Friday, January 30, 2009

The BLAST Rule

When it comes to painting procedure, it’s healthy to be suspicious of rules and recipes. Isn’t painting supposed to be a wild dance in the wilderness?

But allow me to suggest five general pointers that lead to happier results in just about any kind of painting. If you like them you can print them out and stick them near your easel.

1. Use the biggest brush possible for a given passage.
2. Paint large shapes first, followed by small shapes.
3. Save your tonal and chromatic accents until the last.
4. Try to soften any edge that doesn’t need to be sharp.
5. Take time to get the center of interest right.

Or, the briefer version: (B.L.A.S.T.)
Big brushes.
Large to small.
Accents last.
Soften edges.
Take your time.


Moai said...

Those are indeed very good rules to keep in mind. I need to try to keep them in mind more as I paint, especially the soft edge rule.

TomHart said...

My printer hasn't been used for a more useful purpose in a long time!

Thanks for the reminders!

Daroo said...

Thanks --I agree with all of these but I have a question with #3:

By most accounts, Sargent would "search for the halftones, put in some (dark) accents, and then the lights". I understand reserving those darkest accents so that you can add them where you really need them (conservation of values). But I also know a lot of painters who recommend first putting in your darkest dark and then your lightest light. With the two extremes on your canvas to "measure" against, you can find the relative value of your other colors. Any thoughts in the difference in approaches?

#4 is good also -- but to put a finer point on it (pun intended): find your hardest edge (probably within your center of interest) and compare everything to that edge -- making all the other edges relate (and subordinate) to this edge in terms of relative softness (Then your edges will have variety: from Hard through soft to lost).

J M said...

You could not have used a better picture to illustrate your point. This portrait by Sargent is pure glory.

Erik Bongers said...

Also a nice example of the three bands rule.

Very interesting remarks Daroo.
Also note that watercolour drippers practically always build up from light to dark for obvious reasons. My father said that building up from dark to light in oil is dangerous because over time the darker pigments will 'peek' through the lighther values that you put on top. I guess that the choice is often technical but much more often personal.

Michael Dooney said...

all great mantras to keep in your head...I'll have to make room for another post-it note on the easel...maybe right next to the "Squint" one or maybe below the "Step Back" one ;)

Kelley Carey MacDonald said...

How generous of you. Good to print and post!

James Gurney said...

Daroo, good points. I agree that the overall light and dark value statement should be made right away, but that the eye-catching darkest darks and highest highlights should stand apart from the rest of the system of values, and should be added last, saving the final punch for the end. As Harvey Dunn put it, "keep a shot in your locker."

Also, as you say, edges shouldn't be all soft or all hard, and should have variety, but I have to tell myself to soften because without a hand on the tiller I tend to paint the edges all hard.

And Erik, with transparent watercolor, of course the whites of the highest lights have to be considered from the start.

frank gressie said...

Good tips mister Gurney! i'll keep them in mind, i was actually starting a Sargent copy, so this comes right in time haha! I'll post the result on my blog very soon, hope you can check that out :)

frank gressie

Ginger*:) said...

Works for me. Thanks!

Emile B. Klein said...

rockin B.L.A.S-T is where it's at. I will try this technique and get back to you, seems a much more direct paining style, not so much a drawing stage dead coloring...method. I like it!

craigstephens said...

Great post, very useful advice as usual. Thanks!