Thursday, 23 February 2012

Artclass Challenge: To Paint a Landscape in a Hundred Brushstrokes

Painting with economy of brush marks forces the artist to make each count. The resultant landscape sketch will appear less fussed over and fresher.

Painting Technique Cure for Perfectionists

Learners afflicted with the compulsion to work over a painting in pursuit of perfection might be dissatisfied if all life appears squeezed out of the painting. The teacher may suggest the use of large brushes on a small art surface to complete a simple landscape study. With limited marks allowed the painting will inevitably retain expression, vibrancy, and freshness, albeit with imperfections. The exercise may feel awkward at first and some learners may still be tempted to fuss over the painting.

Art Materials for the Painting Exercise

  • Painting surface no larger than A3 in size (or around 12x15in)
  • Wide bristle brushes, sized around 8-10.
  • Essential pigments of the student’s chosen medium, which must be opaque in nature (oils, acrylics or alkyds.)
  • A photograph featuring a landscape with simple elements.
Tips for Expressionist Painting

As the painting will be completed in as few marks as possible, the method will inevitably be alla prima, which means in one go and in one layer. The challenges this presents is that the artist must think carefully before applying the first brushstroke and then to clean the brush between colour mixes. The colours might be applied with prior thought to how one relates to another regarding tone and hue. The technique would be like fitting together a one-hundred-piece jigsaw.

The first mark is usually the hardest to apply. The best thing to do is just to do it. Push forward, mix the colour and put it down. Accept the mark will never be perfect. Aim for the closest approximation of the colour desired.

Method for Economical Landscape Painting

  1. Beginning with the largest area might be easiest. The colour could be a patch of blue sky or an expanse of wheat. Use the largest brush for application.
  2. Mix the next colour, factoring the following: 1) Is the colour darker or paler than the first? 2) Is it warmer or cooler? 3) Is the colour solid or a blend? 4) What is the shape of the colour?
  3. Apply the colour onto the area concerned. Remember that accuracy and perfection is not the aim but making rough estimates.
  4. Learners may work outwards from the first brushmark, or place marks on various areas of the art surface, joining them up towards the end.
  5. If the subject matter exhibits clean or bright colours, apply these colours prior to the darks to prevent the clean colours from getting sullied.
  6. Think carefully before applying each colour, making every mark count. Don’t be tempted to smooth outlines.
  7. Try not to get waylaid with detail. Generalise the appearance of intricate objects as opposed to illustrating them in full. Employing suggestive brush marks to represent figures or animals can be achieved by blurring the vision and painting only what is visible.
Expressive Landscape Painting for Differing Abilities

Less able students may use photographic reference that has been pixilated. This can be done via photographic software that will simplify the image into sizeable squares. Painting only these squares will make the challenge a little easier.

More able students may have a go at completing a series of small sketches in less brush marks, say ninety or eighty. The images depicted may possess complex subject matter such as architecture or farm workers. The challenge is to create a convincing impression of such subject matter in just a few brushmarks. Blurring the vision is the key.

Challenging Landscape Painting Exercise

I believe every painting completed in one sitting is allocated a limited number of brushmarks before it looks muddled and overworked. To retain freshness, try completing a painting in a hundred brushstrokes. A small painting surface and large art brushes will make this possible. The painting exercise only forces the learner to make the most out of each brush mark, but also loosen up an over perfectionist-style.

Further Tips on How To in Painting

Painting in alla prima
How to paint snow
Essential oil painting materials
Glazing technique in oils for beginners

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