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
|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.
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!