Oil paint and brush strokes

Painting every day, one often comes up against a newly realised problem or difficulty that needs to be resolved.  I say newly realised because it seems that the problem has likely been there all along, unrecognised as such.  Ignorance is a kind of bliss, that's true. 

This week I have struggled with brush strokes in one of my commission portraits. These are usually tighter and with more detail than my other paintings. Unfortunately this can lead to some overthinking and soul searching during the process. I have decided that it will help me to pay more attention to mark making, and to be deliberate about it sometimes.

I am exploring the possibilities in a variety of marks and shapes, and attempting to create illusion of lines (for instance) rather than the simple directional lines that I naturally go to first.  I have found than by breaking up lines and adding movement to them, the effect is more natural and attractive, and the eye still reads the whole as a line.

Here is one example, the tan dachshund's ear just looked flat somehow. The straight down highlight on the edge drew the eye too much and looked wooden. Yet I wanted the left edge of it to be highlighted with the palest bright yellow as the light falls there in the reference photos.  So I experimented with a broken line instead of the straight line which works to make the ear sit more naturally

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oil painting pet portrait techinques brush strokes.jpg

At the same time, I simplified the shape of the ear, removed the extra colours and made the big shape of the ear all one colour (tan). Sometimes as painters we have ideas in our mind as to what things are, and they dont translate or 'read' properly to the general viewer. This was one such case, the extra colours didn't read as an ear so I simplified it back down again. I remember hearing an artist interviewed on the Artists Helping Artists podcast, I wish I could recall her name, but Ill always think back to her words of wisdom.

It was something like ' Don't leave weird, un-recognisable bits in your painting'. I expect that she worded it differently, but it is a great bit of advice all the same.