No One Could Beat Rembrandt

29 Jan 2013

When it comes to being able to draw with a paintbrush, no one can touch Rembrandt. He was able to turn abstract brushstrokes into forms with texture, weight, and liveliness. He could turn two swipes of a painting brush loaded with white paint into the coarse cloth of a girl's sleeve. He captured ruddy and calloused hands with just two or three colors and no more than a dozen strokes of the brush.

A Girl With a Broom by Rembrandt, oil painting.
A Girl With a Broom by Rembrandt, oil painting.
But it is the way that these strokes were applied that makes all the difference. Rembrandt didn't let thoughts of anatomy override him, nor did he micromanage his strokes. He made a stroke abstractly--as if he were not painting forms at all. As a result, the viewer sees the paint articulating as much information as possible. Because of this, Rembrandt's work is very subtle--each stroke does a lot of heavy lifting in terms of conveying information.

For example, a dab of reddish paint around a paler area indicates a knucklebone poking at the surface of the skin of the hand in A Girl With a Broom. It sounds simple, but the way Rembrandt applies the paint conveys the lax way the girl is holding her hand, with the muscles at rest, as well as the chapped texture of the skin that has been exposed to hard work.

To build up your ability to make each stroke count and learn how to paint as Rembrandt did, try painting a simple still life with a large brush and only black, white, and burnt sienna. Focus on communicating with each brushstroke, since you don't have color to fall back on. It may be a frustrating exercise, but well worth it as you begin to recognize how to make your brush move in different ways and "say" more than one thing.

To enhance your art techniques and solidify your painting process like Rembrandt did all those years ago, you can also see if any of the downloads from Creative Catalyst are right for you. These resources cover the essentials of art-making and all kinds of subject matter, so I'm almost positive you'll be able to find one that is in step with what you are working on in your own studio practice. Enjoy!


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Comments

on 30 Jan 2013 2:03 PM

I really enjoy Courtney's talent of conveying pictures though her words.  It takes a gifted writer to get us to enjoy the things we can't see.  (Such as brush strokes)  I can certainly feel Courtney's passion for art in her columns.  Thank you Courtney.

mifasola1 wrote
on 31 Jan 2013 5:56 PM

I really like the descriptive, instructional paragraphs.  I always learn a new way to draw or paint when you include this kind of information.

mifasola1 wrote
on 31 Jan 2013 5:57 PM

I really like the descriptive, instructional paragraphs.  I always learn a new way to draw or paint when you include this kind of information.

on 2 Feb 2013 8:37 AM

Thought you might enjoy this. S

on 2 Feb 2013 6:23 PM

I agree, Rembrandt is a key reference to learn how to paint, specially because the use of a very limited palette but a very deep study of tone.

I have seen many of his paintings live in Europe and I could stay hours watching each of the amazing brushstrokes.

Jeronimo wrote
on 4 Feb 2013 12:54 PM

Congratulations, brilliant article.

But besides all that, what a wisdom in that atonal high contrast scheme, that he use, where white presides over everything from his throne.

Jeronimo wrote
on 4 Feb 2013 12:55 PM

Congratulations, brilliant article.

But besides all that, what a wisdom in that atonal high contrast scheme, that he use, where white presides over everything from his throne.

Jeronimo wrote
on 4 Feb 2013 12:56 PM

Congratulations, brilliant article.

But besides all that, what a wisdom in that atonal high contrast scheme, that he use, where white presides over everything from his throne.