Examples of stroke directions under raking light
Philip Howe Fine Art
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Here are a few more examples of how the stroke direction can be studied under extreme closeup if the light is strong and directly from one side.

As explained in the last part of the Demo for the painting Far Below, the idea of studying the manner of the stroke- the direction and viscosity of the paint, you can learn a lot about the intent of the artist in developing not only his technique but some of the real purpose the artist meant for the public to see. You might see a tentative, building up of smaller strokes to suggest a light or atmospheric effect, for example. Or a heavy series of strokes with tapered edges that suggests the artist painted boldly and into wet underlying paint.

Why study technique? I think its one of the best ways to learn an approach to the kind of painting you are wanting to move toward, especially in the study of those masterful painters whose technical ability seems daunting at first but the more you study it the more you can begin to understand the artist's approach and why he or she worked in a particular manner. With enough study- what seemed technically nearly impossible to achieve -finally becomes something approachable with the hints that the study of originals can give you. Since we can't talk to the great painters of the past, we are limited to looking and reading and much of what I have read is superficial hype or ignorance. I am convinced those who produce work in any profession are the real experts, certainly not those who write about it. I tell students Learn for yourself, thats where you will find the truth.

Along with design and concept, a great painting, like a symphony, can convey a world of emotion- but without good technique or the abilty to render well enough to get the idea across, then the best concept is somewhat limited and never comes across professionally, especially in illustration work.

So studying the surface technique gives at least some insight as to how you might gain a better approach. The internet can show this to some extent, as in the samples below. Books I have seen try to, but the effect rarely comes across in print. The best way, again, is to see the original art of the artists you like and remember what you see. You will if you are intrigued enough. I wish more Museums allowed the public to come in and shoot sections of works but they are afraid someone is going to reproduce the work, and frankly, I know in a number of public, federally funded museums that they are afraid to loose money for their poster market of the images they have collected. Whereas the NY Met and those in Washington DC are quite willing to allow photography, so long as its not using flash. I have included a few samples that I have aquired for study.

Directly below, A couple of my own pieces show a strong left raking sunlight that increases the depth of impasto, or heavy textured paint strokes. Sometimes random strokes give a suggestion of movement, light, texture, etc. At other times a more direct stroke, almost linear, follows the forms and brings out the roundness or solidity of an object in space.

The lower samples are of Sorolla, Boldini and Sargent, argueably three of the greatest technical virtuoso's of realism who have ever held a paint brush, and living, coincidently, at the same time. These three, and Zorn, Whistler and a number of other noted painters of realism, were, at times, in touch with each other and very familiar with one anothers work. As a painter, I feel sure they also studied the mastery of each others technique. I thought they would be interesting to show here for study. You can, with some research, find a number of recent books that give us the private writings of Sargent, Sorolla and others, in their correspondence with one another or with their patrons and sitters. I think I learned more from reading Sargent's day to day accounts, especially his visits to the Louvre and other museums, and how he spent his time, which tells more about his technique than words can express. For those interested, just let me know and I can list some of the more interesting books available.

Heavy texture with multiple layering
Far Below - Close detail of cloth area
Cow- in raking sunlight, box detail is below
Stroke detail from above section
Illustration closeup strokes
Boldini painting via drawing
Sorolla rough sketch closeup
Thayer- note palette knife opaque block in
Sargent- Directional strokes over larger planes. Great color!
Sargent_ strokes for water detail
Sargent- flowers, note that he painted 'around' areas to keep the color clean
Sargent_ head detail. Note directional strokes.

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