What’s Your Mission?

"Moment", acrylic on canvas, 10x8 in.

Artists each have their own mission in terms of what is important to them in the way their work comes across.  My mission is to inject as much life and spontaneity into each painting as I can. The work should never look stiff, overworked or like “it took a really long time to do”, freshness is key for me. To achieve this, my mission is to always touch the canvas as few times as possible to achieve the desired effect, in other words, to make every stroke count and to reduce details to single brush strokes. I don’t touch the canvas until I am absolutely sure of the placement, color and type of stroke that will do the job right–the first time.

At first glance, that might appear easier than getting out the triple zero brushes and magnifying glass, but try it sometime. In order to make less is more work properly, there first has to be a solid structure underneath. In other words a good, solid, correct drawing done as an under painting. You know, the brown layer that you may have resisted doing or skip over in order to “save time”.  Skipping this stage usually doesn’t save time at all, instead it can set you up for frustration down the road. Think about it, you’ll be making corrections to your drawing if it isn’t right, mixing colors repeatedly if you don’t have a value map (from the under painting), and having to make those corrections in multiple colors as opposed to just one. So in the end, skipping the under painting is actually a time waster, not a time saver.

Once your under painting is on the canvas, you can then make solid decisions and be much more expressive with color and brush work. If you have the drawing, the composition and the values down, you are free to focus on color and brush strokes. When applying the color layers, think before you touch the canvas. Is the color the way you want it? Don’t put it on the canvas if it doesn’t look right, it won’t look any better there than it did on the palette. Color mixing is a skill that will develop over time, if you need a couple tries at getting the color right, that’s ok, just wait til it’s right before you put it on the painting. Just because you’ve mixed a color, doesn’t mean you have to use it.

As far as brush strokes are concerned, don’t be a wimp! Paint like you mean it! Put the color down with a confident stroke that defines the shape (form) you are painting. Don’t “dab” at the painting, or do little random back and forth strokes, that’s not painting! Load up the brush and put the paint down. 🙂

Confidence goes a long way in paint application. Paintings that are done with tentative strokes can be spotted a mile away. It’s just a piece of canvas (or paper), don’t be afraid of it!

2 Responses to What’s Your Mission?

  1. Jack Herschlag says:


    Many thanks for your heroic performance at your acrylic workshop yesterday. I read your advice about painting on this website, and I find it very helpful. Thanks for that, too.

    Jack H.

  2. kullaf says:

    Jack, it was very nice meeting you! Your portrait work looks great, good luck with that, it was fun having you in the workshop and I’m glad you enjoyed it. Best, Anne

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