Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Brush Bias




So, yesterday was one of those "aha" days. Another way to put it would be to say it was a "duh!!!" day. I'm a pastelist at heart, but I also love to do larger works and to get out the paint and brushes for this. My goal is to get the oil paintings to look as close as I can come to the pastels. But one problem arises, I can't get the edges to do exactly what I'd like them to do in oil. I want that soft ethereal look I can get with the pastels. I can come close, but I'm not always satisfied with the results. Yesterday I looked through my selection of brushes and for whatever reason decide to go into my closet and dig out a synthetic brush. You see, I ALWAYS use a bristle brush for oil painting, because that's what I think you are SUPPOSED to use. I had a bias against using any other kind of brush and it held me back from getting the results I wanted. I was able to do some things with that synthetic brush that really pleased me and made my painting stronger. I wonder what other notions I have that hold me back? What other biases do I keep in other aspects of my life?; thought processes like, "I've always done it that way, so that's the way I'm doing it now", or "That's the way it is supposed to be done", or worse.

I realize that there are lots times we have to get out of our own way, especially when it comes to making art. I think we are often pretty good at questioning others; yesterday reminded me that it's important to turn a critical eye on our own actions, thoughts, methods and challenge the biases we may be operating under.

5 comments:

AnnG said...

Marla,
I primarily paint in oils and recently picked up synthetic brushes out of necessity; I was trying to learn to paint on gessoed panels - particularly the 'Gessobord' product as linen is getting too costly for me - and the hog bristle brushes I used all the time were a disaster for me on gessoed panel...it was like painting with a straw broom, lifting up pigment that I had just layed down and causing all kinds of problems. I switched to synthetics for panel painting and have been much happier as a result.

But more importantly, I think your post was very interesting. You're right in saying that one is quick to judge others' methods, but not their own, and it's easy to get stuck when that happens. Trying new ideas and methods can really do a lot for artistic growth.

ujhazi said...

Growth is part of the creative process, isn't it? Treasure those 'aha' moments - they are among the greatest gifts in life!

Eden Compton said...

That is so true Marla! I had the same "epiphany" as I am a pastelist and couldn't figure how to get those bristle brushes to create soft edges. I discovered the soft brush idea also but it is still taking practice. I've always admired your work and didn't realize you had a blog - I'm so glad I found it!

Jana said...

Isn't it great to discover a simple solution to something that's been bothering you with your art? It's good to back up and rethink the "normal" ways! I've been playing with watercolors again, after choosing pastels for so many years. I painted several very small prepared canvases with watercolor and liked the results enough to try some larger pieces. Previously I'd been frustrated working on paper with watercolor - mostly from being too cautious & working so very slowly to keep in control. Now on the canvases I can move the paint quickly & am hoping I can change things that don't look right since the paint sits more on the surface. Just now, during this painting break I noticed an incorrectly aligned sunflower stem... Off to see if my theory works or not...

Anita Stoll said...

I learned a lot from creating my mud pies. I found I could mix pastels with olive oil. Once my mind is opened I am so much more teachable. It's those taboos that someone once said like don't mix oil with pastels it's not archival. I ask why and why not...go for it. So it won't be around in 200 years.