Friday, August 21, 2009

The Art of Scumbling... Techniques in Acrylic Painting

(painting showing scumbling - a turquoise background with off-white scumbling for the sky and layers of green & for the hills)

I am proud to say that I was trained by a select group of talented NW modern artists teaching at the University of Washington in the early '90s, lead by none other than the late, very talented, Eugene Pizzuto (see his works HERE.) I love his work, and can only hope to create such creatively bold and interesting art as I continue to learn and progress in my painting.

Amazingly enough, while these artists were often pushing us to explore the canvas and materials to create our paintings using techniques both new and old - we rarely if ever caught a glimpse of their work (I only discovered how much I enjoyed Pizzuto's work much later). As a whole they wanted us to create our own art and become our own artists. When I think back to this practice of theirs, I appreciate it so much more now. They taught me how to create a painting without me seeing them paint. I find that extraordinary.

That all being said, I also wanted to highlight that while these artists applied many different more modern methods to their painting, they also were highly skilled and educated in the fundamentals of classical painting techniques - one of my favorites of which I am sharing today, with hopefully many more to come over the next few months.

The Art of Scumbling: an oil painting color mixing technique applied to Acrylics

While it's roots are found in the more classical oil painting methods of Rembrandt, Da Vinci, and many others... it lived on in the French Impressionists (e.g. Monet) and more modern artists such as Klee, and many others. It is often glossed over as another form of glazing technique, but I find it to have a wonderful tactile lushness to it that you won't find in the thin glazes. Also, it is a technique easier to use with Acrylics since they dry so much faster than oil paints.

The basics: Once you have a base color (turquoise was used in the sample painting) that is dry (or dry enough not to mix with a light touch - which is very easy and fast with Acrylics), you load up a dry brush with thick paint (straight from the tube, not thinned). Depending on how much of the background you want to show through your brushstrokes, you gently sweep your brush across the area you are scumbling. Sweeping more or less depending on how much of the base color you want to show through. The more textured your surface is when you start, the easier it will be to to create this color mixing effect as your dry brush catches the high points with paint. What is left are hints of your first color showing through your newly applied color. Great for sunny highlights in your portrait or still life as well as creating hazy depth to your landscape painting, this simple technique can raise the complexity of even the simplest piece (landscape above) giving it a more interesting life.


Blenda said...

This technique adds so much interest and depth to the look of a painting. Thanks for sharing.
Amazing that you can pack your whole show booth into the Prius! Great video too.

Lindy Gruger Hanson said...

Wow, thanks for sharing. I have painted with this technique to add some depth and it's nice to have a name for it now....I didn't know it was called that.

Jennifer Lommers said...

I have a great book that I use for reference for various art techniques. I had the 1st Edition back in college, and I just bought the 2006 Edition from Powell's last weekend.

"The Artist's Handbook" by Ray Smith

I would highly recommend it. I'm sure there are many others out there too, but I have a soft spot for the one that helped me when I was just starting out!

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