Friday, November 20, 2009

01 Thick paint


FOR the last few years for at least once a month I browsed the internet for articles about Thick Paint or Painting with Thick Paint finding no entries to aid me in my pursuit of painting with a fully loaded brush. Although intitially discouraged, I now take it as encouragement to write about my experience of the last twelve years wrestling with the maddening, yet exhilarating, prospect of highly textured oil paint.

I first became interested in the brushwork of LaConte Stewart at a retrospective in Salt Lake City in 1988. My interest was solidified later that year in a show of Van Gogh’s work at the Metropolitan in New York City. For me the thick strokes of paint struck a deep chord and I knew I would have to discover the mysteries of this painting method. I certainly do not disparage thinner forms of painting. My wife, Debra Teare, is a trompe l’oeil painter and thick paint would destroy the effect she is trying to accomplish. Nor do I find any virtue in simply applying huge globs of paint. It has to make sense and work in the overall context of the painting, and above all, ring true to one's inner motivations and vision. It is simply one approach amid a myriad of approaches. But for me it is the only path that truly satisfies.

Over the course of my twelve year apprenticeship I occasionally became discouraged and lapsed into a thinner mode of painting akin to the Hudson River school. I found some success with that technique. I love paintings in that style but for me it never seemed an authentic expression of my personality. Yet painting with loaded brushes with abbreviated strokes seemed like walking a tight rope. It was exhilarating but seemed to invite disaster more than success. Yet I persisted, due mostly to some obsession I can’t quite articulate, and finally developed a modicum of competency. I was having more successes than failures and the frustrations were replaced by a steady successions of breakthroughs. Those breakthroughs continue as I am just at the beginnings of a journey which has turned out to be, after a long season of struggle, highly satisfying.

If you find these observations interesting and if they help you connect in a more satisfying manner with a style that is often ill-explained I hope you will join the conversation and feel free to share your successes and comments.

Brad Teare © 2009


  1. Congrats on the blog. Are those bright or flat brushes you're using? You seem to let them float over the surface and not dig in to much.

  2. They are brights. I do use flats, as well as the occasional filbert (for tree branches, etc, as well as softening edges). I try to keep the handle more parallel to the surface rather than perpendicular to let the paint come off easier with maximum texturing by the bristles. I almost think of the bristles as a palette knife rather than a brush.

  3. Great Blog, I've been trying for a long time now to loosen up and your blog will, I'm sure, be a great help, and I'm going to put a link on my website, too.

  4. Great blog, Brad! Love your work!

    I really enjoy the look of thick blends of paint. I feel I have touched on the edges of this approach. I have a rather fast turnover with my work...that is from completion to shipping, when I'm lucky enough to get an internet sale.
    How do you handle the length of drying time?


  5. Dean,

    I really don't worry about drying time much. In fact, if I do add anything to my paint it is to slow drying. In that case I will add walnut oil. Most of the painting I do is done in one session from two to six hours, depending on size and complexity. I always allow my paintings to sit for a month or more before I ship them. I do occasionally glaze and repaint my paintings and this requires I scrape some areas. I can't do that unless they are totally dry.

    I appreciate your comments and questions.

    Until later!

  6. Thanks for the link Fraser. I hope to hear how things go in your pursuit of a looser style.

  7. Van Gogh has always been my inspiration and now you. How do you photograph your art without all the sparkles. Are your paints gloss or mat? thank you Mike Kemp

  8. Mike,

    Sorry to be so long in responding. I use a polarized filter to take out MOST of the highlights. If some really bad ones remain I might use Photoshop to take them out digitally. I don't use a lot of medium so I guess you could say that the paints are matte, plus if I add chalk to them that will definitely give them a matte surface. However at the end I often varnish the surface so that makes it shiny again (which makes the color seem more vibrant).

  9. "Thick Paint" does this mean you discount the "rule" of thick over thin?? Also how do your paints dry in a month?


Thanks for your comments!


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