Lesson 3: Composition and Underpainting

During the third lesson in the course, students were introduced to the concept of utopian landscapes. Students made connections between surrealism and utopia, and looked at modern and contemporary landscape paintings from artists such as Tarsila do Amaral and Shara Hughes. Students observed how the artists were inspired by nature, yet created imaginary and somewhat surreal landscapes taking elements from life.

Students began their utopian landscapes with a writing activity based on the sense. They were prompted to answer what they see, smell, hear, and feel in their utopian landscape. Then, they were introduced to the ideas of thumbnail sketches. They sketched out several iterations of compositions before beginning an underpainting. For many students, this was the first time they had painted an underpainting, and for many it was their first experience working on canvas. The class discussed how the color of an underpainting can influence the end result, and how a red underpainting for a majority green landscape can be used to tone down color and add depth through the use of complimentary color pairings.

While working on their underpainting, students were encouraged to think about value and composition.