Prepared surfaces I haven’t used before; gessoed foam board and card board.
Using colours left from previous paintings, with cheap, hobby grade acrylic paint (no need to worry about using lots if it), and new to me Amsterdam acrylic thickening medium followed by Pebeo mat gel.
Impasto with brushes
Firstly used equal parts paint and thickening medium, and found the resulting mixture thick as mortar and unworkable. Read the instructions on the tube, only supposed to use a small amount! Did as it says in the brief, smearing thick colours side by side. Next instead of thickening medium I used mat gel, but found it doesnt thicken the paint, only increases its volume. So used a combination of paint mixed with mat gel, then a dab of thickener added – good result, you get stiff paint, and it goes further! The experience of painting on the foam board was good – plus it’s light, easy to cut to any size or shape, and cheap.
Here’s my sketchy bowl of lemons – looks like it’s floating on water! I like the effect of the individual blue-green open brush marks in the background.
Close ups showing impasto brush work below. It’s easy to totally cover earlier layers if needs be, as the paint’s so thick; or, earlier layers can be left to show through or beside later layers.
Impasto with knives
Using foam board again I quickly drew a few simple lines of Gaugin’s painting “When Will You Marry?” – found on the front cover of a book I happened to have nearby – and scraped in the broad areas of similar colours with a credit card. (I’d gessoed the board with a roller, which left an all over fine texture – I think I might have preferred a smoother base for scraping with knives and stiff paint.). The rest of the painting was done using palette various knives, and same mixture of paint, gel medium and thickener, generating a lot of texture. I was surprised to find it was possible to paint quite intricate shapes with the knife, though I tried not to fuss over detail, so the facial details are rather wonky – might have done better to leave the faces blank.
I found the more layers I added to the painting, the heavier and crustily the texture became – I read just this in relation the Pissarro’s brushwork, and I can now fully see why!
Details of impasto knife work below – it enlivens the surface.
This is a ‘scratching’ technique used widely in ceramics and wall decoration, which has also been adopted in painting since at least Renaissance times. Sgraffito can be used in a painting to add texture and to suggest movement and energy, particularly if the first layer (imprimatura) is a bright or complementary colour. I used sgraffito frequently in the palette knife painting above, scraping through wet paint to reveal a lower layer, to add texture, to draw lines, to add contour lines and to outline.
A dry coat of paint (can be one colour or more) is covered with another coat (impasto gives better effect than thin paint), into which a design is scratched while it is still wet (use retarder with the second coat to extend workable time). The line scratched is often thin, but can be broad, or even a shape or area.
Sgraffito can be achieved by scraping through ink (try black) or watercolour over an oil pastel surface; scraping through oil pastel over a watercolour surface; scraping through acrylic over an acrylic surface etc. In a more complex method apparently derived from Paul Klee, “a line is drawn on the back of paper covered with oil pastel, which has been placed on top of another piece of paper covered with oil pastel on top of watercolour.” (bakergraphis.com)
To experiment with sgraffito tools and techniques in a more deliberate way I’m going to use my sketchbook rather than make a painting.
1. Acrylic paint on white paper – As in the exercise brief, I added a few colours (leftovers) thickly allowing overlaps. Scratched thru with end of paintbrush, palette knife, craft knife (fine lines but risk of damaging substrate), metal skewer, piece of serrated plastic to give parallel lines. Some revealed the white paper, some revealed a lower layer of colour, in others colours were dragged into each other. Had to work fast before paint dried. I love the graphic quality of the page
The following tryouts involve ink and oil pastel, and could be used in a mixed media painting with acrylics.
3. Oil pastel over Koh-I-Nor black ink – the ink was disappointing in blackness
4. A sample sheet with oil pastel over different black media. The black paint was the blackest black, followed by Talens ink.
5. Black ink over oil pastel. I couldn’t think how this would work, but I gave it a go. I applied the oil pastel and rubbed it into the paper with a finger. The ink painted over it separated into hundreds of droplets as I should have expected; they were larger where the oil pastel was thicker in the middle, and smaller round the edges. I drew marks with the end of a paintbrush, and ink flowed into them and stayed there. It dried like this – an interesting textural effect.
6. Oil pastel on coloured paper – In my first attempt (large green square), scraping the green hardly revealed the pink colour underneath at all; the second attempt (small blue square), I first applied clear oil pastel, then the blue on top; when I scratched into the blue, the pink underneath was revealed successfully. Then I transferred yellow and purple marks on top of the blue, using pressure on the back of a second oil pastel-covered piece of paper.
Looking at some work I produced earlier in the course, there are paintings where sgraffito could have been put to good use; for example in my first assignment painting to draw the veins and patterns on leaves; in a still life to draw the tassels on a cloth and rattan texture of a chair. Impasto could have been used to improve my assignment 4 piece ‘Man with Boy’ – to make a connection between content and media, by using paint expressively.