Friday, July 9, 2010

Laying tile

Here is a way to avoid licking, or "worrying your strokes until they are lifeless. Pretend you are laying tile. Make the tile on your palette and than set it in place on your canvas. When you lay tile you don't shove them around in the bed of mortar. You lay a tile in the right place and leave it alone.

So mix the note, set it in place,

If it is right, no licking or fooling with it is needed. If it is wrong, no amount of fooling with it will fix it. If the stroke is wrong, do one of two things, pull it out with the palette knife, or in practice if it is not too thick, you hit it again with a new stroke that is;
  • The right note and obscures the old one
  • Adds the missing element to correct the original stroke.
For example you might have the stroke the wrong shape, if you can, add a new stroke that brings it to the right shape that works. If you cut back in with the background and make it the right shape, that works too. But what you don't want to do is try to shove the paint around on your canvas until it is right. The more times you touch a stroke, the weaker it becomes.There is a beauty in the look of a painting that has been fearlessly executed. This is particularly important if you are painting a loose, premier coup painting.

Richard Schmid famously said " loose is how a painting looks and not how it was made".


Caroline Peña Bray said...

These are great posts Stapleton, thanks so much for the guidance. I'm a hardcore licker and it bugs me everyday! I'm working on a looser piece at the moment so I'll be bearing these tips in mind as I go.

And I love the concept of fearless on!

Caroline Peña Bray said...

These are great posts Stapleton, thanks so much for the guidance. I'm a hardcore licker and it bugs me everyday! I'm working on a looser piece at the moment so I'll be bearing these tips in mind as I go.

And I love the concept of fearless on!

willek said...

Very helpful explaination, Stape. Thanks.

Philip Koch said...

Good post!

Also, saw your spiffy looking ad in the new August American Art Review that arrived yesterday. said...

Did I hear a MEOW!

"Many of the French painters of the 19th century blended their paintings into a slickness that was cloying."-Stapleton Kearns

That nicely sums up how I feel, even today. A painting that is executed with thin, smooth, blended paint just doesn't hold my interest. But then look at a Valasquez painting! Beautiful brush work, "tiling" without sacrificing a realistic representation.

Schmidt also says something about NOT settling for "good enough". He recommends working until it is right.

Our culture is so product oriented that we can loose sight of the value of the process in trying to protect that "precious painting". Overworking and leaving things "good enough" is a kiss of death.

Be willing to put up a fight for what you know is right!

R Yvonne Colclasure said...

Thank you, Stape. I am a notorious licker. Years of watching certain PBS painting shows didn't help. I have been imaging the one stroke and leave it alone process. Tyleing will make it even easier to image. Your dedication to making us all better painters is much appreciated. I hope you never get tired of it.

barbara b. land of boz said...

This subject takes me back to your workshop. It's a good reminder of the type of stroke that is needed for a loose look in your work.
Thank you for you time. Now I have to get back to laying tiles......

billspaintingmn said...

Ok Stape, I'll give that a try! If my painting turns out to look like a mosaic, That too would be interesting.
I've heard about the one shot brush stroke, this is the first time it's been mentioned you can wipe it out and give it another shot.(I thought that would be cheating.I only cheat in cards and test exams, now I can cheat at painting too!)
Didn't someone say it's ok to cheat as long as you win?

nancy said...

What if, using the tile photo you need to do a long strip of yellow for instance, can you then lick the length of the strip? Do you mean to put the brush down with color and then lift it? sorry I'm confused.
and yes I understand the tile reference, but just made me wonder about long strips of color.

Judy P. said...

Yes, laying tile- I've laid tile before, horizontally and vertically! I can do this!

Dot Courson said...

This was good, Stape... I love technical talk...
Was it my notes from a David Leffel workshop where he said, "A brush stroke has a beginning, a middle AND an end"?... I think so. He paints slowly and efficiently but the end result is a complete painting in a very very short time with no blendy blendy licking- and no over-painting. Just smooth passages without showy strokes. I'm thinking that all it takes is the complete mastery of the fundamental rules of painting and an ability to see AND the technical ability to handle the paint on a brush and years of experience. Piece of cake.

Steven said...

Thanks! I lurk mostly on this blog, but the last two posts have really been informative and helpful.

Gail Sauter said...

Hi Stape,

I think Schmid was rephrasing Sargent who said something to the tune of "spontaneous is how a painting looks but it has nothing to do with how a painting is done". I'm sorry I can't provide the source for this quote... but I wholeheartedlly agree with both!!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the great posts! I can see how this concept applies when painting a figure (ex Sargent) or the value variations in a nearby tree. Does it also apply when painting the distant sea or sky when much of that area of the canvas is sometimes a gradual blending of value and/or color? I guess the question could also applies to the initial block-in?

Susan McCullough said...

Yes, Stape- I have the same question about the sky as well- I was painting outside today and got the sky too dark and had to lighten it up- I was definitely licking-but didn't know what else to do.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you. I have morew tonight.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks. I haven't seen the ad yet. The magazine hasn't arrived in New England. I hope the color is OK.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I agree. I am willing to fight, sometimes.I am also willing to run away when that seems best.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I don't have a TV what show is it you have been watching on the welfare channel?

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think I remember talking about this in the workshop.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Cheat at cards, cheat on calories, but don't cheat your paintings.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I didn't intend to say you might not "pull a stroke" only that having done so you leave it alone.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You can do this. It is just a little habit to take on. You do it for a week and it is automatic.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Leffel is awful good isn't he. He has influenced a lot of people.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks for popping out and saying hello.There are hundreds of lurkers, maybe more.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am sure you are right. I have to do the blog using my memory, mostly and I am getting senile. And leathery.

Stapleton Kearns said...

There are times when you may pull something together with a brush. but most of those passages are best with a little vibration left in them.
When I describe licking I am talking about aimless, repetitive, wanking of the brushstroke itself.

Stapleton Kearns said...

If you are doing it deliberately that is different. Still if you pill your strokes into an even constant tone like a house painter you will lose all depth. Better to keep some vibration going.

R Yvonne Colclasure said...

I was referring mostly to Bob Ross (deceased) but his television shows live on. I wanted to learn to paint and his was the only painting show available at the time. Thankfully, I started reading books by professional painters and discovered the real way to paint.