Part 1, project 1, exercise 1a: Getting to know your brushes – making marks and shapes

12 February, 2016. What a strange feeling to reset the exercise counter to 1. I start the Painting 1 exercises with the hope to be able to carry over what I learned in Drawing 1.

Asked to decide which type of paints I would choose to use in this course, oil or acrylic, I would have liked to say oil, but although I am privileged enough to call an attic workshop my own, our house is of an open type that supports rather strong currents of warm air up to the attic, followed of course by air from there – enriched with whatever toxic fumes happen to escape from the paint I use – to travel straight down to where we live. So it is not going to be oils yet. If, one day, we manage to put in a door on the stairs leading to the attic, I will start painting in oil, too.

For the first of all exercises, making marks and shapes with the brushes I own, I prepared the carton back of a large old drawing pad with a layer of white acrylic paint, let it dry and then divided it up into 3 squares to hold the marks of flat, round and filbert brushes, respectively. Since the task was to see the marks a brush can produce, I decided that it would be sensible to use one dark colour to contrast sharply with the white background layer.

By the way: In the Painting 1 study guide I read that it is difficult to keep acrylic paint moist once on the palette. What I do, and it has always worked so far: I spread a sheet of clingfilm over the edges of my makeshift palette, taking care to make it airtight, and the paint will keep moist for at least a week or two.

My makeshift palette and the set of paintbrushes I tried in this exercise (relatively unorthodox choice including watercolour pencils, but this mix is what I normally use and am very happy with)

Here come the marks I produced, round brushes top left, filbert bottom left and flat brushes all of the right half of the carton. I think that almost every mark can be produced by whatever brush used, it is just a matter of convenience and habit. All the brushes will leave marks with darker edges and a lighter middle unless reworked, an effect I usually choose to keep for two reasons: I love how the uneven thickness of the brushmarks will make the background colour shine through in an almost magical way, while at the same time the crossing of a new layer on top of a mark just made will let the painted structure itself appear 3-dimensional (see e.g. the spiral shape below).

brush marks, dark brown acrylic on white background