Home » Famous Painting Study #3: Diebenkorn’s Abstract Cityscape

Famous Painting Study #3: Diebenkorn’s Abstract Cityscape

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Step 2: Blocking In And Underpainting


When you’re satisfied with your initial sketch, you can start blocking in the larger shapes. In general, paint from light to dark, and from large to small. So with Naples Yellow and a no. 12 rigger brush, paint the yellow and light green areas. This is called “underpainting”, and will add more depth to your colors once you layer more colors on top.

Use Cerulean Blue for the sky, then for some of the buildings, roads, and streets. Switch to Cobalt Green, and block in any teal green areas to give the painting an iridescent quality. Then, use diluted Cobalt Blue to add to the “white” roads in the distance for the illusion of atmospheric perspective. Keep checking your reference photo to see where each color is needed where! Also, adjust the saturation of your paint as needed to get the right values in your painting.

Paint with the “wet-on-dry” technique (i.e. wet paint on a dry surface) to get the hard edges you need, and try not to let the colors bleed. But it’s fine if you make any mistakes here, as you’re only working on the first layer.

Mix Leaf Green and Cobalt Blue for the top left corner and in any green/blue areas, then mix Cadmium Lemon Yellow and Leaf Green for brighter spots. You can even start dropping in other colors “wet-in-wet” to create softer blends.