Painting using Complimentary Colours as an Undercoat

I just spend a fabulous week painting on Brier Island, Nova Scotia where the Bay of Fundy meets the Atlantic Ocean. I went there with other artists and you can read more about it here.

I want to show you another way of working with acrylic and watercolour sticks.

Brier Island painting by Flora Doehler, 2012
On Brier Island, looking towards Meteghan.

During the trip I noticed one of the other artists creating beautiful little watercolors with her watercolor sticks.  Another artist was using a underpainting in a complementary color to the main color  of her painting.   I  have used both of those methods/materials but it got me thinking;  what if I used my watercolor sticks as the underpainting and chose colors that would be complimentary to the local paint color? In other words, what if I used a red crayon underneath where I would be painting a green tree and allowed some of that red to show through?


Brier Island
Summer on Brier Island, by Flora Doehler, c. 2012.


Brier Island
Pond Cove
Brier Island Afternoon
Brier Island Afternoon (sold)
Westport on Brier Island. Ink drawing by Flora Doehler, 2012.

I had some Derwent  watercolor artbars. I love their triangular shape because it’s possible to mark the canvas with broad strokes.

Drawing on canvas with watercolour sticks.

I drew my back ground using the complementary colors. This was a good exercise in reading the landscape as a series of shapes — although I must admit I deviated from the plan a little when it came time to painting.

Fixing the watercolour crayon by brushing matt medium over the canvas.

In order to ‘fix’ my drawing and to prevent it from dissolving into the paints, I brushed matte medium over the watercolor crayon and something very exciting happened. The medium dissolved and activated the crayon drawing making it blurry but also making the color of it spread into intense colour.

The intensity of the colour was brought out by the matt medium.

After the medium dried, I added more medium to the surface and then painted using my fluid acrylics. This is so that I can scratch into it and reveal the crayon colour underneath.

Briar Island painting by Flora Doehler. 16″ x 16″

I’m looking forward to developing new work using this method. And it just goes to show you the benefit from working with other artists and from having a good chunk of uninterrupted painting time.