Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Every brushstroke 5

  • The brushstroke may obscure the form. Think of this as a basket weave pattern, or a flurry of small strokes. There are times when an artist wants to describe form and there are times to obscure it.The Monet above is painted with a "woven" brushstroke. The shimmering strokes dissolve the edges and give the whole thing a gauzy mysterious beauty. By reducing the focus and subordinating the detail Monet gets poetry, The Monet above has almost no edges at all. Had he tightened it all up , the painting would have been matter of fact.
Treatment is nearly everything. There have been great paintings made of grapes, and bad paintings made of gods.

  • The brushstroke may be a pointille dot. That is a small spot of paint placed usually as an accent, nearly round or squarish in shape, but not greatly elongated. Usually a painting is not made out of these but they are a decorative accent within a painting.
Here is Vermeers, Lacemaker, courtesy of the worlds largest online museum
Pointille is always pointed out in Vermeer, he used it extensively, but plenty of others have as well. It is because of these that some contemporary critics have suggested Vermeer used a camera obscura. That's a sort of primitive camera that captures an image for viewing but not onto film. Perhaps he did. But you can't make a Vermeer by acquiring a camera obscura. Pointille are great for accents. sparkle on water, jewelry, and eyeballs. Pointillism is the practice of making an entire picture out of pointille. Don't.

As I am writing this I realize there are still some sorts of brushstrokes to mention, for instance the slashing quill like brushstroke that Sargent sometimes employed. Here's an example of that in the foreground of his painting of Paul Helleu sketching with his wife.

Oh, and I suppose I could throw in a Seago, for its dragged dry brushstroke over a rough ground that I have pointed out before. Click on it and you should be able to see it large enough so you can see that dragged stroke. I did a number of posts on Seago that go into that in depth. I love that guy!

© The Estate of Edward Seago, courtesy of Portland Gallery

I have written extensively on handling edges and you might want to go back and read those posts. But the important thing to get from this post is the idea that you check your edges as you make your brushstrokes.Automatically. Develop the habit so you dfon't have to remember to do it.

Here is the checklist. Every time the brush touches the canvas you must think about the following things.
  • 1) Is this brushstroke in the right place?
  • 2) Is it in the light or is it in the shadow?
  • 3) Is it the right value?
  • 4) Is it the right color?
  • 5) Is it the the right chroma, that is, is it too saturated or is it too grave?
  • 6) Is the temperature of the color correct, is it too warm or is it too cool?
  • 7) Should the brushstroke be be visible or invisible?
  • 8) Should the brushstroke run along, across, or obscure the form?
  • 9) Is the edge painted correctly?
Perhaps you might print that out and tape it to your easel. Try to learn to use this checklist. It will seem like a lot at first, but it will soon become second nature. It sounds harder than it really is.

Well that's enough of that! I will start something new tomorrow.

Edward Seago painting from: Edward Seago, the vintage years by Ron Ranson, available from Amazon .


Jonathan said...

Thanks Stape for the posts on brush strokes! I enjoy reading them and applying them to my work, it is a definite check list for every artist.

Jesse said...

One thing I have trouble with is:

7)Should the brushstroke be be visible or invisible?


9)Is the edge painted correctly?

I like visible brush strokes for the most part. But having a soft edge on a nice juicy brush stroke is very tricky. If you soften the edge with a finger or another brush, ruins the boldness!

Is there a good way to get a compromise?

Y said...

Question about visible or invisible. Does this mean the stroke will be blended into the surrounding area so the edges are lost or are you talking about a underpainting stroke that will be covered up by other strokes later in the painting?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks, I guess I need to do a cleanup day. People are still asking brushstroke questions.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You should be able to soften brushstrokes some with a bristle brush without too much sacrifice. I don't soften much and that's a choice. You may choose a harder look. Be careful with that though. There have been many times when I can't seem to make a passage work and then I have softened the edges and it did.
I did a post on edges some time ago and if you go back you will see I have a post talking about minimalizing edge contrasts. You might want to go back and check that out.More tonight.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am referring to a brushstroke which is to appear in the finished picture, or at least hope to.So I am talking about a stroke that has been softened so that it is blended into those around it imperceptibly. I am generally talking about alla prima painting. However I rarely use that word, as I do not paint premier coup (one shot ) very often. I will do a post or six on less direct methodology down the road.Thanks ffor checking in.

Unknown said...

Art classes I took in the past always referred to Monet as a pointillist. I am guessing from your post that this is a misnomer?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Don't take any more art classes in the past.

Seurat was a pointillist. Perhaps,there are a few Monets you could point to and say he was a pointillist but that is not how I would characterize him. However you went to art school longer than I did......Stape

Sandra Galda said...

Again an educating, edifying and challenging post, thanks! I love to read your blog. I wonder if you could tell us occasions when these numbered types of brushstrokes should be used---when such brushstrokes are favored by you for example, to achieve a desired effect?

Sandra Galda said...

never mind about that brushstroke question of mine, I think I will just go back to some of your previous posts and read up on it!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Glad to see you have come out of the mini van. I am going to do a clean
up post tonight as I have received a lot of questions.

jeff said...

That's one of my favorite Sargent's.
The way he weaves the grasses together in contrast to broad handling of the figures is masterful.

Stapleton Kearns said...

He is using a stick to hold up his canvas. I don't see how he could paint the bottom of the canvas down there in the grass. I would be very unhappy with that setup. Notice the patient wife back there.

jeff said...

I'm sure Paul had one hell of a back ache after painting that. For some reason I think Sargent had some sway in Mrs. Helleu being in this picture.
It does create a very interesting design. She looks very bored.

I've seen photos of Sargent painting in the field with this same kind of pole contraption.

In his case he was using three of them. It seems they attached to edge of the canvas with a brass clamp and they had spikes on the end. His set up did not look very sturdy.