How to Make a Brushstroke - Bright Light Fine Art Painting and Drawing
How to Make a Brushstroke

How to Make a Brushstroke

Learning how to make a brushstroke doesn’t have to be difficult and you can easily adapt to my learning techniques!

Good morning and welcome to my studio. Today I am going to talk to you about the importance of brushstrokes.  They are really the lifeblood of your painting.

It’s important to know how to make them.  Similar to actually describe something with a brushstroke and really make a brushstroke. It’s also important what brushes you’re using. And it’s important too that you develop brush control. That will give you a sensitivity to the brush pressure. And that’s a big part of you learning how to paint.

First, I’ll start with the brushes that we all use.  We use Filberts and they have kind of a tapered quality to them at the end. These two particular ones that I have here are long Filberts that one too. This one is a regular Filbert. And with Filbert, you can do really any brushstroke that you’d like to do and that’s, that’s an important thing.

But how to hold the brush is a really important thing. So the tendency in painting is to want to control the paint. And so your tendency is going to be to hold it all the way down at the feral and try to control it that way. If you are doing that, then what’s happening is you’re not really painting.  You’re not learning how to make a brushstroke.

What you’re doing is you’re trying to draw.  Thus, that’s a very, very different thing than painting. And so with painting, actually what you’re trying to do is make it a whole arm movement.  There should be space between your body and your arm there. It should be nice and free and open and it should be a whole movement that the whole arm is moving as opposed to a finger movement.  Remember, it’s not a finger movement.

It is a whole arm movement. So ideally you’re painting like this. Now you can use the other hand to actually steady your brush and make brush strokes. But part of what you’re developing is a sense of how to control the paint. And that’s a very necessary part for you to develop as an artist.  You have to feel that you can put a lot of paint on there and you can control it.

You can move it, you can mix into it, you can lay paint over it. And that’s what I’ll be demonstrating this morning. So there are a lot of people touting all kinds of brushes, they’re, all kinds of brushes on the market and certainly, you can experiment and play with those things. But some of the greatest paintings in the world have been made with these, Filberts, and certainly hogs hair bristle brushes, which is what these are.

These are all bristle brushes hogs hair. Now, I know there is a real temptation to use the soft Sable brushes when you’re painting in oil. But what that will do is it will encourage you to blend the paint, to lick the paint. And all of that takes the beauty of a brushstroke out of it. Because what you’re doing is you’re making a brushstroke.  Then you’re blending it and then the whole quality and descriptiveness of that brushstroke, it’s lost.

I would really recommend you resisting that temptation to have those smooth, the soft brushes, reserve those for your watercolors. There’s also one other brush that’s an important thing to mention is to have some sort of a wide brush. This is also a bristle brush. It’s well used. The thinner you can get it, the better, as opposed to a really thick, you know, thick this direction of bristles because it just will hold too much paint.

So if you can get about an inch and a half wide, hogs hair bristle brush, and then the way you use it is for a background where you are smoothing out the background. You’re taking out brushstrokes.  You know, you can do diagonal, horizontal, vertical, you know, anything until you can get those brush strokes out. And so part of the beauty of painting I think is the variety of surfaces. And so you want to have some places where nothing is going on and some places where something is going on, which is your brush strokes. So that’s what I’m going to demonstrate for you today is making brush strokes and how you can develop your, brush control, which is an important thing. So also there is a prevalent thought about washing your brush in between each brush stroke in some sort of solvent.

And the problem as I see it with that is that what happens is that once you wash your brush with a solvent, the solvent is intended to cut the oil in the paint.  What will happen is after that, every brushstroke you make is going to have some of that solvent in it.  This means it’s going to dilute your brush stroke and it’s going to change the quality of the brush strokes that you make. You may like that, but it’s something to pay attention to because it may not be a very desirable thing. It cuts the thickness of the paint and changes the quality of the brush strokes.  I’m working on this vertical pallet, so it’s easy for you guys to see. I just have a few, colors up here. The white, a yellow ochre, a terra rossa, and an Ultramarine Blue.

I also have a medium that we use up here on top.  It is the maroger medium that’s M, A, R. O. G. E. R. you can get it from Old Masters Maroger website.  They make, in my estimation, the best maroger out there.  A medium is used if you want to change the quality of the paint if you want to make it longer. So quite often, you’ll use it in the beginning of a painting to make the paint really skate across the surface.

And the beautiful thing about the maroger is that it has the quality of being thixotropic.  This means that when you work it, it acts like a liquid.  When you stop, it acts like a solid. So it doesn’t drip it, it holds the body of the paint.  I think it’s really a marvelous thing.

Okay. So, let’s just make a brushstroke. So remembering what I said about how you hold the brush, very important. I’m just going to mix and you want to make like the little mini palette within your pallet itself so that you can fine-tune color, add more red, add more yellow add more white, you know, whatever. And also just that you have the same respect for the paint here that you have up here on the canvas. So you don’t want to mash it here, you really want to paint it together until it starts to have the quality of being lighted. So that’s important.

I’m just going to focus in a little bit so you can see these brush strokes a little bit better.  You want a brushstroke to begin and end on the surface.  It’s beginning and ending on the canvas.  What you’re trying to avoid is this kind of a thing of making a brushstroke where you’re just licking the surface and it has no defined space.

You can see it really doesn’t have a color. But here this has a color just simply because it has a defined space.  The other thing that is important about brush control, is that you can move paint. So let’s say that you create a background here, and you want to just, you know, move this paint over.  Thus, you would start in the background like this and then you can just carve in and just change where that paint is. 

This is called carving out.  This is an important part of learning how to paint. Now another thing that I think is really important, so if you’re not washing your brush in between, what are you doing?  What you’re doing is you’re wiping the paint off on a paper towel or a rag and taking as much of it off as you can. And then you are picking up, let’s say I’ll make something dark and then, so I want to make enough of it, pick it up and then by brush pressure, by learning a certain kind of brush pressure.

Also consider how much paint is on your brush. You can actually just come right over this and make a nice dark stroke over a light stroke.  This kind of brush control is a really important part of developing as a painter because, in order to learn how to paint, you have to lose that fear of the paint.  That is an important part of it.

Being able to move the paint over by carving out and carving out is also the way in which you will draw in painting is that you’ll carve in and actually make one value push into another value.   You’re really dealing with planes and shapes and that is really part of the language of painting rather than the language of drawing, which is linear.

I hope this has been a helpful demonstration today, showing you how to make a brushstroke that you want to have it be whole arm movement.  Remember, a whole arm movement is important. How you mix the paint is important. Picking up enough paint, putting it on the surface is important. And beginning the brush stroke and ending the brushstroke on the canvas.

Explore try all these things for yourself and see how they work and happy painting.

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