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I could not believe my good fortune when I found a photo of Grandpa Elliot posted to the wet canvas photo reference library for artists.  It was a must-do for me.

Several bloggers have made mention of underpaintings; the most recent being Amy from Souldipper found here. She asked me about an artist’s use of an underpainting.  I responded something like it is the foundation that we build our final work on. That made me think more on the subject as we were also talking about underpainting our lives with love and kindness.  Then I came across the photo of Grandpa Elliot who has actually underpainted his life with sharing music to millions in New Orleans and becoming part of the project, “Playing for Change”, a CD whose proceeds go to helping others.

The other connection I can make about an underpainting is that it always, for me, sets the tone for where the light will fall in it. BINGO! I see the same in life with passing on kindness. Light is passed on through our kindness to others.  The above stage of my painting illustrates how I carved out areas where I wanted the light to fall.

The above image is the finished result.

I can not think of a better way to start the weekend than this:


  1. that was a very colorful underpainting
    i remember in class we usually do it w/ one color

    haha and great comparison to lights in life 🙂

  2. Oh, Leslie!!! What a wonderful tribute! I love Grandpa Elliot and PFC and underpainting, as you’ve explained it! I am just going to have to build on this and refer people here. Life, Love, Friendships, are such gifts! What better ways to celebrate than with music and art?

    • Thank you, Kate! Life, Love and Friendship. Lovely things to make an underpainting with. Hugs to you. 🙂

  3. Oh my gosh! I gasped when I opened this up! This painting is so amazing! You really took a beautiful spirit and made it technicolored! So very fitting and wonderful! Thanks, Leslie!! Loved the video, too!

    • I thought about you when I decided to paint in that bright green, Beth! 🙂 I decided, then and there, if Beth can do it, then it must happen with this one. You pass on such fun and whimsy with what you create. Thank you for your inspiration.

  4. Your finished painting is beautiful. Thank you for sharing, Leslie…

  5. Wow! This is pretty amazing on how similar our thoughts were today, of course you have done a much better job of portraying the thoughts and painting of, but similar. Amazing job of capturing his soul and would love to hear some of his music. Beautiful Leslie!

  6. Absolutely beautiful Leslie! What a fantastic subject to paint… similar to Ryan’s today. How cool is that! I like seeing the underpainting with the areas carved out for light. It’s beautiful how you rendered all the colors in his skin and beard.

    • I know. It is fun to just discover that Ryan and I must have been on a similar wavelength at the same time. I learned this specific approach, carving the light out, in a workshop last summer. It really helps to set the tone of what I do later. Thank you for your insightful comment, Amber.

  7. Leslie, you are such a discovery. Thank you for another unique and heart-bulging experience. You have found a way to show, share and spotlight art in one multi-faceted gesture. You cut diamonds so we can see the sparks from whatever angle we stand.

    The depth of this artistic message sits outside my vocabulary. This underpainting is a demonstration of friendship that not enough of us experience in our lifetime. Thank you.

    • It was you, Amy, who really inspired my thoughts about the value of an underpainting to artists. I thank you for that and for your ability to help us see that which is truly valuable. Thank you! 🙂

  8. This is a lovely piece, Leslie, I love how you always share the journey with us – how you get to the end product. The colors are bright and wonderful as is the expression. I just got back from New Orleans – what a wonderful trip. Lots of music and fabulous food! I want to go back!

    • Did you see Grandpa Elliot?
      Thank you for this comment, Kathleen. I have never been to New Orleans but in the pages of a book, through movies and music. I have heard it is a must-see.

  9. I agree, i also find underpainting can change shape in the process.
    Sometimes the tones correct the lines. kind of like a student, the base is there and its how you mould them.
    Great music video, so soulfull

  10. You are always doing something new and different for me to learn from. I don’t know what I would do if not for you to share all your works with us as you accomplish them along with the how to with each one.
    The painting is excellent as well as a treasure!
    Thank you too for posting the video; I enjoyed it very much!

    • Thank you, Debbie. I have learned from you, also. Your values and shapes never fail to offer up a new vision and a new interpretation. What fun we have! 🙂

  11. Leslie, it is 6:20 on Sunday morning and you have started my day with sunshine and sent grace and giving. Thank you so much for sharing this! Your painting is full of spirit and gentle rhythms. I love the repeats that seem to be inspired by the song.

    • I actually thought of you and your husband when I posted the “Stand By Me” video, Linda. Bless you both in this journey as you face each day. Thank you for the visit and the comment. 🙂

  12. Love the bright and colourful underpainting – and the finished painting has real character (just like the man himself). A wonderful use of colour that shines out of this exuberant painting. Leslie – you have done it again!

    • Thank you, so much, Lynda. Oh how I wish I could have added some drips and drizzles to this one, but it wasn’t to be. Sometimes your blog offers up some visions of portraits that I wish I could attain. About the most I could pull off, this time, was the color, so thank you for noticing that. I respect your vision when you observe art! 🙂

  13. Beautiful portrait! Very interesting to see the beginnings and construction that makes the final image!

    • Thank you for this, Alex. Your portraits are so inspiring that it is a joy to attempt one and try to include a little of what you do. Your comment means a great deal to me. Welcome back!

  14. WOW! A beautiful lesson on painting and life. I accidentally discovered Grandpa Elliot and Playing for Change while browsing through YouTube, and didn’t tire listening to Stand by Me for hours. Love what you did with the beard, love the whole painting. 🙂

    This post is making me think what am I underpainting my life with, if any.

    • I did the same thing, Earthianne. I saw a TV program featuring “Playing for Change” and came right to the computer for more!….then out to purchase the CD. That CD has played, many times over, while I paint.

      Oh! you are underpainting your life, beautifully, from what I’ve read on your blog!!!! A true foundation for positive living! 🙂
      Thank you!

  15. Nicely said Leslie. Another wonderful portrait and beautiful colour work. I particularly like the beard and dungarees. You’ve mastered your craft so finely that everything you produce is exceptional. I’d love to watch you paint. How about a video one day? 🙂

    • You cause me to chuckle about the beard and dungarees, Keith. The beard was hard and I think a bit too edgey as yet. The dungarees were fun.
      I don’t even have a video cam. Older digital camera. Then there is not knowing how to make a video. Maybe someday. Each painting takes me days to create as I have limited amounts of time (mostly two hours each night). I’d definitely have to edit a lot. Hopefully, someday. For sure, I’d do that if I knew how. Thank you, Keith!

  16. Leslie, this is altogether beautiful, the way you pulled together painting with other arts and with our ideals. Perfectly lovely.

    Permission to repost with all credits and links as appropriate. Please? Let me know. I’ll be back online later today.

    Blessings –

    • Why thank you, Jamie! No greater compliment payed to one’s work than the sharing of it by others. Of course you may post all credits and links. I think you do a fabulous job of networking.

      • Doing it right now. Happy Sunday … You know I meant posting the entire piece ALONG WITH credits and links. Hope that’s okay!!?? If not, I’ll take it down.

      • I think that there are a lot of people who are facing an incredible time right now. This song has always represented a reminder for us all to pull together and “stand by” one another. I think your blog is beautiful and you may share, of mine, what you wish, at anytime, Jamie. I thank you for asking. This post originated from Amy’s gifts, the gift of a photographer on wet canvas and You Tube sharing. Pass it on! 🙂

  17. Thanks, Leslie. I’m a big, big fan of Amy’s, you know. She inspires as do you. Appreciate your kindness.

    You are here:

    I made you a blog signature. If you like it you can just drag it into your iPhoto or whatever you use.

    Agree about the song. Happy Sunday, dear Leslie! 🙂

    • The signature is lovely! Thank you for passing this message on to your readers. Do you think Amy is jumping up and down and clapping that we have understood her message? I hope she knows that she has inspired, in us, something her guides have asked her to share! 🙂 Thank you.

  18. What a beautiful tribute, Leslie!
    Sooooo nicely done, enjoyed it 🙂

    Take care

  19. Great painting, Leslie. Not only that, but you’ve posted one of my favourite videos of one of my favourite songs!

    • Yes…how could anyone from our era not like that song? No matter who sings it, it always captures my interest. Thank you, Val! 🙂

  20. Leslie, a beautiful post. I like what you wrote about the under-painting of our lives and comparing it to the under-painting of a watercolor.

    Thank you again for showing your process. It was good for me to see how you put down your base and let the areas where you wanted to keep the light shining through.

    And thanks for the link. I love that song.

    • You know, I have known this about underpainting but never made the connection with the rest of our lives. It is pretty cool to relate what we enjoy doing to the bigger picture. Makes me enjoy the time spent painting even more.
      I am beginning to carve out the light more and more, especially on portraits and buildings. I have not quite figured it out, totally, in relationship to a landscape but keep trying as I know it can be done.
      Thanks, Carol!!

  21. Thanks for the revisit.
    Are the portraits originals or reproductions?

    • You are welcome for the re-visit.
      The above is two stages of the same painting, Sam. The first is kind of like a writer’s rough draft, perhaps? I used a photo from a copyright-free photo on an artist’s reference site to work from. …but, yes, it is my hand drawn and painted interpretation of Grandpa Elliot so it is original in that.
      My portraits from no reference material look more like this:

      Thank you, Sam!

  22. The finished result looks amazing, and it’s great to see yet another step in your painting technique… That’s where I struggle as I have never really had enough patience to “build” a painting… I really need to put some of your methods in to practice…

    • It took me time to have the patience to develop a painting in this way. I struggled with just getting the image on the paper for a year without the watercolor frustrating me. I think you do an amazing job. Your work will tell you when it is time to try some of these things, Brian. Thank you! 🙂

  23. I keep thinking of my good fortune that I have to be able to visit artists/writers like you and learn so much about Humanity and love Leslie.. Amazing painting, amazing message.. Your words are as brilliant as your sketches..

    • You are so kind, Rachana. You have actually perked me up this morning with your comment! I thank you for that, as I struggle with the writing portion of this blog, ALL THE TIME! 🙂 I am in continual admiration of all of you who write, painting pictures with your words.

  24. I studied both for a long is as if someone is holding a light up there on his face! Simply gorgeous! I wish I could watch you paint.. may be a video one of these days?

    • I would surely do that if I had the technicl skills and video cam, Padmaja. I learned this “carving out the light” in a workshop by Don Andrews last summer. It makes all the difference when i can get it. I do have a post here: that shows each step, if that helps at all. The initial phases of the painting require that I work rather quickly to get the light washes around the white area that will be lighter. Then I work into that area more and more as the painting progresses. Hope that helps. Thank you so much for your kind comments! 🙂

  25. Ha! I’m dancing to the music! Thank you! Diane

  26. Love his beard and soft old hat in the finished painting. Want to touch them both!

    • That old hat is a hoot, isn’t it? The beard was actually the most difficult part of the painting for me, getting it to read right. Thank you for the visit and the comment, sister dear! 🙂

  27. You have done such a great job on this !! The colors are fabulous, and it is so true to life….I am in awe…

    • So much of the time, I get inspired by an awesome face in the crowd and Grandpa Elliot was a true find for me. Thank you for this comment, Isabelle!

  28. Amazing portrait. Looks so calm and wth the sense of timeless.I love the colors, they are great.

    • I agree with you. Grandpa Elliot appears timeless. Thank you for the comment about the colors.

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