Imprimatura Basics

For starters, think of a brown paper bag...

Imprimatura is a term used in painting. It is an initial stain of color painted on a ground (like my gessoed canvas shown below).

It provides a painter with a transparent toned ground. I prefer to use the approximate color and value of a brown paper bag.

The term is Italian and literally means ¨first paint layer" and it helps the classical painter begin with a middle tone and then establish value relations from dark to light.

I cannot think of anything more impossible to paint on than a stark white canvas!

An imprimatura is usually made with an earth color - for a portrait I like to use Raw Umber mixed with Winsor-Newton's Liquin Medium.

Some people use turpentine + color but I prefer to seal the canvas with Liquin.

Note the cheap "hardware store" white britstle brush above...I "use 'em and then I lose 'em.".

The first layers of a painting establish value and composition, color comes much much later.

Here are some examples from the works of Rubens:

In his oil sketches, you can see the imprimatura underneath it all.

It is easy to see - especially in these works.

I once saw a show of his oil sketches at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and that is when I first understood the importance of the imprimatura.

The imprimatura is the "mother color" that makes it all hang together. The painting above appears to have a darker imprimature - and thus is a darker painting.

This painting bleow - I have not see the original - but it is a mini-lesson in how to (sometimes) underpaint paint dark areas and shadows.

All of the darks and shadow areas appear to have been painted in red - a clever way to make those areas luminous, warm and lively when overpainted.

Note that in a landscape, I'll often use an "earthy red" (or sometimes cadmium orange) as my imprimatura and allow that color to peek through the final layers of the painting.

Even in the Old Master's drawing, a toned paper is used....and it is just the color of a brown paper bag!

Many of my paintings at begin with an imprimatura.

What The Heck Has Obama Done Co Far?

Three very clever, computer savvy and progressive young people have managed to do what the entire Democratic party could not do for the entire two years of its majority in Congress.

They have done, in one fell swoop, what President Obama himself could not managed to do despite having the bully pulpit from which to send any message he wanted to the American people.

Shavanna Miller, Will Carlough, and Richard Boenigk have put up a very simple, yet all-encompassing web site, aptly named, What the heck has Obama done so far.?

The site leads to a single major accomplishment of the Obama administration, with a link to an authentic source that explains the legislation in detail. One example reads: Tax cuts for up to 3.5 million small businesses to help pay for employee health care coverage.

The simplicity is what makes this site so effective. One accomplishment to a page, with its source link.

The reader then can click a button with a snarky remark, such as: "I'm Unimpressed, Big Deal, or What Else?" - and move to the next stated accomplishment and its source link.

Clearly expressed and well written, each accomplishment leads to another, and together they result in the most impressive array of legislation ever passed by a single president in his first two years in office in history.

You'll be amazed at how much has been done, despite more filibusters by the GOP than ever recorded in the US Senate by an opposition determined to block any progress by the new President from the day he took office.

Take a guess at how much Obama has done. You'll be wrong. He did far more than you can imagine.

When the Right Gets It Wrong: A Truly Brutal Election

Nice try Jon Stewart - but "Sanity" wasn't restored and our country failed to think outside of the FOX.

There is no doubt that Tuesday's results will make for even harder times for our country.

It is crazy making to realize just how extreme and misinformed much of the new Congress will be.

There is little reason to expect any useful legislation from the Tea Party-dominated House or the dysfunctional Senate.

Swing votes in the Senate have really troublesome names like Lieberman, Nelson, Manchin, and Pryor. In fact, this Congress will do damage to anything even remotely progressive.

The Republicans shrunk the first "stimulus" package and filled it with tax breaks, even as corporate Democrats helped them along, blocking any effort to restructure mortgages in bankruptcies, freeze foreclosures or force banks to lend money.

The election outcome was partially baked in early 2009, when the White House preemptively conceded on the scale and provisions of the stimulus package and chose to coddle the banks. To watch this unfold was simply maddening.

Making matters worse were other factors. Among the most damaging were the actions of the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, which seemed energized by the new President, and took the radical step of rehearing a campaign finance case — now known forever as Citizens United.

In ruling 5-4 that corporations have the right to spend unlimited amounts of money for and against candidates, the Court transformed the electoral landscape in a way potentially more profound than its 5-4 ruling that seated George W. Bush as president.

As many predicted, the Citizens United ruling unleashed the greatest wave of corporate spending in history.

In an astonishing turn of events, the right wing was able to kill — essentially murder in public view — the organization that registered millions of poor and working class African-American and Hispanic voters in the last six years.

I am speaking of ACORN, of course. By editing video completely out of context, and using the right-wing media machine to perfection, Andrew Breitbart was able to convince the mainstream media and eventually Congress, that ACORN was an election-stealing organization that had no qualms giving advice to pimps on how to increase revenues.

Fulfilling Karl Rove's wildest dreams, Congress, including most Democrats, voted to block public funding for any of ACORN's laudable and effective housing or tax assistance programs, and ACORN died a quiet death. There would be no millions of new registrants.

Republicans walked away from any serious healthcare discussion - muttering bizarre comments about reforms "killing grandma" and setting up "death panels." It would have been laughable if it were not so utterly destructive.

FOX News misled and misinformed the American people on every issue, and effectively became the public face of the Republican Party.

How did we get to such a mess where climate contrarians attacking scientists and their work is not only acceptable, but helps win elections?

Glenn Beck's show became so toxic and spewed so much venom that one of his devoted fans took it upon himself to plot the execution of key leaders of the Tides Foundation and the ACLU, who had figured prominently in Beck's rants.

Fortunately, the madman (the fan, not Beck) was stopped before he accomplished his mission.

For those of us who had hopes that the Obama Administration could seize the moment and enact popular progressive changes, this is a bitter pill. And like many, we grieve at the lost opportunities.

But now we need to brush off the dust, suck it up, and plunge back into substantive fights.

Politics is not fair — indeed, U.S. elections are rigged in profound ways - but walking away is not an option.

Are you angry and exhausted at this point? I know I am.

But let us not forget that the values and ideals we fight for are greater than any one election. They still endure, and so must our fight.

So roll up your sleeves, we have a lot of work to do.

Vote on Tuesday, November 2nd

"If you cannot bring yourself to vote for the lesser of two evils - you'll get the greatest evil."
- Steve Baherman

This year, fewer than 40% of voting age Americans will actually vote.

A serious glitch, I think.

If you don't vote because you're trying to teach politicians a lesson, you're tragically misguided in your strategy. The very politicians you're trying to send a message to don't want you to vote. Since 1960, voting turnouts in mid-term elections are down significantly, and there's one reason: because of TV advertising.

Political TV advertising is designed to do only one thing: suppress the turnout of the opponent's supporters. If the TV ads can turn you off enough not to vote ("they're all bums") then their strategy has succeeded.

The astonishing thing is that voters haven't figured this out. As the scumminess and nastiness of campaigning and governing has escalated and the flakiness of candidates appears to have escalated as well, we've largely abdicated the high ground and permitted selfish partisans on both sides to hijack the system.

Voting is free. It's fairly fast. It doesn't make you responsible for the outcome, but it sure has an impact on what we have to live with going forward. The only thing that would make it better is free snacks.

Even if you're disgusted, vote. Vote for your least unfavorite choice. But go vote.