Project 1 – Exercise 1: Getting to know your brushes


The course materials highlighted how the painting techniques developed from a traditional application of thin layers to the impressionist way of laying side by side impasto paint blots. Brushstrokes and supports became part of the composition, more expressive and more inventive.

I did some research in my sketchbook and found basically the following ways of paint application and brushstrokes:

  1. Wet-in-wet
  2. Impasto
  3. Details & Highlights

Technology was an enabler. Traditional brushes were round. With the invention of a clamp ‘ferule‘ the manufacturing of flat brushes became possible. Artists were now able to make ‘teaches‘ (blots) of thick paint application.

Blending techniques with brushes:

  1. Gradient blending: control of transition
  2. Wet-in-wet blending: randomly spaced brush blots
  3. Scumbling: a motted effect with dry on wet
  4. Optical color mixing: randomly spaced blots in different color side by side


Here some pages from my sketchbook:


A) Experimentation with brushes

For this exercise I will use round, flat, filbert, and a silicone flat brush.
I tried the following techniques in acrylic and oil paint (on different supports):

  • impasto and diluted
  • stippling
  • scumbling
  • dry brush
  • modelling in wet paint with silicone brush
  • shaping by partly rotating my brush

Ex1_Getting to know your brushes_Stefan513593_Page_2

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 1 – experiment with brushes (1)


  • On special canvas textured paper the brush strokes were less smooth, more intermittent
  • Oil color are more intense in perception
  • I like the marks that a rotating especially flat brush makes
  • Oil paint neede a sized support otherwise the oil leaks through

B) Other supports

Next I tried intentionally to use japanese paper (thin), not sized, to see its effect on paint

I tried both sides of the paper (one is smoother than the other side).  Left side with acrylic and right side with oil paint:

Ex1_Getting to know your brushes_Stefan513593_Page_1

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 1 – experiment with brushes (2)


  • Oil get as expected readily absorbed by the paper leaving rather the pigment on the surface. Here on can see how much oil really is in the paint.
  • I feel that acrylic paint marks have a stronger visual perception on the smooth side of the paper.
  • I can modulate the paint better with oil.

C) Making landscape painting from memory

I painted on A4 paper in acrylic and oil, still searching for differences and commonalities between those two vehicles. Both painting were done rather quickly without big attention to detail or accuracy. My focus was rather on the fun side of this exercise. The landscape itself is at the board of the lake of Lucerne. I had this still in my mind as I did quite some sketches some time ago from that place.


Stefan513593 - Project 1 - Exercise 1 - landscape from memory

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 1 – landscape from memory

=> I was not very happy with this pictures. Most of it done quite impasto, putting paint onto of each other. I enjoyed more the modulation of the distant mountains embedded in clouds. I believe the ones in oil are more successful in this respect.

I wanted to make another memory landscape with more experimentation of various brush strokes to differentiate better between object structure. I applied the ‘rotating’ brush strokes technique for the stones.

Stefan513593 - Project 1 - Exercise 1 - landscape form memory (2)

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 1 – landscape form memory (2)

=> This one ended in rather a technical exercise than a unform landscape painting 🙁 Quite a frustration. I just wanted to go on.



D) Painting a piece of fruit with various brush strokes techniques

The next part of the exercise was to explore more brushstroke techniques on a subject that was in front of me. So I had more to observe and to check against my brush markings and color application.

I decided to do this with three different paints.: acrylic, oil, and gouache. I worked in the past more with gouache as I liked to opaqueness, quick drying time and water solubility.

Stefan513593 - Project 1 - Exercise 1 - A fruit piece in three

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 1 – A fruit piece in three

=> I used the same set up with one apple for all three paints. For the background (wood) I decided to make more abstract pattern with a flat brush (silicone brush) and diluted paint. At times with a dry brush.
=> In acrylic I could work easily wet-in-wet and applying different color side by side and above each other.
=> In oil I could modulate easily the the color impasto and the background with the silicone brush. I applied here a more stippling brush method.
=> I gouache I could easily scrap into the drying paint – gouache dries quicker than acrylic – leaving specific markings.
=> All together the visual effects are quite different. Acrylic paint leaves a smoother surface compared to oil. I found oil paint (the one I used at least – Van Gogh paint) was thicker than the acrylic paint (Amsterdam Standard series) But this could be that the acrylic paint is of studio quality, the oil paint of artists quality. Gouache paint was more liquid. So oil paint is more suitable for impasto techniques.


Preparing paper for oil painting:

My tutor informed me about method to apply sizing with hide glue. At this time I didn’t want to waste more expensive supports thus I decided to sized regular drawing paper and found that this was quite good for the purpose. And sizing was fun as well (a bit smelly though) and easy to do (soaking glue particles in water, and solving by placing container in pre boiled water reservoir. I used the formula 5g glue / 142 g water (see Winston & Newton recipe)


  • I used this exercise to understand better the difference between paint vehicles (acrylic oil, gouache) as well as to see the impact of the support (textured, smooth)
  • I am more used to dry media and drawing techniques and using brushes and paint only felt a but awkward for me and at times quite frustrated.
  • Not considering compositional or pictorial elements at all, I was more involved to understand and manage various technical features.
  • Overall it was a fun exercise and with more practice I am sure I will feel more comfortable and at ease with paint.
  • I was happy with the use of silicone flat brush as it allowed to make different markings. Especially on the fruit piece.
  • This exercise helped me to experiment freely with paints and brushes without being concerned about making ‘serious’ pictures.
  • Oil paint has the main disadvantage of drying time. I will see how I can manage this.




Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: