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Your Career in Art – 3 Top Notch Techniques

techniques are tools

Showy use of technique catches casual attention. Artistry requires more from you than slick virtuosity. Technical skill is only a tool...

Painting techniques can be learned. All you need is persistence. Oh, yes! You'll hear that often on your journey towards a career in Art. Every time, it'll be the truth, because you can 'get there from here' but only if you take each step along the way. Lucky for all of us, great artists have been there and left us a map.

The painter's tools depend on science, so anyone with an interest can learn to use them. Science gives us reliable rules to follow – that's the easy part.

  • The chemistry of colour-mixing is little different from the chemistry of cooking.
  • The geometry of perspective drawing is the same as an architect's plan-drawing.
  • The physics of colour values, of light itself, is how astronomers do star-mapping.

Believable rendering of textures like hair, skin, the moisture of an eye, needs techniques that come only with the basic know-how and - you guessed it – lots of practice. Two things keep hope alive, if you remember them.

Technique can be learned because it's based in science.

It's worth the effort because skill makes your Art convincing. ( Viewers respond emotionally when they sense the image holds substance, worthy of more than a fleeting glance. )

3 painting techniques are essential.

1.The under-painting.
Used often by the 'Old Masters,' the benefits of this technique include:
Laying down a quick cover of thin colour overcomes the daunting glare of bare canvas.
Allowing an easy way of establishing tonal values. ( Use a cloth to wipe off some of the wash over your drawing to indicate highlights, add more to model figures. )
Adding extra texture or 'tooth' to the canvas, enhancing your subsequent layers.
Giving an overall colour coherence to the finished painting. Over the entire surface of a painting in oils, small areas of under-painting show through the layers.
Caution: one disadvantage of under-painting is to lower luminosity. ( Light penetrates all layers and bounces back from the white primer on the canvas. This effect is of particular concern to painters of portraits and the figure.)

2.The Scumble.

Use a dry brush to pick up a contrasting colour mixture and drag it gently across an area that is dry to the touch. Hold the brush handle loosely, between your thumb and middle fingers, so the bristles 'caress' the canvas with paint. This technique is effective because the viewer's brain registers the unexpected pleasure of something an untrained eye doesn't understand.   

3.The glaze.
Modern paint-carriers – also called 'mediums' – allow easy, safe use of glazing techniques. You can achieve magical effects by brushing over some areas with thin layers of transparent pigments. It is, in fact, the result of photons bouncing from the white canvas and back to the viewer's eye. Use only transparent pigments, in proportions so thin as to seem invisible as they build to the climax. It's how Leonardo caused his 'Mona Lisa' to seem lit from within.©Dorothy Gauvin


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