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Basic Brush Strokes - Part I: Article or Project

Tutorial/Informational: How to use your brushes.

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Brush strokes is the art of creating pictures and patterns with simple strokes of the paint brush. Every type of brush, will create its own unique footprint on your canvas, be it paper, fabric, or ceramic. Consider your piece of ceramic bisque as a piece of oil canvas. It does not matter what the base is, what you do with it becomes the work of art.

Learning how to load your brushes will aid you in creating the perfect brush strokes. You should never try to load color into a dry brush. Your brush is like a fountain pen and it needs the paint to be of the right consistency in order to flow freely. Beginning with a wet brush adds to this ability. For water based colors you will use water to dampen the bristles. When using mineral spirit or oil based paints, you will dampen the brush with mineral spirits or other solvents. When using china paints, you will use appropriate oils.

Once you know the basics of how to make what kind of strokes with what kind of brushes, you open up a whole world of artistic creation. Experiment with your brushes. Hold them at different angles, apply different amounts of pressure on them. Try using more or less color and water/solvent to see the different effects you get. Practice practice practice. You cannot get too much practice as you explore your brushes and what you can create with them.

For practice, load your brushes with paint and apply the color to a piece of newspaper. Try pressing down and lifting the brushes mid stroke to see how the bristles spread and pull back together. One note, the news print is the best practice paper as it shows how well you have gotten the proper consistency with the paint/water/solvent. If it leaves nice clean patterns, you have a good blend, if it leaves choppy strokes, the consistency is too dry and if it bleeds or flows creating blurry edges to the strokes, then you have the paint too thin.

To build depth with a brush stroke, double-load your brush with two or more different colors. This is usually done by loading your brush with the lightest color and tipping it in a darker color. Then stroke on the color. The action of the brush will intermix colors, giving you a shaded appearance. You should not try to do too many strokes from one brush load. Clean your brush and start again after every 2-3 strokes.

To load a square shader, emerse the wet bristles in a color by pulling it through the color. After it is loaded, press both sides of the tip of the brush flat against your palette to form a sharp edge.

Double load is a term used to indicate loading your brush with more than one color at a time. You can load up to 3-4 colors. Always begin with the lightest color and then less of each subsequent color getting progressively darker. You will have the least amount of darker color. Remember, the darker colors are usually the shadows.

You may also build depth in your shading by laying different colors over each other. This is done by stroking the darkest color on the item first and then applying a lighter color over the top.

To corner load your square shader, you first load it with the base color, then holding the flat side against your pallet, slide the edge (corner) of the brush through the edge of the paint puddle. Again, holding the brush flat against the palette, give it a light squiggle which will blend it into the brush and base color somewhat. When you apply the brush to the item, most generally, weight is given to the darker edge as it will basically give an outline or a deeper shadow, however you keep the brush flat against your item. Experiment with both ways of applying the paint.

When loading a liner brush, emerse the wet bristles entirely in color. Pull the brush through the color, turning the bush as the same time so the bristles form a fine point. Do not put too much pressure on the brush when doing this or you will squeeze out all the color.

The trick to most brush strokes is in holding the brush correctly. It is best to not hold it like a pencil but held between the thumb and the forefinger at a more vertical angle.

Feather stroking is the technique of using slightly thinned paint (about the consistency of milk) with a flat brush. Short strokes are taken across a paper towel to split the hairs creating feathery strokes. When applied to the item, always pull the brush towards yourself. To effect this, your brush should have less moisture and thicker consistency.


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Basic Brush Strokes - Part I Basic Brush Strokes - Part I

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