Surface Quality

by Armand Cabrera

Oil Paintings are more than just good drawing and good color and design. Often the way the paint is applied can be just as important. Once you learn the basics of representational picture making in oils it is important that your work take advantage of all the properties of the paint.


One way of achieving this is the use of paint quality and handling. Imprimatura, scumbling, impasto and glazing all add an extra dimension of interest to traditional work when applied with intelligence and forethought.


Walk into any museum and look at a representational painting from the impressionist painters or golden age illustrators and you will see the use of all dimensions and properties of the paint at play. Nowhere was this more apparent than at the Howard Pyle show at the Delaware and the concurrent N.C. Wyeth show at the Brandywine Museum. Huge areas of the total canvas rendered with nothing more than a dark imprimatura. Lights loaded with impasto, color glazed and scumbled over other colors instead of blended. In some places the raw weave of the canvas showing through all to great effect.


It’s the same for the impressionists here and abroad at the turn of the 20th century. These artists knew their materials and let the unique properties of each artists chosen medium exert itself in the image. It is this philosophy of fidelity to the paint itself that give these works so much power and beauty.
It is an important lesson to be learned, that a thing has an inherent beauty and purpose. As an artist we must be sensitive enough to recognize those qualities and use them in service of our ideas so that it complements the work and raises it beyond the commonplace.


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