05/19/2004: "Blending techniques/Mediums/Brushes etc."
I got a comment in my guestbook from Brigitte who wrote: “I'm having a really hard time blending...do you have any tips?”. Wow, hmmm….not sure how to answer that. Does anyone else out there have tips for blending?
I guess the first thing I’d ask Brigitte is what medium you’re painting in. Blending for acrylic is way different than oil and nothing like water color. I haven’t painted with acrylic in years but I miss some of the cool stuff you can do since the paints dry so quickly. You can layer one clean layer of paint right over another without things ever getting muddied up…which is a real problem with oil paints. One of the down sides with acrylics is that if you’re trying to create a smooth blending of tones over a large area of canvas, the paint dries too quickly. I’m sure there are probably mediums that you can use out there for extending the drying time of acrylic paints, just like there are mediums for speeding the drying time of oils. I’m sure there are artists out there using acrylic who could give a much better answer than that.
If you paint with oil, I do have a couple of observations. First of all, using various painting mediums can aid blending and just takes experimentation and practice.
I used to use a lot of Liquin for blending (and I still use it in small amounts when I want to thin the paint without using mineral spirits) but now I mostly use Walnut Oil Alkyd. A couple tiny drops will thin the paint making it easier to work with and also adds gloss and speeds drying time (but not as much as Liquin speeds drying time).
Another painting medium that adds texture to your paint if you want to do knife work or have your brush marks show is called Winsor & Newton Oleopasto.
There are a ton of other mediums used for layering glazes (to be used with paints that are transparent or semi-transparent, always check the transparency level of your pigments included on the back of every tube of oil paint) and for other techniques, I suggest reading through what they do and choosing a few that you’d like to try out. Here’s a link to http://www.dickblick.com/categories/oilmediums/”>Oil Painting Mediums from Dick Blick, where I buy all my materials.
Some paints themselves are stiff and some are soft so just taking note as to how stiff each color is will help when you are trying to achieve a certain consistency to your paint. Also, I use bristle brushes when I want brush marks in the paint, and I use the cheapo Wonder White synthetic brushes for when I want a smooth blend. I mostly do my backgrounds with a pallet knife or bristle brush and my figures with the softer brushes. For the sky I use a soft and wide brush to blend better.
In fact, brush size really affects blending. If you’re going to have lots of subtle, multi directional tonal changes, such as on a figure, you might want to try using a smaller brush and little strokes. For larger areas with less tonal distinction, a larger brush. I change brushes often too, if you only use one or two brushes you’ll muddy things up faster.
I use a lot of white for mixing which some people may frown on but, whatever, it works for me. I like to keep my colors clean, so if I’m painting a figure in Alizarin Crimson, I would primarily only use that pigment for the whole figure, instead of adding blue to the darkest areas, etc. Rick says I don’t “work the paint” enough, but that’s just a preference I have. The areas I want lighter, I add white…
Well, this is how I’ve worked historically, only I read that book “how to paint red hot landscapes that sell” which talks about instead of using white, use a lighter toned color for the highlights. I’ve been trying this lately and it seems to work as well.
Also, if I notice that an area is getting too goopy, it gets tougher to blend nicely. Sometimes I’ll just wipe all the paint off that area and start again. Other times you have to discipline yourself to just put the painting away and let it dry before putting on another layer. Always remember the rule “fat over lean”.
This reminds me, does anyone know how oil with an alkyd in it affects the whole fat over lean rule?
Anyway, that’s probably more information than you wanted but I can’t stop myself once I start writing about this stuff at times. Anyone who has other ideas/suggestions/questions…please feel free to add them to the comments.