Bold Brushes, Brilliant Art

RemyKoufax | March 21, 2024, 5:05 p.m.

Bold Brushes, Brilliant Art

Oil Painting Tips and Techniques


A lifetime of oil painting has taught me valuable insights and techniques. Some of the techniques I’ll be sharing with you today were imparted to me through formal education and guidance from mentors. These foundational lessons laid the groundwork for my artistic endeavors. 


Yet, as with any artistic journey, much of what I know has been gained through experience. The more you paint, the more you can learn about painting.


The following tips will help you find your way if you’re looking for insight into the craft of oil painting.

Use the Biggest Brush You Can

One of the most straightforward yet impactful tips I’ve come across is to always use the largest brush for the task at hand. This might seem difficult, but it fosters bold, expressive strokes and helps you avoid getting bogged down in unnecessary details.


How do you know which brush is the right one? Pick the one that seems just a little too big. Resist using smaller brushes until you need to. Rinse and repeat, saving the details for last.

Don’t Be Fussy

It's easy to fall into the trap of obsessing over every tiny detail, but sometimes less is more. Overworking a painting can sap it of its vitality. Embrace spontaneity and allow your brushstrokes to breathe life into your work.

Take Care of Your Tools

Your brushes and palette knives are extensions of your creativity. Treat them with care and they will last you for years. Always clean your tools thoroughly after each use and store them properly. Investing in high-quality tools and maintaining them diligently will pay dividends in the long run.


After cleaning my brushes, I always reshape their bristles. I do this while the bristles are still wet. To maintain their form, I put the bristles in cardboard sleeves secured with office clips and allow them to dry thoroughly before returning them to my brush case.

Plan Your Pictures

Before diving into a new painting, take some time to plan your composition. Consider perspective and lighting. Sketch out rough thumbnails or create color studies to help visualize your ideas. These preliminary efforts will streamline the painting process. 

Step Back Often

In the midst of creating, it’s easy to become lost in your painting and lose sight of the bigger picture. One of the most effective strategies for improving the quality of your work is to step back frequently. 


By putting some distance between you and the canvas will give you a fresh perspective, allowing you to better assess the overall composition. The simple act of pausing and reassessing enables you to make informed decisions about where to apply your next brushstroke. 

Save Your Highlights for the End

When it comes to painting, restraint can be your most potent ally. Save your highlights for the final stage of your painting. Doing so will ensure that your bright marks remain crisp and stand out against the layers of paint beneath them.

Edges Are Important

Edges play a pivotal role in guiding the viewer’s eye and imbuing a painting with a sense of realism and dynamism. By varying the softness or sharpness of your edges, you can achieve a greater sense of depth in your work. Edges also convey mood and atmosphere. 


By softening edges in less important areas and sharpening edges on focal points, you can guide the viewer’s attention through your composition.

Making Your Mark

Each mark you make on the canvas should be deliberate and purposeful. Whether you’re aiming for loose, gestural strokes or meticulous precious, approach each brushstroke with intention.


Paying attention to mark making isn’t just about applying the painting–it’s about harnessing the expressive potential of each stroke.

Fix It Now

Don’t wait to correct your mistakes. It’s all too easy to tell yourself, “I’ll fix that problem later.” Addressing problems as they arise will prevent them from becoming bigger problems later on. Paintings work as a whole, so it’s important to maintain a holistic perspective throughout the creative process. Every brushstroke contributes to the composition, and even minor adjustments can have a significant impact on the final result.

A Final Word

Keeping these tips in mind while you’re painting will not only enhance your technical skill, but it will also unleash your creative output. Remember, painting is as much about intuition as it is about technique. Experiment and stay curious, and above all, enjoy the journey of artistic discovery.

Supplies List

Basics

Ruler (24” cork backing recommended)

Chip brushes

Gesso

Wooden palette


Brushes

I use natural hair brushes. A good brush is easier to use and will last a very long time if you take care of it.


Paints

Ultramarine blue

Titanium white

Cerulean blue

Cadmium red medium

Cadmium orange

Alizarin crimson

Cadmium yellow light

Yellow ochre

Viridian

Burnt sienna

Burnt umber

Cobalt violet or dioxazine purple

Ivory black


Other Supplies

Painting clothes and an apron

Paper Towels

Quotes to Paint By

“Simple shapes carry. And big simple shapes carry best.”

-Gregg Kruetz


“Who paints a figure, if he cannot be it, cannot draw it.” 

-Dante


“In its limited sense, modern art would seem to concern itself with the technical innovations of the period. In its larger, and to me, irrevocable sense, it is the art of all time; of definite personalities that remain forever modern by the fundamental truth that is in them. It makes Moliére at his greatest as new as Ibsen, or Giotta as modern as Cézanne.” 

-Edward Hopper


“Never make any two shapes–of distance, length, spacing, and dimensions of shapes–the same.” -Greg Albert


“If you want to be good at anything, you’ve got to put in the time. I’ve heard it put two ways, and I like them both. You’ve either got to do five hundred paintings, or put in ten thousand hours before you start doing work you can be really proud of. Either way, that’s a lot of brush miles  and a whole lot of practice paintings!”

-Carol Marine



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Remy Koufax is an academically trained fine artist.

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