Painting over the underpainting

Joanie asks:

I have yet another question if you don’t mind since you have been so kind to answer all my others! I understand the importance of an underpainting since it establishes all the values before you add the color but when you are painting over your underpainting how do you keep all the colors from not mixing into each other and creating mud? Thanks!!!

John answers:

Ah, that’s the tricky part!  If you’re using gouache, you need to exercise a great deal of restraint while laying down those colors—once your brush makes the stroke, STOP!  Don’t give in to the temptation to blend and scrub and fuss.  Gouache is a straightforward medium.  There’s a point at which, once crossed, the painting looks overworked.

But that’s my technique.  If you want to have the option to really work the paint without disturbing the underpainting, you might try spraying workable fixative on the underpainting once it’s dry, before you apply the top colors.

More on underpainting here.

Should I major in art or in business?

Ashley writes:

I need some college Major advice I want to be a freelance illustrator, and I’m going into college this Fall. I was talking to a friend of mine about another mutual friend who graduated college with an Art Degree, and had a 4.0, but had no work because she didn’t know how to market. You had told me earlier that marketing and business classes were really important. Do you think it’d be more helpful for me to major in either of those and minor in Art or just take some art classes or major in Art? Any advice you have on the subject would be appreciated Thanks!

John replies:

I think you should major in art (illustration and design) if that’s going to be your career, but definitely take whatever business/marketing courses your college offers.

Hardly any recent grad knows how to market; not getting work right away is normal, especially in this economy.  I recommend you get a staff job as a designer when you graduate and build your illustration business after hours.

Getting a design job won’t be easy, either.  The idea is to have a regular paycheck while you launch your illustration career.

I feel compelled to add: if there’s something besides illustration—another career that makes you happy—by all means pursue that instead.  Trying to make money from illustration is a heartbreaking business, especially with college loans to pay back.