Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Brazen Brushwork and Paint Parsimony

10 Brushstroke Pear Exercise--6x6 oil (collection of the artist)
One of my 2013 goals to enhance my painterly brushwork. Another is not to be such a paint miser. If you have this tendency you know how hard it is to squeeze out several inches (gulp) of fresh paint all the time. And I'm surrounded by a dozens of paint tubes so there's really no excuse.
10 Brushstroke Bluebird Figurine 6x6 oil on panel (collection artist)
The further irony is that I’ve always personally preferred oil paintings with bold expressive brushwork and “chunky” generous paint.  The good news is that there’s a very helpful exercise to that will help you with both brazen brush work and paint parsimony. It’s what’s typically called the “limited stroke” or “limited brushwork” exercise.

I painted three 6x6 inch panels with simple subjects (these aren’t the Grand Canyon but they could be) and a 10 stroke limit or par for any of you golfers out there. After just three small paintings I was already thinking about my brushwork in a very different way. What else did I learn?

  1. Remember Jaws?  Well, for this, we’re gonna need a bigger brush! And more paint. Bigger Brush. More Paint. Just keep saying it…
  2. Use the canvas (in this case I toned with a warm quin gold acrylic wash) to your advantage. Consider what canvas shapes might stay “unpainted” and work as part of your overall composition. (Master paintings like Richard Schmid, CW Mundy, etc. will often use the "raw" canvas in their overall design.\)
  3. Find the 10 most important shapes and paint those. What details can you leave out?
  4. Paint rather than draw (or outline) your shapes. Feel the form with your brush.
  5. Vary your brushwork—push, pull, twist, stab, etc. to get the most out of your brush.
For more info practicing your brushwork check out this previous DPW “limited stroke” challenge.  Popular teacher Peggi Kroll Roberts also offers a DVD demonstrating limited brushwork and I hear  this is a student favorite exercise in her workshops.  In my next post we'll chat about the power of color dominance as well as the Woodson Art Musuem  Birds in Art touring show which came to town.

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