makes the colours pop a bit more ;0) Hope you are all well in TWMBA town !!
    xxx Tina

  21. Oh my goodness, I can't believe that I forgot to comment on Monday! I absolutely love both of them, but I think I prefer the white background.

  22. oh oh oh oh - soo happy to find you and your blog! Am a wannabe artist and love love both... but will choose black if I win!
    Mrs Woog xo

  23. Marissa9:44 am

    Hi Anna - can't resist commenting to have a chance at this very generous and lovely giveaway. I love both but seeing as I have to choose... the white background gets my vote (by a "federal election" type whisker!). Have a good week....

  24. Samantha Battle2:39 pm

    I love the black - such an interesting approach. I love its composition too!

  25. Do we have to choose one to be in the running? ;) cause I love them both! I do admit to painting my sketchbook pages with a colour so I don't have to start drawing on a plain white page. It certainly has helped me get over the fear of 'ruining' the sketch book! So in that case I will have to choose the one with the black background.
    Just love this series Anna, I am learning so much. xx

  26. Hi Anna I was directed to your blog thru a member of Wet Canvas. I prefer the black, adds more drama and richness to the scene. Personally I prefer a grey background myself, might be my imagination but colours seem to pop more.

  27. Hi Anna! Thanks for your lovely blog - I really enjoy your use of bold, clear colours - they give off a real energy.

    Of course I like both pieces, but on this occassion, I prefer the one on the white background. I think it is not only the colour that makes difference, but I prefer the composition too! Once again, many thanks for sharing..

  28. my first ever comment on a blog,
    I love love love the white,it has depth but is so bright with colour, both make you smile,
    how talented can one person possibly be x Shaz

  29. The one on white reminds me of the light in my front yard in the morning, and the one on black the light in my backyard after about 4 (when sun is blocked by my neighbours trees). Consequently I love both, however there is something about bee in the black one that gets me wondering about what he has been doing and what he is thinking...

  30. i absolutely love them both! beautiful!
    thank you for offering them as a giveaway - great generosity! bless you ..
    i'll settle on the black if it came down to a choice, but both are a delite!

  31. can contact thru FHC blog comments or via my email which should show to you by my comments to you..

  32. I like the white better. It is fresher?!?!

  33. I like it on the black! :)

  34. I thought I'd better duck back and throw my hat in the ring. The paintings really are stunning and I'm definitely going to give the black background a try. But my favourite is the white background. I think!

  35. Anonymous8:05 pm

    Personally I prefer the black on but I also prefer the composition of the black one too.

    I like the contrast of the shadows underneath to the bright red poppies.

    The white is quite summery and lovely too.

    I look forward to trying different background colours too. Thanks for all the inspiration!


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