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The first thing people say to me is “I can't even draw a stick person”. That is exactly what I said, when I mentioned that I wished ...

Sunday, January 24, 2016



Masking tape or paper decorating tape is very useful for blocking off sections of a composition rather than trying to paint around them. It's easy to use too: stick the tape onto the painting over the areas you want to protect, then paint as if it weren't there. The tape protects what's underneath and when you've finished, you simply pull it off.

Masking off for trees, I used a roll of wide masking tape, about 2 inches or 5cm wide so I could tear strips of tape with ragged edges to stick down

I did this rather than using narrow tape because trees aren't perfectly straight. It takes a bit of time, but it does mean you focus a little more on where you're putting the tape. Once I got the tape where I wanted it, I run my thumb over it all to ensure it is well stuck down, to reduce the chances of paint seeping in under the edges.

I then brushed and spattered on paint in suitable colors and tones

I left the paint to dry before I pulled off the tape . You don't need to, but I find it easier and it eliminates the risk of accidentally dropping a bit of tape with still-wet paint onto the painting itself or smudging something.

The advantage of removing it while the paint is still wet is that you can then quickly dab off unwanted paint.

There can be areas where the paint will seep under the tape somewhat. There are several reasons this can happen, starting with it not having been stuck down properly in the first place. Brushing aggressively towards the tape can push paint underneath it too. You can rectify this with a bit of titanium white or gesso, to cover the paint.

Texture in the paint can leave gaps for the paint to trickle into. In this case, I'd tipped the painting on its side to let the paint run with gravity a bit. Where it puddled up against the tape it had more chance of seeping underneath.


Scumbling is a painting technique for adding a layer of broken, speckled, scratchy color over another color. Bits of the lower layer(s) of color show through the scumbling. The result gives a sense of depth and color variation to an area.

Scumbling can be done with opaque or transparent colors, but the effect is greater with an opaque color and with a light color over a dark. When you look at it from a distance the colors mix optically.

Up close you'll see the brushwork and texture in the scumbled layer.

You can scumble with a brush or a crumpled-up cloth (if you've ever done decorating paint effects, you'll recognize it's a bit like sponge painting a wall, on a small scale). The key is to use a dry brush (or cloth) and very little paint. It's far better to have to go over an area again than start with too much paint.

Dip your dry brush into a bit of paint, then dab it on a cloth to remove most of the paint. It helps if the paint is stiff rather than fluid, because it doesn't spread as easily when you put brush to canvas. Try to keep the brush hairs relatively dry, rather than soaking up moisture from fluid paint. If your brush is very moist, hold a cloth around the hairs at the ferrule end rather than at the toe. This will help pull moisture out of the brush without removing the pigment.

Think of the technique as rubbing the last little bits of paint from the brush onto the painting, leaving behind fragments of color. (Or if you like being vigorous, think of it as scrubbing at a painting with a not-quite-clean brush.) You're working on the very top surface of the painting, the top ridges of the paint or the tops of the canvas fibers. You're not trying to fill in every little piece.

Don't use your best brushes for scumbling as you'll most likely push hard on it and flatted the hairs at some stage. Either buy a cheap, stiff-hair brush that you sacrifice for scumbling, or use an old, worn-out one.


Spattering is a technique where the paint is being sprayed or flicked onto the surface of a painting using either a paint brush, toothbrush or a spray diffuser.

The way the artist apply the paint is to carefully hit or the brush (which contains paint) with a stick or another object so small droplets of paint are spread all over the painting surface.

Spattering can be done on any paint surface with both white and coloured ground. Layers of paint can “spattered” on top of each other in different colors to create unique marbling or stone effects.

This technique can be used for both opaque and transparent techniques and can be applied with watercolor, acrylics and oil paint. The whole surface can be spattered, or only some areas of the painting to create texture. The rest of the painting can be masked and stay free from the spattered paint.

Some artists may create paintings which consist entirely of paint which has been spatted onto the canvas or other painting surfaces

Scratching out and using points SGRAFFITO

If you thought the only end of a paint brush you should be using is the one with the hairs on it, you need to think again. The ‘other end’ is very useful for the technique called sgarffito

The term sgraffito comes from the Italian word sgraffire which means (literally) “to scratch”. The technique involves scratching through a layer of still-wet paint to reveal what’s underneath, whether this is a dried layer of paint or the white canvas/paper.

Any object that will scratch a line into paint can be used for sgraffito. The ‘wrong end’ of a brush is perfect. Other possibilities include a fingernail, piece of card, sharp point of a palette knife a comb, spoon, fork, and a hardened paintbrush.

Don’t limit yourself to scratching a thin line; broad sgraffito with, for example the edge of a credit card, can also be very effective. If you’re using something sharp, such as a knife, you need to be careful you don’t accidentally cut the support

And don’t limit yourself to using the technique with just two colors. Once your top layer has dried, you can apply another color on top and scratch through this. Or you could apply a range of colors in your bottom layers so different colors show through in different parts.

The main thing to remember when doing sgraffito with oils or acrylics is that the color you want to show through must be totally dry before you apply the layer of paint you’re going to scratch away. Otherwise you’ll scratch off both layers.

When initial color has dried, apply the color you’re going to scratch through. The top layer of paint should not be runny, otherwise it’ll just run back into the areas you’ve scratched.
Either use the paint quite thick, so it holds its form, or let it dry a little before you scratch into it.

Sgraffito is particularly effective with impasto painting, providing another level of texture as well as the contrasting color. If you like having text on a painting, you should try using sgraffito – you may well find it easier than trying to paint on words.

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