Oil Brushwork

“Henry’s Purple Patch”
Oil on canvas panel, 8 x 10 inches
I am not sure this painting shows it off well . . .or that any of the others do either. The reason I am not sure, is that brushwork is actually ignored, infavor of no brushstrokes being evident, in watercolor. I am a watercolor painter learning painting. Yep~! Us artists are ALWAYS learning. Always on the lookout for another way to say what needs saying . . .(or to avoid it).
As an element of design, texture is right up there with Line, Shape, Value and Color. It is clearly visible and adds a sense of tactileness to a painting. In watercolor, one must work to obtain texture. It some cases, texture is almost an after thought. Not so with oil. No siree!! With oil, you get texture with every brush stroke! It is when texture is not wanted that a conscious effort must be made to eliminate it. Just the opposite from watercolor.
I have been scolded and complimented on “brushwork.” And it is the least able to be articulated verbally or in print in order to teach how to do it ‘well.’ It is perceived as good, or it isn’t. At least, that is my take on it. Swirls, swishes, schmushes, schlobs and plops all count in the brushwork world. Its when to and when not to that makes the difference (I think). Brushwork expresses texture and edges throughout the painting.
I suppose one must have a sense for aerial perspective to know when and when not to emphasize it . . . .is that correct? Anyone have any ideas about brushwork? Sometimes, I think I am coming to terms with it and it becomes automatic. Other times I catch myself wondering.
Painting these meadow paintings is giving me lots of practice and plenty of room to try stuff. I am learning that holding that long brush by the last end of the handle makes better brushwork. I am also beginning to consciously make an effort to make it all different . . .lots of variation. I know there are some who would argue that, but I sure am not informed about it.
So, here’s your chance, oil painters. Tell me bout it, if you can. I can’t say I am mystified, but I am not far from it.

5 thoughts on “Oil Brushwork”

  1. I think the schlobs and plops go in the front and the schmushes and schmears go in the back as the painting receeds! Actually, what do i know? I think there are probably no rules, just expressions through paint of who you are and what you want to say and how you want to say it. Looks like your paint is "talking" mighty fine these days.

  2. First off, Myrna's comment made me chuckle…and I agree with what she's saying. Painting is a means of expressing, and how we get the media onto the canvas is a part of that expression. I haven't used oils in years, but I know that I used to try to hide my brushwork in my acrylics. And then last year I discovered painting with a palette knife which completely changed that for me. I've noticed that more people seem to respond strongly to my textured pieces than to my smooth ones. I wonder if subconsciously they can "feel" the strokes thru the texture evoking an emotional response. But, as Myrna says, "what do I know?"…

  3. As an oil painter who moved to acrylics when babies arrived then finally discovered that her passion is watercolours, I feel the question deep within my hands!

    It all depends, she says with conviction, on your mood! There are days and subjects that DEMAND bold brushstrokes, and there are days when less is more…

    For me, looking back, one of my most successful oil works (ouch, nearly 20 years ago) was one which combined translucent brush-stroke-less glazes with stronger palette knife work and brush strokes. The foreground rocks demanded both the strength of the knife and the supporting mystery in the glazes. Maybe you can see what I mean, but the photo is a bit small. It is the fiord – valley scene 3 down on the left. http://www.kayscott-artist.com/oils.html

    Rule of thumb when I was teaching oil was to always reach for a brush larger than you think you need…

    Myrna is right, Don is right… in fact, as long as we understand "the rules" and break them with reckless abandon, then we are all right, aren't we?

    (Some of us even think oils can be used the same way as watercolours…)

  4. Somehow I ended up on your blog…. doggone it, Mike, when did you start doing oils? There are great, by the way.

    Just thought I would tell you, I have cancer, stage 4, it's in my lungs and liver. And they think it began in my thyroid gland. This morning I noticed I was really jaundiced. But I wasn't hurting much.

    Later, Cia

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