Spring '18

The advantage of a colorful foundation


639 Neck of the Woods I, 2015
acrylic / oil on panel, 9.4 x 11.8 inches (24 x 30 cm)


As you scroll through the recent paintings on my website, you will notice that most pictures are painted on panel. That is not by chance! It is a conscious decision. By using the color of the panel as a foundation or starting point, one gets the middle tone ‘for free’. Below in the first draft you can see how I applied both transparent and opaque brownish acrylic paint layers.This gives you a quick idea of what the final (tonal) painting will look like.


Using oil paint in later phases and leaving parts of the panel unpainted and letting the panel peek through the final layers not only gives the painting a unity and harmony of color, it also provides for a playful and sketch-like character of the final image (see picture above).


First draft Neck of the Woods I, 2015




In the beach scene below (first set-up on left, finished painting on right), you can see how I made use of the color of the panel as a foundation. The panel appears here and there between the patches of water in the foreground, and it shines through in the transparent shadows of the clouds. You can also see how the color of the foundation plays a unifying role in the finished painting.


First draft  
633 Beach 46, 2015
acrylic / oil on panel,  23.6 x 23.6 inches (50 x 50 cm)

First draft
638 Vase with Fall Flowers I, 2015
acrylic / oil on panel, 11.8 x 9.4 inches (30 x 24 cm)


In the still life above you can see how the color of the panel plays a key role in both the first draft and the final painting. The foundation has a colorful, warm yellow-brownish tone, which provides exactly the atmosphere and mood that I was looking for: an Autumn feeling. Together with the warm colors of these slightly over-the-top flowers, this panel provides me with the perfect middle tone. The color tone of the panel is almost the same as the color tone of the yellowish flowers, making for a glowing, atmospheric effect.


In order to suggest a transparent glass vase, I allowed the background color to peek through, and brushed a bit of white paint on the board for a shiny effect.  This culminated in the white highlight, suggesting plasticity.  Space is also suggested by the shadow casted on the table and the background.


In the example (below left) you see a white panel rubbed in with a colorful brownish-grey oil paint, which is a mixture of the of paint residues that I collected when cleaning my pallet knife and brushes! As you can see, this color is also prominently visible in the final painting (below right), which still has the freshness of a sketch.


First draft
585 Blue Vase with White Flowers, 2012
oil on panel, 23.6 x 15.8 inches (60 x 40 cm)


Below you see two different nude studies painted on panel. In both paintings the color of the foundation is about halfway between the darkest and the lightest colors, and as such it plays a key role as a middle tone. By applying darker tones (shadow side) and lighter tones (light side) you can quickly suggest volume or plasticity in the body.



Model study, 2004
acrylic on board,
26.6 x 6.7 inches (67,5 x 17 cm)
503 Standing Nude III, 2007
acrylic / oil on panel, 23.6 x 9.8 inches (60 x 25 cm)
private collection




Below you find a painting on canvas where I have also chosen orange as a foundation, because it gives the whole picture a glowing character, suggesting sunset in the early spring. The orange foundation culminates in the warm orange walls of the church and other buildings, and in their reflection in the marshy land in the foreground. It also intensifies the blue in the water and the sky (complementary colors).



First draft
616 Reitdiep 27 / Ezinge, 2014
acrylic / oil on canvas, 31.5 x 39.4 inches (80 x 100 cm)
private collection




During my studies at art school I almost daily had to buy materials such as paper and paint in the school shop. I often complained about the costs, since I had a monthly allowance that was barely enough to get by.


One day, the store keeper suggested that I use wrapping paper for my model drawings instead. He even offered to collect some for me for free (appealing to my Dutch origins!). I thought that this paper had an attractive, warm color to it. you can see one of the resulting works below left.


Model drawing, 1982
crayon on wrapping paper, 25.6 x 19.7 inches (65 x 50 cm)
Westeremden III, 198
acrylic on board, 15.3 x 18.9 inches (39 x 48 cm)
private collection


Inspired by the idea of using materials readily available, I started collecting pieces of leftover boards at home on the farm, as well. You can find an example of a resulting work above right.
An important added benefit was that I found myself no longer afraid to experiment and make mistakes, as I had no expensive paper to throw away.




Photo by Lieuwe Kingma


For inspiration I always keep some vases with dried flowers in my studio (see an example above). I prefer working with the faded colors of the dried leaves and flowers. I think it very delicate and aesthetic. A transparent glass vase is very nice to work with, since I can make use of the transparency and let the background colors shine through. The suggestion of glass by using a highlight is very rewarding as a finishing touch. That’s all I need to create the right atmosphere, and this inspires me to set to work.




Before the Impressionists came on the scene around 1850, most painters used a colored foundation for their paintings. Impressionist painters however started working outside and often used a white foundation in order to show the pure colors.


Below you find some examples of paintings of the masters in which they used the technique of a colored foundation.





I conclude this post hoping you had a nice read and scroll. Who knows that this lifting of a tip of the veil / “studio secrets” has poked your interest and that it even might change the way you look at paintings in the future.


Please let me know!


©Lieuwe Kingma, februari 2016



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