Trying Thicker Paint Applications

If you listen closely, good watercolorists will talk about beginners never using enough paint.  Insufficient paint is the cause of the pale images produced by beginning watercolorists.  This is true and I’ve been guilty of this sin.  Why do we do it?  Because we’re timid.  Pale washes are easier to control because they have a lesser impact on our sketch/painting.

A similar phenomenon exists in oil painting, but for different reasons.  If you were a 16th Century painter, it’s likely that you’ll be applying very thin coats of paint, generating very detailed paintings.  You might even be adding many layers of very thin glazes over the base paintwork.

At some point, however, some artists started using more paint.  The impressionists started working with “broken color” and the placement of thick spots of color became the order of the day and the notion of “brushwork” became a more prominent portion of the artist’s “signature.”

Fast-forward to today and we have both of those forms of painting, or maybe its best portrayed it as a continuum of thin and thick ways of applying oil paint.  For someone like me, who is trying to figure out how to use oil paints, I have found this confusing as I watch some artists use large brushes and apply thick layers of paint with a flourish while others use thin layers of paint and, typically, smaller brushes.

So, with this sort of variability, it leaves a “let’s try it” kind of guy like myself with a need to try both approaches to see what approach bests suits the kind of painting I want to do.  This last thing is important as I’m not interested in heavy impasto painting where identifying the subject is obfuscated by the brushwork.  Instead, I am trying different paint thicknesses within a narrow range in an attempt to paint fruit (or flowers).  I’m still a detail-oriented kind of guy, much to the chagrin of the painterly types who tell me to “loosen up” (grin).

Here’s an attempt at using thicker paint.  I find this approach fun but it’s so easy to muddy up the shadows while trying to turn the form.  This is a good example of this problem.  But it is a pumpkin; it’s just a slightly out of focus pumpkin.  I’m having fun with oils and learning a lot.  I feel it will improve my watercolors in the long term.

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