Thursday, January 28, 2010

Brush Strokes

I just want to mention to my classes that - at least for now - KOCE Chnl 50 has on art probrams at noon. Jerry Yarnell is on on Tues and Thurs, he is an acrylic painter but is very good teaching color mixing, composition and brush techniques so I do reccomend him to all my students not just the acrylic students. They coud switch back to pledge mode at any moment so take advantage while you can, you can learn something from every teacher good or bad.

Brush Stroke Demo

When I was taking the photos for this blog, I was thinking that I might have to separate the acrylic class to another blog because I thought that it might be confusing to the two classes but when I sat down and thought about how I was going to describe the process of these strokes, I realized that even though they are different mediums and paper vs canvas, actually, the strokes are almost identical! I would just be repeating my self. There are some differences and I will point them out when I get to them but basically there are just so many ways you can use a brush that make the use so similar and this can be a good thing if you are interested in trying a different medium, some of these techniques will even hold true for oils. It is really more about the paint than the brushes, so for now we'll all stick together.

The acrylic students will use mostly their bristle brushes and the watercolor students will be using their synthetic sable brushes, I will let the acrylic students know when they should be using their sable brushes, other than that, the techniques for using the brushes will be virtually the same.

First I want to cover "dry brush" because in acrylics it is how we blend in a dry area, in both dry brush can be use to create wonderful textures and in both, it is important to control the water in your brush if you want to get dry brush to work for you. The only difference here is the acrylic painters will be using a flat bristle brush and the watercolor students will be using either an angle brush or a flat synthetic sable brush.

The key to this is a "dry brush". After you have rinsed your brush, make sure that it is dry by squeezing the water out with a paper towel, especially around the metal part. Pick up the color paint you want and work it into your brush on your palette. Before you touch your canvas or paper, squeeze the brush hairs near the metal ferrule, you'll be surprised how much water comes out.

Since this first technique is for water, when you touch your canvas or paper, you will be dragging your brush across horizontally. When you do drag your brush, you will be barely touching the surface. It is a very light touch. If you press too hard, more paint will come off your brush and fill in the gaps you are trying to create. If you have too much water in your brush, it too will be more of a solid stroke. When you are painting water, keep your strokes horizontal unless you are painting a waterfall.

Next try the same stroke but go vertically and wiggle your brush a bit and you can create a wonderful old wood texture. Let the paint dry in between layers and use a different color to create rich, textured old wooden fence or any old wooden object.

Acrylic students this next technique can be used for blending into dry areas as well as creating texture. The stroke is called "scumbling" and that really means that it goes in all directions. Directions of your strokes can tell the viewer a lot about what you are trying to say and remember, you aren't painting the walls of your house, you are painting a picture, you need to add interest to your painting and one way is by using a variety of brush strokes. Scumbling can be use not only in dry brush but also to base in rocks or dirt to give a rough look to the under painting, or can be used to create clouds and it works in both acrylic and watercolor.

Prepare your brush as you did before to get out all the water and load your brush with color, you don't want any real chunky color, but do work enough color into your brush that you don't have to reload every 2 seconds. Again, the touch is very light, remember that the more pressure, the more paint will come out of your brush. I use the side of my brush whether it is a flat or an angle, that means I'm not using the full width of the brush, just the small side of the brush and I lightly drag or "scumble" in every direction in the area I'm trying to cover. Let and area dry before going over it again and you can create some wonderful texture.

Another way to use a dry brush is to create grassy areas. Make sure your brush is dry and loaded with paint, you will be using the flat end of your brush, place it on your canvas or paper, lightly press and flip it up. The stroke should look fairly solid at the bottom and break apart at the top. Press and flip. It is quick so don't waste time over thinking it.

Acrylic students, you may want to switch to a flat sable brush for the next few techniques, everyone else, I'm still using the same brush.

You can create palm fronds, banana leaves, feathers, ferns, and fur using dry brush. For feathers and fur is it just a series of short quick strokes that follow the direction of growth on the animal, this is very important when doing animals so have a reference photo handy. For ferns and fronds, get your brush ready, I usually start by using the flat end of my brush to create a main rib, then flip the brush down to create the look of leaves coming off the rib. For banana leaves, don't flip quite so much and leave the brush in contact with the canvas/paper a bit longer. This all takes practice.

When ever you need texture, think of dry brush an how you can use it to create that texture. The more you use your brushes in different ways, the more mental tools you will have to use.

Still using a flat or angled sable brush, we will be using a bit more water but not a lot more water. Very seldom do I ever advise the use of a lot of water unless I am using my liner brush. I will get to that next.

To create various leaves, requires you to learn to twist the brush between your fingers as you pull up. This time, lightly wipe the water out of your brush and load it with paint. On the canvas/paper place the edge of the brush to the paper and as you more it along, press and twist and you pull up. If you do it quickly you can create little leaves, if you press, drag, twist and lift, you can make long grasses or leaves like for iris. Experiment with this brush to see what it will do and what kinds of leaves you will get.

If you want to make simple flowers, learn to load the paint on one end of a flat brush or the tip of an angle brush. The brush needs to be dry enough that the paint doesn't spread across the bristles but it isn't a dry brush. Pick up paint on the tip and gently work it a bit into your brush on your palette. Place the point where you want the color, I will say to the outside for this example, the heal or end without the paint will be your pivot point, as you make your petal, wiggle your brush. You may have to rinse and reload your brush, it the color is too solid you have too much water in your brush.

Switching to a round sable for everyone, try creating leaves in a similar way as above by touch, press, twist and lift. It will be similar but it may be easier to get the leaves you want.

You can also use this brush to start trees or grasses, you brush will be a bit wetter but not dripping and if you have a shaky hand when doing the trees, so much the better.

You can double load this brush and make small buds. Not too much water but first load on green, then with just the tip, pick up some red or other flower color then on your canvas/paper, start with the tip and lightly press and lift.

The last brush I will cover here is the liner brush. This is the brush that will require a lot of water to make it work correctly for most of the things you will use it for such as trees branches, and grasses. The paint should have a very ink-like consistency when you are mixing the pigment with water. To load your brush, wiggle the whole brush in the paint then twist it as you pull up to get a point.

To paint grasses, first get your motor running making circles with your brush the size you want the grasses or reeds to be in your painting, then touch the surface on the up stroke. This takes practice so have some patience. Hold your brush near the end and the handle up so the paint will flow out of it, not down where it will stay in the brush. Once you have got the feel for grass move on to trees and bushes.

A branch is thicker at it's base so slightly press and as you drag it along, wiggle and lift. Most branches or twigs and a lot of bumps and angles so these wiggles will add to the look of your tree or bush. When I start another branch/twig I usually start back in part of the trunk or branch I want it to come out of, the take a new direction.

These little brushes are also called "riggers" because the marine painters used them to paint the rigging on ships so if you need a long thin line like a barbed wire fence, this is the brush you should use.

These are just a few of the brushes and techniques that are in your arsenal of tools when you set out to paint. It is in your best interest to know how these all work, how each brush handles the different techniques so that you can create you "masterpiece".

Next week: The wonders of white. I will be using the gull on the picture page if you want to download and print out the photo and the drawing.