Today, I want to talk about using the umber under drawing method.
This method of drawing is just one of many, and works for any type of subject. I use it most often for landscape drawing, but I hope you’ll find useful information here even if you’ve never drawn a landscape, or don’t want to!
Why You Should Use any Under Drawing Method
The first question most people ask (about art or any other subject) is why.
- Why that subject instead or another?
- Why did you choose those colors?
- Why do an under drawing when you draw over it anyway?
You get the idea.
With most aspects of art, the answers are personal. That applies to drawing methods, too. You can use any drawing method you prefer. You can even use a different method for every drawing or based on your mood when you draw.
But no matter what method you use, you begin with an under drawing of some kind. Why? Because in reality, an under drawing is simply the first layers of color you put on the paper.
So the real question becomes, why use a special kind of under drawing?
Most artists start with certain kinds of under drawings to achieve a certain effect. Most colored pencils are translucent, so every color you put on paper influences every other color. (That’s also why it’s so difficult to cover up mistakes.)
The type of under drawing (umber, complementary, monochromatic) affects the look of the finished artwork.
Subject can also be a determining factor. Landscapes benefit from complementary colors and earth tones, if only to tone down the greens.
Atmospheric drawings benefit from monochromatic under drawings that help create the mood or atmosphere the artist wants to create.
There are other reasons, too. For more in-depth answers to this question, read Why Do Every Layer if You Draw Over Them Anyway?.
Why Use the Umber Under Drawing Method?
Answers to this question vary from artist to artist, but here are the biggest reasons I prefer umber under drawings.
1—I do a lot of landscape drawings. For many years, I struggled with greens that were unnaturally bright. The only way to tone down those greens is by adding their compliments. Usually reds, oranges, and earth tones.
You can, of course, add those colors at any time in the process—and I often do. But an umber under drawing has rescued many a drawing. So many that this drawing method has become my favorite.
2—An umber under drawing is ideal for drawing animals of almost every stripe. It also works for many other subjects.
3—It’s a lot easier for me to work out shapes, values, and details if I’m not also making decisions about colors. When I begin with local colors or with a complementary under drawing, I have to make color choices from the start.
With an umber under drawing, the choice is already made. One light brown, and one dark brown. Sometimes, I even limit myself to one or the other.
4–Quite simply, I like earth tones. There is so much variation in earth tones that I’ve often considered doing sepia studies in nothing but earth tones.
Or those lovely French greys in the Prismacolor line.
So when it comes to choosing under drawing colors, it’s natural to reach for a brown of some kind!
The Bottom Line
The umber under drawing method isn’t the only method I use, but it is among my favorite methods.
Want to see how it works in practice? Read my umber under drawing tutorial featuring a dark horse on this blog. For a landscape tutorial, read my first ever series on EmptyEasel.com. Both contain step-by-step illustrations and instructions.
Then give it a try if you’ve never used it before. It may become your new favorite drawing method!
Sign up for Carrie’s free weekly newsletter and be among the first to know when she publishes new articles.