Let me show you my best painting secret!
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Do you find it difficult to use thick paint? Does the thought of textured brush marks make you nervous? This article and video lesson is all about using thick paint without fear. It is about breaking away from flat, blended painting surfaces. Painting in a generous, impressionistic manner.
Use Paint Like the French Use Butter!
I like to imagine a French chef's reaction if he is told to use less butter. I'm sure there will be some choice words and much arm waving as that idea is rejected. Rightly so in my opinion.
I feel the same way about painting. Especially when using oil paints. The sensuous thick paint strokes make a painting more interesting. An occasion. When I look at a painting I want two things to work well. The illusion of the scene when viewed at a distance and the brush marks and paint to be visible up close.
Never Skimp on Paint
My favorite contemporary artist Kevin Macpherson said it best when he wrote that we should use paint by the pound. I love that idea. Yes my paintings may lack for composition or some other quality, but at least I try not be called stingy with my paint. Like the French who insist that good cooking demands rich ingredients we artists need to be bold with paint and brushstrokes.
Squeeze out a lot of paint onto your palette. Most artists in my workshops start off squeezing out little bits of paint. They run out within minutes and must keep adding paint. This leads to poor mixes, frustration, muddy color and skinny paintings. Instead squeeze out a good dollop of color. Then you can focus on painting and not topping up all the time.
Brushwork is Important
The brushstroke is an essential part of this idea. Hold the brush horizontal to the canvas, for example, and lay the paint down in a sideways motion. A stroking movement. There should be a textured color note with each stroke. Resist going back over that stroke to avoid flattening it. Use this approach with some variation where necessary, but trying not to lose the effect. A distinct mark of color.
Wet Over Wet
Have no fear working wet over wet. Yes when you layer on some paint over a wet under-layer you will pick up the color below. The problems happen if you then carry on painting without wiping off the brush. So the procedure is to:
This procedure becomes second nature. It makes messy paint unlikely. Try it out in a methodical manner until you feel comfortable with it.
More Paint Makes Better Paintings
Many a time I have finished a painting dissatisfied with the result. Then I return the following day with renewed energy. Get some thick paint on the the canvas and with a fresh eye I was able to appreciate the music of color notes and texture of the oil paint. It is something that seldom disappoints.
The task then is to break out of the comfort zone of skinny painting. Use layers over your initial block in stage to build up confidence. More paint over existing layers will make your paintings look sumptuous. Nature after all is never flat. Why should our paintings be flat?
Take a look at the video below which looks at the idea of adding layers. Do not simply stop when you have one layer of color. This is like coloring in between the lines and will leave your painting looking half-finished. Instead build up layers of increasingly thicker paint. Especially in the light, sunlit ares and focal area of the painting. Have fun with this.
If you feel it is turning into a mess rather leave it until the next day. Do not scrape it all off right away. More likely the next day, when you are feeling calmer, the painting will start to look much better. Trust in yourself and give the painting a chance.
You can also find out more about this in my course How to Loosen Up Your Painting.
Loosen Up Your Painting: The Course
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