Monday Motivator: There are No Brushmarks in Nature

Monsieur P painting

“There are no bold, gestural and expressive brushstrokes in the observable world.

“Painterly and expressive mark-making are interpretive moves used by the painter.

“As brushstrokes become more activated and expressive, they begin to assert themselves as independent elements on the paint surface that may only have a loose affiliation with the actual landscape.”

— Mitchell Albala, Four Methods of Inducing Abstraction in Landscape Painting

Brushmarks are like handwriting: we use the same tools, follow the same instructions, but the result is our own and over time becomes more distinctive. We learn what different brushes do, develop a preference for certain shapes/hairs, and change our favourites over time. A size 10, hog-hair filbert used to be mine and for years I did almost everything with this, really getting to know what I could do with it. At the moment I prefer a flat for crisp-edged marks, a long rigger for fine lines and a wild-haired brush for splattering.

Work with marks in the paint, don’t fight against them and blend them all to oblivion; they’re part of what’s unique to painting, and leave a piece of the artist’s mind during the making behind.

The work-in-progress in the photo below was all done with a flat, and as you can see it gives wide lines and narrow. Because the canvas was relatively small, 30x30cm, I didn’t swap to a larger brush to get rid of the white in the ‘background’ (read: I’m avoiding having to clean another brush). By not carefully blending each stroke in, there’s an energy to the mark making even at this early stage that makes it seem as if there’s something behind the cat and it’s lying on something, even though it’s merely colour not any defined form. Your eye makes a story out of the abstract.

Cat in Pale Colours painting
Work in progress. 30x30cm.

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