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Saturday, August 27, 2011

How to Develop a Personal Painting Style

Most artists have an identifiable style. It is that  kind of style that enables the viewer to recognize that the painting is done by you. How do you develop this? Is it something you automatically have? And how do you develop your own style?

Basically, it is something that you do not develop over night and over time; and something you don't acquire in art classes. It will come as you go along painting after painting. My brother had the greatest influence in my art life. When I was just learning, I used to think of the possibilities of acquiring his style in which, of course, I would not want to happen. I so want to have my own style, something that people would recognize me for. That thought kept on my mind as I continue painting. His paintings were my inspiration even up to this day. I still am not sure if I already have developed that distinctive style in my paintings. Unconsciously or consciously, I think, people would somehow develop his own style. But one thing is certain, galleries like to see a distinctive style of an artist - whatever sort for that matter.

One thing to remember though about style, it need not be a life long commitment. You can change it any time and you will be surprised to find out that it can evolve. I guess, most aspiring artists are struggling with the concept of having his or her own personal style. But please do not get me wrong. There is really nothing wrong with being influenced by another artist's work or even by trying to copy other art works. It is but a learning process for everyone. You learn by doing and perfect your craft by practicing. 

I read somewhere that personal style is the extension of your personality. I pondered on it a great deal and somehow found truth in it. It makes sense that a personal style is a combination of choices. Refining your choices can help you create something unique in your own way. 

If you are an aspiring artist or just starting to learn, just go ahead and not focus on what style you should develop. Do keep practicing. Do not stop. Enjoy every sketches and strokes you make. Listen to your canvas, get the feel of it and you will be surprised to find as you go along that you may already have developed your own unique style.

Something You Should Do As An Aspiring Artist

  • Acquaint yourself with art history. Learn about the different styles done by famous artists.Study their lives and influences. 
  • Visit museums when you can or you can browse the internet for famous art works. Read what the painting expresses. Study the subject materials, colors, employed techniques and other details that may help you determine the artist's message.
  • Tap all methods of painting by experimenting for self-growth.
  • Experiment with materials, techniques and subjects. You need not limit yourself with the norm. 
  • Evaluate your work and be your own critic. Improve from there.

Art Styles

Expressionism Art

Expressionism is an artistic style wherein an artist attempts to show subjective emotions and responses to objects and events that interest him. This is depicted by distortion, exaggeration, primitivism, and fantasy. 

This style is not governed by a rigid set of pre-existing rules. The colors used in expressionism art are often intense or violent. The exaggeration in colors display an intense emotional expression of the artist. The colors didn't have to be realistic but rather of a symbolic value largely determined by individual artist.

Kandinsky is widely quoted as saying: "The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul, so that it can weigh colors on its own scale and thus become a determinant in artistic creation". 

An Example of Expressionism Art Work

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Starry Night is one of the most well known art works in the world. One of the features of this painting is the night sky filled with swirling clouds, stars ablaze with their own luminescence, and the bright crescent moon.  The painting shows much exaggeration but the subject is something that we can all relate to. 

Blue Horse by Franz Marc

Franz Marc, a German Expressionist artist, believed that colors had a vocabulary of emotional keys. This is one tool that he used to raise his art to a higher spiritual plane and the other was his choice of the subject.

The Scream by Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch (pronounced Muenk) was a Norwegian painter whose psychological and emotional themes were a major influence on the development of German Expressionism in the early 20th century. The scream was regarded as an icon of the existential anguish of the post-industrial modern age.

Paint Like an Expressionist

If you think you are more comfortable with this style, you can start by letting your subject matter determine the colors for you to select. Go with your instinct. To start with, limit your selection of colors to five - a light, medium, dark, and two tones in between. Paint according to tone and not by hue. You can start adding complementary colors if you want more. Use the paints straight from the tube, unmixed. 

Tips and Techniques

Pick a subject. You can use anything around you like bottle caps, glass, tumblers, cups, etc and incorporate them.

Gather your art materials and prepare your work space.You can vary your application tools from the traditional paint brushes to sticks, knives, strings or other applicators you can think of.

Plan your image and start painting. In the planning stage, determine ahead of time the materials you will use and what image you would want to convey to your viewers and the color combinations. 

It is important to take note that not everyone will appreciate your art. Do not be discouraged but rather continue to paint for your own enjoyment and self satisfaction.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cubism Art

Cubism style of painting was pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in 1907 in which the subject matter was reassembled in abstract form with the concept of depicting an object as seen from different viewpoints and by using an analytical approach and painting the basic geometric shapes, sometimes showing multiple viewpoints of a particular image.

Characteristics of Cubism
  • Analytical Cubism - shows various perspectives, angles and views of the object. This is a structured dissection of the subject resulting in a fragmentary image of multiple viewpoints and overlapping planes. The most distinguished feature is its simplified palette of colors so the viewer wouldn't be distracted from the structure of the form.
  • Synthetic Cubism - is an approach where mixed media and collage were used. The use of fragments or cuttings from newspapers, sheet music, pieces of cloth, playing card, cigarette packs interacted on the flat plane of the canvas to achieve a total interpenetration of life and art.

An example of Analytical Cubism
Glass on a Table by Georges Braque 1909 - 10

An example of Synthetic Cubism
Still Life with Compote and Glass by Pablo Picasso

To most viewers, Cubism is a bit disturbing. However, its unique approach to art and life is also fascinating and refreshing. Modern materials are being used rather than the traditional paint on canvas thing. Perhaps this was a response to the modern environment. The major theme for most modern artists is the process of exploring  the fundamental energy of life.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Abstract Art

Abstract is an art composition that expresses a certain degree of independence by an artist. It creates an illusion of visible reality. Its representation can be slight, partial or complete; depending, of course, on the artist. In abstract painting, an artist do not have to show recognizable subjects as they appear in the real world. Colors and shapes are used to depict emotions.

Understanding and appreciating this type of art is quite difficult for many people. Indeed, it often gives you a vague idea of what you are actually seeing in an art work.

In general, there are two types of abstract paintings.
  • Objects that have been abstracted from nature. The subject may not look realistic but representation is close enough to give you an idea of what you are looking at.
  •  Objects that do not reflect any form of conventional reality. You see shapes, colors, lines, patterns , and so on. Meaning, nothing is recognizable.

To truly appeciate a work of art, one must look at it with not just a single isolated creation but with its context. Every painting is done within a particular environment.  Thus, the one reason why it is important to learn something about the life and culture of a painter to truly appreciate what the artist has to offer. Of course, the quality of painting depends also on the skill of the artist.

Potential Subjects For An Abstract Painting

There are a lot of inspiration that is potential for an abstract painting. However, you must change the way you look at the world around you.  See the big picture beyond the details and focus on the shapes and patterns instead rather than on the actual objects.

As a starting point for creating an abstract painting, it is always easier to use something real and develop it from there. It is much easier this way than creating an idea from nothing.

You can start painting from a photo and focus on the shapes and patterns of the subject. Simplify down the elements and try to alternate the colors. You need not paint the whole photo but focus yourself on a small part and enrich it with lines and colors.

Here are some abstract art works of famous painters:

The Ladies of Avignon by Pablo Picasso   

Still Life with a Ginger Jar and Eggplants by Paul Cezanne

Mont Sainte-Victoria by Paul Cezanne

Self Portrait by Van Gogh

These paintings of famous people were all rendered in Abstract and were opposed to actual depiction. The overall composition were clearly representational and the own expression of each artist. You can also do this by focusing and playing on colors, shapes, patterns; depending on the theme of your painting or how you would want to express yourself.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Basic Oil Painting Techniques

Impasto Painting by Van Gogh
Fat Over Lean

One of the fundamental concepts of oil painting. Fat oil paint is oil paint coming straight from the tube. When mixed in oil, it becomes even fatter and increases the length of time it takes to dry completely. Lean oil paint is oil mixed with more turpentine than oil, or oil paint mixed with a fast drying oil. Lean oil paint dries faster than fat oil paint.

Lean layer of paint is vulnerable to cracking when the fat layer dries underneath it. Paints underneath a newest layer absorbs oil from the layers above it. Therefore, in building layers, oil paints should be a little fatter than the previous one of of greater proportion of oil in it.


This technique produces amazing effects to a painting. Glazing is the application of thin colors over a dried under painting. Usually, a dark color paint over a lighter one.

The secret of glazing is to use extremely thin paint. Sometimes, it takes a lot of glazes to do in building up a color to the proper intensity.

Slowly build your colors and tones. Let the paint dries on each application of layers of paint. In this manner, you can easily wipe off new paints if an error is made. In the event that the applied color is too strong, this can easily be mopped off with a stiff bristled brush without destroying the previous dried layer of paint.

With really thin paint application, the opaque colors will appear translucent, almost like transparent. Use opaque colors on the first glazing layers.

One thing to remember is that glazing may not be applied to the whole painting. You can do glazing in a few objects in your painting just to give more depth to your colors.


This technique is somewhat similar to glazing but done in the opposite manner. It is a thin layer of light opaque paint scumbled over a layer of dried dark paint.The result gives a sense of depth and color variation to an area.

A really thin layer of an opaque paint softens an area of a painting, giving a misty effect or almost out of focus look. This is typically used in background objects. However, too much scumbling with thick opaque paint will result to a flattened sense of depth.

Beams of light is painted with the application of a scumbling technique.This is also useful in creating a glowing effect to accentuate an object.

Alla Prima

Alla Prima or "direct Painting" is a technique of painting directly on the canvas with no under painting. This technique was pioneered by a Flemish painter, Frans Hals.

Painting is usually done in one sitting without waiting for the paint to dry. Most modern painters uses this technique but you have to have a lot of confidence and a quick hand with this method.

Palette Knife Painting

Oil paint application with the use of a palette knife is pretty like much spreading a peanut butter on a bread. This is best for producing textured, impasto effect. Impasto is an application of thick paint (like a toothpaste) to provide a texture on the surface.

Related Article: Oil Painting
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Oil Painting

Oil Painting is a type of paint that is slow  drying. While water is used for aquarelles (watercolor) and acrylics, linseed oil is for oil paints. To increase glossiness of the dried film, a turpentine or white spirit and varnish may be used.

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Oil  paints are thick and come in tubes. It usually takes three days  before you can apply another coat or layer because of its slow drying properties. When it dries, new colors can be applied over the painted surface. One thing good about this medium is that you'll have enough time to refine the paint before it dries especially when making gradual transitions from one color to another. If you made a mistake, it can easily be removed by scraping carefully the paint off the canvas with the use of a clean stiff brush, a palette knife or a rag.

The only disadvantage with oil paints that I see is the possibility of cross-contaminating another color when not applied accurately.  Therefore, strokes on the edges of your sketched object must be handled carefully to avoid from getting over to the next wet object you're done painting with as colors may join together.

Mostly, oil paintings are done in canvas but, traditionally, this is made out of linen. Other artists nowadays who are more experimental use different types of fabrics or even marine plywoods prepared and surface applied with a white latex paint. Art stores offer a ready to paint canvas, framed in wood, that comes in different sizes.

Oil Paints vs Acrylics

  • Oil paints have more pigments that allow richer and vivid colors.  Acrylics lightly darkens as they dry but oil paints do not.
  • Oil paints are of slow drying properties while acrylics with quick drying.
  • Oil paints are used with a linseed oil, water for acrylics.
  • Turpentines or Mineral spirits are used for cleaning brushes with oil while Acrylics with water.
  • Oil paints are quite expensive compared to Acrylics, at least, depending on the brand being used.

Which is the right one for you?

This really depends on you. If you are a slow painter, I would recommend using Oil paints or if you are a quick one, Acrylics are best for you. It doesn't really matter which one so long as you are comfortable with your chosen medium. You may use cheaper ones for practice.

Oil paints may be expensive for beginners, however, you'll have fun practicing with color blending and transitioning. More or less, the principles are the same with any other mediums but with Oil paints, you'll just have more time to correct and adjust the paint of an object you are working on. 

I have tried using different mediums but I enjoyed practicing with Oil paints when I was just starting. I can leave my project anytime and resume painting at a more convenient time.

Getting started

You can directly draw on canvas but may find it difficult with its texture when pencil or charcoal is used. You can also prepare your drawing on a large sheet of tracing paper and transfer it to the canvas. You can do this by smudging your pencil or charcoal at the back of your paper, place the paper on top of the canvas and trace the lines of your drawing. You may lose your sketches on canvas in the process, therefore, it is advisable to seal your drawing with a fixative before you start applying Oil paints.

Another method when drawing straight on canvas is to use paints that's thinned with a thinner. Because it is a paint you are using, it does not need to be isolated from subsequent colors.

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