Emphasizing Brush Strokes and Surface Textures with Oil Paint
Demonstration by Andrea Pramuk
I discovered the Gessobord™ panels about 10 years ago while looking for a rigid alternative to stretched canvas. For the heavily detailed and smooth oil painting I was doing, Gessobord™ was the perfect choice.
Gessobord™ is an acrylic gesso primed hardboard panel suitable for use with oils and acrylics. I use the cradled panels. They have the same mobility as a stretched canvas and I can hang them directly on the wall while working. As a bonus, Gessobord™’s finely sanded surface gives me complete control over brush strokes as well as my glazing and wiping techniques.
Rather than using a pencil sketch I sometimes begin by laying in a drawing with paint thinned with turpentine so that I can easily wipe areas clean with a soft dry cloth or a cloth dipped in a little linseed oil. I can change areas, create values and general shapes using this method without having to follow a fixed pencil drawing. Gessobord™ stands up great to all this rubbing without affecting the integrity of the surface.
Always paint “fat over lean”. It is important to use paint thinned with turpentine when laying in the initial layers of paint. These first layers of paint need to adhere to the gesso so that subsequent layers of paint will adhere and dry correctly. Gessobord™ is slightly absorbent so that a good bond is formed when using this technique.
I began this painting by loosely following the drawing with thin layers of a gold color. I decided to use a gold because I use the under painting to determine the color scheme for the rest of the painting. By varying the thickness of the paint, I established the form and depth of the sand dune. Thicker areas of paint act as clues as to where I will glaze with darker colors for shadow and thinner areas show me where to add light. Details are left very loose until the very end of the painting. It’s more important to focus on the overall feel of the painting in the beginning rather than the little details.
After these initial layers I allowed the painting to dry for at least one week. I like to make sure that the under painting is thoroughly dry before I start adding heavier layers of paint and glazes so that when I rub off a layer of paint, the under painting doesn’t go with it. Generally, I use several types of mediums. A standard painting medium is 1/3 oil, 1/3 damar varnish, and 1/3 turpentine. I also use a copal painting medium and safflower oil to speed drying time. The safflower oil allows for clearer color than linseed oil which can have brown undertones.
At this second stage, I use more paint than medium unless I need a soft shadow as shown in the dune. I allowed the gold to seep through the purple which makes the shadows lay down instead of floating over the sand area. I also allow other colors to bleed into each other. For example, the color used in the plants, when allowed to bleed into the gold, added to the depth of their shadows and really joined them with the sand.
Texture was also an issue in this piece. I needed a very smooth surface for the sand effect. By using a very soft natural bristle wash brush or blending brush, I softly went over the area to blend and flatten the brush strokes leaving a nice surface on which to add the final details.
After I painted between 2-4 layers of paint and medium (allowing each layer to dry thoroughly in between), I added the final touches. This is my favorite part of the painting because I can go in with heavy paint, define little details, and leave very loose painterly brush strokes that seemingly lift off the panel. It’s hard to achieve the same effect when using canvas because of its bounce and texture . On Gessobord™, however, I can get very smooth areas that contrast beautifully with the thick painterly brush strokes on the rigid surface. Wood panels actually show brush strokes more prominently than canvas does. If you want to liven up and emphasize the importance of your brush strokes and surface texture with oils, I would suggest experimenting with Gessobord™.
For more information about the artist, please visit www.andreapramuk.com.
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