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The Indirect Method of Oil Painting involves painting multiple thin layers of paint in succession,
getting more and more detailed with each layer.  Keeping the layers thin and soft at the
beginning of the painting is important.  One must also follow the fat over lean rule of oil painting:  
i.e. The initial or bottom layers of the painting are thinned with mineral spirits and therefore have
less oil.  Medium containing oil is added in increasing amounts to the upper layers.  This assures
that the upper layers do not dry before the bottom layers, causing cracking or separation of the
layers.
Layer 1:  Undertone
This is the original photograph of the Door
County, Wisconsin,  Shoreline between
Whitefish Dunes State Park and Cavepoint
County Park.
Often, a natural scene will suggest an underlying color that is represented in the sky, land or water.  If
not, the artist can "imagine" a color that will heighten interest or emotion in a painting.  This color can
be used in the bottom layer of an indirect painting.  One can paint the entire canvas this color, which is
called "toning the canvas" or creating an undertone.  Or, one can do a single color painting of the
scene using the chosen color, which is called a monochromatic under-painting, as the example above
demonstrates.  The undertone or under-painting is painted with paint thinned with mineral spirits using
a brush or a rag, or both.  Allowing a small amount of the undertone to "show through" in the final
result helps to unify the entire painting.
"The Look (Cat)"   Oil on Canvas