The Ébauche is an underpainting with dulled colors
“Ébauche” is a french word meaning draft or first pass, and it refers to a specific type of underpainting. Rather than using black and white, as is the case with a grisaille underpainting, an ébauche uses color. However, it’s not the full, saturated color of the final painting. Instead, it tends to be desaturated – done with duller, less intense mixtures.
This allows me to focus on large shapes and model forms in 3 dimensions without considering details, or indeed being too focused on the correct final colors. Ironically, it also allows for colors in the final painting that seem more intense. Fully saturated color painted over fully saturated color can actually appear dull and lifeless, whereas fully saturated color painted over a duller version of the same color can appear much more vivid. The video above discusses the approach.
When glazing (apply very thin and transparent paint over the underpainting) over an ébauche, deep rich colors can appear which are never seen with solid and direct painting. This can be especially effective in shadow areas, where the glazes give a great sense of depth and beautiful subtlety.
After this is dry to the touch, I can begin applying the final layer of color and detail.