Thursday, July 8, 2010

Licking

Tonight I want to teach you a Victorian painters phrase," licking", which is a habit that beginning painters need to break. I see students licking their paintings frequently and I always call them on it. It is one of the mortal enemies of brushwork. Here's what it is.

Licking is the opposite of putting a brushstroke on the canvas and leaving it alone. Instead the painter repeatedly smooths out and worries the brushstroke after it is made. Its a bad habit and if you have it you need to break it. The more you fool with a brushstroke, the more it becomes degraded. Crisp clean strokes are had by hitting the stroke once and moving on. Try not to touch a stroke after you make it. You cannot "worry" a passage into being. You need to place your stroke and pull the brush away, and move on to the next one.

Licking is a form of indecision, and it is simply a habit, and a common one in new painters. The cure is to "execute" your brushstrokes. Try to learn to be precise and remember that an imperfect brushstroke is still usually better than one that has been gone over twice.

I think over the next few days I will talk about ways to improve your brushwork. See you all tomorrow.

20 comments:

Karla said...

Yea! Can't wait. I have been needing instruction on brushstrokes. Is there only one right way to apply paint? So how do you blend values if you don't "lick" your painting? Thanks again for this great blog!!

Philip Koch said...

Karla asks a good question. I think the problem Stape is talking about happens when someone blends all ones strokes together ALL the time. It can totally deaden a painting.In general, beginning painters "lick" their paint WAY too much.

In some passages one does need to do some blending, to be sure. In fact one of the coolest things in painting in my book is the contrast set up between unblended and blended areas of paint.

A good thing to do is go to a museum and look closely at oils one really likes- go up close and study the paint handling. Usually there's quite a bit of roughness from the artist putting the paint down once and leaving it looking fresh.

mariandioguardi.com said...

I want to see paint and paint handling, brush work etc, in paintings..as I say; that's why they call it painting!.

PS: Karla, you can mix any value and apply it where it's needed to join light and dark areas. Or you can do as Philip suggest, blending some areas and leaving others set up. There is no one way..ask Stapleton's poor cat!

nancy elstad said...

Yup, that was me just now, licking. I guess I was waiting for the color to turn from what it was to what I wanted it to be! Thanks.

willek said...

Did I see somewhere that Sargent apologised for blending in a transition area instead of mixing the proper value and color and laying it in. He, evidently, considered it bad practice to blend. I am far from that high standard.

barbara b. land of boz said...

So I guess that means I have to bite the sucker to get to the bubble gum. Are there times when a
dry brush stroke could be like licking?

Hey, I am alive and well in our floods. Are you a crispy cookie in
all your heat. Take care now....

Judy P. said...

Perfect timing for this- I am consciously avoiding licking at this moment; but it's hard, and it's due, as Stape says, to indecision, and also I find I'm doing it to correct wrong values most of the time. One problem begets another.

billspaintingmn said...

You only have one chance to make a first impression, make it the best you can, huh?!

Durinda Cheek, Director said...

OK! So glad to know "it" had a name. One of the bad habits I started with as well, transforming from a watercolor painter to oil painter. So, I am justified in telling my students to "Stop! Put down the brush and no one will get hurt." Now, if someone would just tell me once in a while...

Dot Courson said...

Yes! The really good "unlicked" paintings are the ones I love to view up close...studying the accurate color and value in a stroke of paint lying raw upon the canvas. It's a completely different dimension of enjoyment.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Karla:
Some artists blend, some do not, but worrying the stroke itself is different than softening it edges or needlessly manipulating it out of indecision.
.......Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Philip;
I think that blending has its palce, but the best brushwork is that which is the least fooled with. Excessive blending gives a "slick" look, in the undesirable sense of the word.Many of the French painters of the 19th century blended their paintings into a slickness that was cloying.
..................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Marian:
Leave my poor cat out of this.
...........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

nancy;
I have ruined a zillion passages by fooling with them when I should have painted them right in the first place and then left them alone.
..............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Willek:
Sargent softened edges with his brush but kept his strokes "clean" and pretty much unblended.
..................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

barbara;
Bite that sucker!It is very hot here. I didn't know you had floods.
..................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Judy;
Better to pull the note out with your knife and lay it again, or lay a new stroke into it.
...........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

bill;
You have lots of chances, if you scrpe the mistaken stroke out, or add another stroke that corrects it.
...........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Durinda;
It has a name as unpleasant as it deserves.
...............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Dot;
Most off the painters whose brushwork I love left their strokes clear and faceted, perhaps the soften the edges of their strokes but that was all, they never "worried" them.
..............Stape