The other day, while working on a new demo for my membership site Loosen Up Your Painting, I could not help recalling a scene from the first Shrek movie (also the best one by the way). I recall watching the movie many times with my boys. They could not get enough of that movie at the time. You probably recall the famous analogy that Shrek refers to when trying to convince Donkey that ogres are complex creatures.
Ogres have layers! Like onions. Shrek tries to explain to the none-too-bright Donkey. Yes, I thought, many good things are made up of complex layers. Just like oil paintings. (light-bulb!) Of course any painting can have layers. But I feel that no medium offers this quality better than oil paint.
The viewer also gets a sensory pleasure from the complex play of colour, shapes and textures across the painting's surface. There are also many "happy accidents" caused by colours mixing with other colours as you lay the paint on.
Of course this is a technique that needs some practice. But rest assured that the rewards far outweigh the skinny approach. This technique is also referred to as painting fat-over-lean. Due to the first paint layer being slightly thinned by various mediums such as spirits or oils. Then the thicker unthinned paint is layered over the top.
Since thin paint dries quicker than thick paint always ensure that you follow this sequence to avoid cracking of upper layers. Paintings can be built up with many layers this way. However it is best to let a thick layer settle over a few days before the next layer to avoid mixing into lower levels. A variation of brush technique must also be used to safeguard underlayers.
Drag the brush parallel to the canvas to spread the paint on. A painting knife may also help you achieve this result. If you have completed an oil painting in this way with really thick paint you will have to give the painting longer than usual to dry before varnishing. A lot depends on your paint and the weather, but it could mean weeks to months. Proceed with caution.
So here is the challenge: If you are tired of flat, tight looking paintings you need to try out the thick paint approach. Worried about working in oils? Practice in acrylics. Or even paint the first layer in acrylics and go over this with oils. But try it and keep experimenting. You have nothing to lose except lifeless paintings.
And be sure to check out Loosen Up Your Painting for everything to do with expressive painting.