Project 1 – Research Point 1: Applicaton of Paint

At the beginning of this course I already looked up some ways to apply and blend paint – the rather  ‘traditional’ way including impressionists (Schaffeld, weblog post 17 Feb 2016).

Blending techniques with brushes:

  1. Gradient blending: control of transition (eg. Tim Maguire ‘Slits 94.27‘, 1994)
  2. Wet-in-wet blending: randomly spaced brush blots (eg. Richard Diebenkorn ‘xxx‘, )
  3. Scumbling: a motted effect with dry on wet (eg. J.M.W. Turner ‘Snowstorm‘, 1842)
  4. Optical color mixing: randomly spaced blots in different color side by side (eg. Georges Seurat ‘Study for A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, 1884)

Ways for paint application and brushstrokes:

  • The impressionist brushstroke: Technology was here an enabler. Traditional brushes were round. With the invention of a clamp ‘ferule‘ the manufacturing of flat brushes became possible and with the hog hair brushes it allowed artists to make ‘taches‘ (blots) of thicker paint application.
  • Wet-in-wet: Applying pure colors from the tube, mixed on the canvas, subsequent layers were applied before the one beneath was dry.
  • Impasto: Applying thick paint with brush or palette knife and considering the surface of the paint as its own reality. Shape and texture of the paint was used to convey feelings and emotions in a rather gestural manner. I found it interesting that the term ‘painterly‘ is been used when the impasto technique is a prominant feature of a painting. In modern times artists placed a focus on the innate qualities of the medium to explore the reality or the medium in a less representative way. For me the portraits painting by Frank Auerbach are impasto paintings to an extreme as the paints is centimetres thick applied in multiple layers. Further marks as scraping away the paint and building up nearly sculptural paintings are another path. In the context of the notion ‘truth to the material‘ other materials like sand were included by e.g. Jean Dubuffet and the approach of Art Brut – see also my post on exhibition of Dubuffet (Schaffeld, weblog post, 15 May 2016).
    (from Tate: )
  • Details and Highlights: Details are applied delicately using a thin and rather dry brush stroke

(from: National Gallery of Ireland)

Another modern approach:

  • Dripping, splashing or also often called as Action Painting: Often linked to Jackson Pollock and the American Abstract Expressionism. The processes of the artists were based on splashing and strong gestural brushstrokes (exceeding those from earlier impasto technique). The scale of work became much larger and the canvas or other supports even layed on the ground to work physically around it. Instead of careful and conscious brushstrokes the paint was dripped onto the canvas. For me partly in association with the automatic painting technique to allow the unconsciousness and the element of chance to impact strongly the final result.  The term ‘action painting’ was coined by Harold Rosenberg in his groundbreaking articleThe American Action Painters published in ARTnews in December 1952.
    (from Tate: 

I found some comprehensive articles on about more or less common ways of finding new ways of handling paint and medium (Gale, 2015a,b,c). Especially the collection of approaches listed in (Gale, 2015c) of paint application are quite comprehensive.

I noticed that I already experimented intuitively with most of the mentioned approaches to apply paint (mostly in my sketchbooks or on larger paintings) :
– all varieties of brushes, knives, sponges, rollers etc.
– dripping (ink, watercolor or fluid acrylic paint)
– running (ink, watercolor)
– monoprint (decalcomania)
– transfer (acrylic paint with PE sheet)
– incorporation of found objects, particles (with acrylic media or linseed oil varnish)
– paint with my body
– spraying or paint through mesh
– print with pre-painted objects (imprints)

What I possibly could explore further are: collage and using non-conventional media.

Examples and range of effects created by artists:

[all online images accessed 14-16 Jan 2017 – Available from:]

Claude Monet (1840 – 1926):

Monet developed over the time of the impressionistic movement his own unique style and especially in his later years his paintings turned into rather abstracts works. He worked often ‘en plein air‘ even on large scale canvases, and reworked and finished those in his studio. Monet was a very perceptive artist – see his recording perceptual processes in his series ‘Haystacks, 1891 – with main interest in capturing his subjective perception of nature in his paintings. He looked mostly at the unfinished appearance of his subject through a loose and thick  handling of paint and with depiction of indistinct forms. As Cézanne he turned away from linear perspective, emphasizing the two-dimensional surface and abandoning three-dimensional modeling.

During the later years he worked more and more with abstract renderings of objects by applying broad brushstrokes and building up impasto textures – see ‘Water Lilies‘, 1916-19. A combination of flat paint blots and free brushstrokes.

Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906):

Cézanne, a Post-Impressionsist painter and with a unique way of building up forms, influences later artist of Fauve and the Cubism movement. His earlier paintings are characterised by dramatic tonal contrasts and applying thick layers of paint. Besides brushes he often used palette knives.

As Monet he was a ‘plein air‘ painter and incorporated often the themes of nature and memory in his works. Cézanne unique style is based mainly on his building up forms completely from color.

With his impasto handling of paint he applied subtle gradations of color and tone. By that one can say his approach as “constructive brushstrokes” to create forms.

Further ignoring the laws of classical perspective, he was creating distorted perspectival spaces.  See ‘Still Life with Apples and a Pot of Primrose, 1890

In his pastoral painting ‘Mont Sainte-Victoire and the Viaduct of the Arc River Valley, 1882-85 he painted the landscape “with intense volumetric patterns of geometric rhythms most pronounced in the houses.” Flat brushstrokes alongside color rendering with analogous hues.

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890):

Van Gogh went through a steep learning curve. From drawing as painting from prints, influenced by Millet and the Hague School his paintings were rather muted and dark. After his two year stay in Paris and connection with the French Impressionist artists his palette became lighter and his brushstrokes more expressive. Applying thick and impastoed layers of paint, with short and repetitive brushstrokes. Quite often his strokes are nearly circular. See ‘Wheat Field with Cypresses’, 1889

In ‘View of Auvers‘, 1890 Van Gogh embraces the two-dimensional surface, avoiding nearly any perspectival space. His use of color and gestural strokes makes the painting vivid. As often he outlines the shapes to bring them more or less forward.

Expressionist artist:

see also my research on Expressionistic landscape (Schaffeld, weblog post 24 Nov 2016)

Their paint application method is mainly characterised by impasto layering of paint in bright and often un-natural colors. At times the shapes are outlined with mostly a dark color (see Alexej JawlenskyHead in blue‘, 1912)  The artists often embraced printmaking in their painting approach, avoiding perspectival space and building up forms merely by juxtaposition of color.

Pastel painting in 20th century: 

The use of pastels for painting instead of drawing as a preparatory stage was taken forward mainly by Edgar Degas (1834 -1917). He was quite experimental in his approach with interest in other media as engraving, monotype and photography. His hatching techniques were along “breaking up surface textures with hatching, contrasting dry pastel with wet, and using gouache and watercolors to soften the contours of his figures.” ( Examples of his approach is ‘The Singer in Green‘, 1884. A juxtaposition of smooth pastel application for the skin tones and broad hatching for the background alongside saturated and muted colors makes this image quite vivid.

Degas suffered in his later years from eyesight decay and one of his later works ‘Landscape‘, 1892 depicts a landscape with no human presence. This monotype with using colored oil paints is overlaid with pastels in a scumbling technique. This work turned into a more abstract depiction of an – as Degas said – “imaginary landscape“.

A late 20th century painter is

Paul Rego (b. 1936) who works mainly with oil, acrylic and watercolor but discovered pastel. According to her working with pastels is a liberation of spontaneity.  “With pastel you don’t have the brush between you and the surface. Your hand is making the picture. It’s almost like being a sculptor. … It’s very tactile.” (Rego quoted in McEwen, p.215 – Available from Tate).

Example ‘Bride‘, 1994. For this figurative and representative painting she applied smooth pastel alongside expressive single marks, quite a linear. The works convey a gestural approach where layers of pigment are building up thick textures. There is a menacing appearance of the figure and the surrounding space by her approach.

This is way of looking at pastels I truly relate to. I enjoyed during this course greatly to work in an intimate and tactile manner onto the surface.

Jennifer Gardner is a contemporary mixed media artist who creates more or less abstract paintings. Her intuitively approach is based “a process of sketching, pastel under-painting, alcohol washes over soft pastel, watercolor and acrylic overlays, and re-application of pastel in, often, many layers.” (artist website available from:

In her pastel, watercolor work  ‘Rolling Hills IV  Gardner explores space with a combination of sutured colors, broad pastel strokes and addition of shapes observed in nature.

I do sense that the combination of pastels with other mediums is a territory that I could possibly further explore. Experimenting with water and/or oil based mediums and vehicles. Working with dry pastels and acrylic paint or watercolor could be just a staring point.

In the context of paint application I came across Kazuo Shiraga (1924 -2008) a Japanese artist who belonged to the Gutai group of avant-garde artists in Japan and who was discovered only after his death. The Gutai group (1954 – 1972) was founded in 1954 by Jiro Yoshihara as a radical post-war artist movement in Japan. The word Gutai means basically body and tools, or rather concreteness or embodiment – a physically engagement with various materials.

Shiraga painted mostly with his feet in strong gestural body movements. Examples of his works are ‘Challenge To The Mud‘, 1955 (Wikiart) where he sculptured forms with his naked body in a mud pool or ‘Work II 1958 painted abstractly with his feet. (Smith, 2013).


Overall I can see endless options to apply paint. But I feel that using different approaches just for the sake of it would lead to meaningless and deprived paintings. Important would be how one way of paint application can support my idea, concept, narrative etc.?

Looking more from a bodily and gestural approach I can see dripping, pant with body, spraying, utensils tied to a stick, impasto and scluptural elements as possible the way forward.

From a rather mark making approach to enforce texture rubbings, frottage, drawing machines, utensils tied to a stick or mono prints/ imprints could be the way to look into.

For a focus on narrrative using of newspaper clippings and other collage technique and working with textured grounds could be worth.


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