Monday Motivator: Relying on Colour & Brushwork

Art motivational quote“When [Monet] reduced his compositions to horizontal bands or combinations of simple shapes, he relied on colour and brushwork to bring the painting to life.

“…every area of the painting is enlivened in some way… a sense of space and recession is created entirely by nuances of colour and inflections of the brush.

“…thick strokes of paint which were allowed to dry before surface colours where added

“…skip strokes, where a loaded brush is drawn very lightly across the canvas so that it skips, depositing paint where it touches, allowing the colours below to show clearly through these superimposed accents, and thus creating an active interplay between the success paint layers”

(Source: Monet: Nature into Art by John House, page 87/92)

The way we apply colour, which colours we use and how many are in a particular painting, all form part of our individual painting style. I was talking to an artist over the weekend who’d been working with some new colours, getting to know which had the degree of opacity she was wanting and which were too translucent. Adding titanium white came up; being so strongly opaque it can shift a transparent colour into translucent, but with the problem that it also lightens a colour.

Might this be counteracted by subsequently glazing over with the transluscent colour to enrich it? But that would add another round to the creation of the painting. More work and more time, as well as a delay in getting where you want to be. Ultimately the answer lies in trying each, in painting up a colour chart, in getting first-hand knowledge of the properties of individual pigments.

If you’re feeling jaded [colour pun intended], have a rethink about the colours on your palette. Do you use mainly transparent or opaque? Are there any you’re no longer using? When last did you try a new one? Do you layer it or physically mix? Are you using too many? In some of my seascapes I’ve used only titanium white, Prussian blue, and raw umber over a cadmium orange ground, though generally there are a few more colours involved, especially when it comes to mixing interesting darks.

3 Replies to “Monday Motivator: Relying on Colour & Brushwork”

  1. Thank you. As usual very thought provoking. It’s as if you can hear what I am pondering……………….

  2. This article caught my interest; I get caught (like trapped) in my thought process; I’m standing at my easel -this past week it was the Griffin Observatory in Los Angeles- and I said to myself – I will layer the colors on – I want to see my brush strokes build the planes – and then I don’t do it – when I begin I plan the placement and object of interest; usually, I mix sap green and Quin. Magenta to get an interesting brown dark for the placement; I get it laid out; begin painting and then I am mixing – I don’t want to mix yet I feel I must – to get the sky seem like a sky; to get the tree crowns seem like fluff and air and leaves – basically I continue to make colored drawings. Later, once again, I’ll regret what I have done. Next time I’ll put to work the Monet technique of using a loaded brush and dragging it across the canvas allowing it to skip as I lightly drag it; that may be what I need to stay focused on the process of making a painting. I’ll do that first just in case I don’t do it well enough – I can wipe it off and try again. Thanks for the technique.

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