Tonight I will continue with the series of posts I began last week.Every time the brush hits the canvas there is a list of things you need to know. I started the checklist several posts ago and if you want to catch up,go back and read those entitled Every Brushstroke.
The next point on the list is;
- Will the brush stroke be visible or invisible? There's the big division. I am not going to spend much time talking about invisible brushwork, it really is a lack of brushwork. I can't show you a picture of it because it is invisible after all. For most of you studio guys invisible is the norm. I can hear you thinking, I don't see any brushstrokes in nature. Outside though, the game is different perhaps there are no brushstrokes, but there certainly is a sort of pixilation. All of the leaves and branches and grass and patches of dirt etc. in the natural world appear as a fabulously complex myriad of dots of different colors like a tapestry. All of those dots are changing all the time, sometimes gradually sometimes rapidly. Pixilation is not the only way to capture the look of nature, but its a good way. It is what Monet and the French impressionists discovered. However there are plenty of passages in Hudson River school painting that have the same technology. A brush stroke is a pixel. It can be a big one or a little one, a slab, like in an Edgar Payne, or a grain of rice shape, like in a Willard Metcalf . I often joke with my buddies that when I lay in a painting that I am throwing hamburger sized chunks.
When you start thinking and installing, you are making artistic decisions. That leads to style. Brushwork is an element of style.
Below is a Metcalf showing a rice like brush stroke
- A brushstroke can run with, or along the form. Often this is used to show strength, as perhaps in a leg that is intended to look powerful or tensed. Sometimes a painter will build tree trunks using vertical strokes. They tell nicely against a ground painted in horizontal strokes. Look at the vertical trees on the right side of this Hibbard.
The kerchief that Rembrandt is wearing at the top of this post above, and the planes of his face are painted with strokes that run with the form and show its planar structure. Below is a Hibbard. Look at the snow in the lower left hand quadrant of the painting. You can see Hibbard building the forms of the snow.
with his brushstroke. See him defining the surfaces of the snow as it turns towards the light, or faces upwards towards the sky. Do you remember me talking in a recent post about walls and floors? Here is an example of that logic.The next thing a brushstroke can do is run around or across (against) the form, like a ring going around or a plane laying horizontally across the surface of an object. Here's an example of that from the Hibbard.
The Rembrandt up top has brushstrokes running against rather than with the forms of the muscles of his face to the left of his nose. That Rembrandt incidentally is a great example of building form with an expressive brushstroke. it looks like it was hewn with an axe.
It is generally best to lay your strokes against the form if you can. It almost always looks better. I guess that's because it shows the breadth ofobjects, and isn't as obvious a way of doing things. So to review, when your brush hits the canvas you need to know if that stroke is going to run with, or against the form.
More of this tomorrow, and then we will take all of this up a level, and talk about passages and what they contain.
Hibbard images from: A.T. Hibbard, Artist in Two Worlds by John L. Cooley
available through the Rockport Art Association, Rockport Massachusetts .