Use More Paint!

Last week I arrived at Michael’s studio with no ideas or images for my next painting.  The holidays had worn me out, and I just hadn’t had a chance to think about what I wanted to do and learn next.  Michael pulled out one of his art books and turned to an artist named Georges Rouault.  I had never heard of this artist, but the two paintings on the page were beautiful, and I immediately recognized the influence on Michael’s work. (I have since learned that Rouault was a contemporary of Matisse’s and was a glass painter and restorer, which must explain his use of heavy black lines and deep, saturated color in his paintings.)

I chose to do a study of Rouault’s The Old King.  The original painting is 30″ x 21″.  My canvas is 30″ x 24″, pretty close. The painting represents kingship without reference to a specific historical figure and was painted during WWI.  My favorite part – besides the thick brushwork and glowing color – is  that the king is holding flowers, not a weapon or sceptre of any kind.  Can you imagine a portrait of one of our leaders today holding white flowers like that?

The Old King, Georges Rouault
The Old King, Georges Rouault

I completed the sketch and the underpainting in one session and returned to the next class ready to begin building up the paint. I can tell you that this step is always the hardest for me.  I stand there looking at a canvas that has but a sheer coat of paint, afraid to put thicker paint on it. I commenced with my usual trepidation, and Michael said, “Use more paint.”  “More?” I said, silently thinking I was using a lot.  “Use more paint! You’re going to use more paint on this painting than you’ve used total in the last two years……And paint faster.”  Gulp.  More paint and paint faster??  Nervous laugh.

So I started building up thick paint, using little to no turpentine and putting in those thick black lines Rouault is known for. And I realized that using more paint (and continually wiping and rinsing the brush to prevent a big soupy mess) leads not only to beautiful, glowing colors, but also to a more expressive painting, one with more dimensionality, one with more feeling.

Today I swung by Jerry’s Artarama and got more paint.

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