Sunday, July 18, 2021

"Make every stroke count"

Stop and think for a second before you place a stroke. Consider how the stroke is going to look before you lay it down. Then commit to it. Don't move the brush three times when once will do.

Painting in gouache helps train this awareness. When you paint in water media, leave a passage alone once it starts to dry. Let it dry fully before you add more. Place the wettest layers on the first pass, and use drier strokes later in the process as you build opaque colors.

I learned all this stuff from my early years doing calligraphy, where you only get one chance to make a stroke, and you can't change a goof. I also picked up the idea from two of my early heroes, Jack Leynnwood (plastic-model box illustrator) and John Berkey (science fiction illustrator). I met each of them and watch them paint a little. As Jack used to say, "Make every stroke count." 

The purpose of this deliberation is not to make a particular virtue of technique, nor is it to make the brushwork stand out. Heaven forfend! 

The goal is economy and efficiency, just as it is in writing. Style gurus Strunk and White put it this way: "Omit needless works. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts." 
Quote from Strunk and White's book, "The Elements of Style"


Chris Jouan said...

So very true about Berkey. I am fascinated with how, with such well-placed strokes, he could describe subtle hull curves and also technical details. Both are so easy to overwork and completely ruin the effect.

CerverGirl said...

It seems to me the difference between rendering and painting is not even whether the technique/result is loose or exact but all in the economy of strokes/being deliberate and conscious…sometimes I think my results are okay but I am still “becoming a painter”…?
Catherine Cervas Heaton

Victor said...

Mr. Gurney, can you please advise a good quality gouache? Or which one do you use?

James Gurney said...

Victor, if you would like extensive information on many gouache brands,you can go to the "search box" on the top left of the Gurney Journey blog page. Type the words "gouache brands" in the box and press go. All of the pertinent posts on the subject will appear for you. There is a lot of information there to help you! Kind regards, Mrs. J. Gurney