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One-Stroke Brush Techniques

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One-stroke brush strokes for Tole Painting

The methods described for the execution of the various brush strokes, are for use with Oil paint. It is important to be comfortable as you work and to be in a position where the brush is pulled towards you at all times, this will mean that, you will sometimes need to turn the work, as you work. Always taking care not to smudge any previously painted area, because that can cause, 'real frustration'.
It's easy to get very involved as you work, so don't forget to take a break. Practice is the key to success with your brush strokes. Trying 'too hard' is not the answer, relax and enjoy the learning as well as the painting.
Oil paint straight from the tube is not a suitable consistency for stroke work, so we need to alter it (or use Lefrance & Bourgeios). To do this, take the selected colour and squeeze a small amount on the palette or other mixing area. Use a palette knife to mix the paint. Add a small amount of the Zest-it Clear Painting Medium to the paint on the palette, use the palette knife to mix the paint and the medium together. Having made sure it's all mixed, lift the palette knife away from the paint, as you do so a small 'peak' of paint will appear, the tip of the peak will fall to one side if the consistency is correct. If it doesn't fall add more medium and remix, until, when the palette knife is lifted away the 'peak' falls to one side. This mixture needs to feel velvety smooth under the brush, with a consistency of very soft butter.
Use this link for more information on mixing colours.

Teardrop Stroke

Round    Flat
round tear drop      flat tear drop

Using a Round brush (No.5) loaded with paint, touch the point of the brush to the surface, apply a small amount of pressure. This will spread the bristles and give a rounded top to the stroke. This is a continuous stroke:- Slowly pull the brush towards you whilst easing off with the pressure, as you near the end of the stroke, the bristles will go back to a point, and the point, makes the tail of the stroke. To achieve a good 'tail' continue the stroke after the brush has left the surface, don't just stop. Try it with the " or 3/8" Flat brush, you need to finish on the chisel edge of the brush. Try making them with long and short tails. It's actually an upside down teardrop!

Comma Stroke

Round      Flat
round left commaround right comma  flat comma strokeflat comma stroke 

Using the same Round brush try the comma stroke. As with the teardrop stroke, apply a small amount of pressure to start, this gives the rounded top. As you pull the stroke, turn the tail either to the left or right. It's again one continuous movement, in order to obtain the desired curve lean the handle in the direction you need to travel (l or r). Try not to tighten your wrist and use the whole arm. This is a controlled stroke, don't try to rush it.

'S' Stroke

Round        Flat
round s strokeround s stroke    flat s strokeflat s stroke

With the 'S' stroke, you need to start the stroke with the equivalent pressure you used in the above strokes to make a tail. Complete the stroke in one continuous movement. A light touch to start, slowly add pressure, maintain the pressure for the desired length, release the pressure, finish with a light touch and a short tail. For the Flat brush start on the chisel end of the brush, move slightly then pull towards you to form the length of the 'S', back onto the chisel end, finish off with the short tail.

'C' or Crescent Stroke

Flat Brush
crescent stoke   c stroke

In using the brush for the crescent stroke, you are forming an 'n' going up and a 'u' going down. Again it's a continuous movement. For the 'n' crescent, stand the Flat brush on it's chisel end, move slightly up, put controlled pressure on the brush, form the 'n' shape, release controlled pressure as you finish the curve, at the same time bring the brush back onto it's chisel end. Again don't just stop, lift the brush off, but continue the movement. Try them with the Round brush.

Pivot Half Circle Stroke

Flat Brush

pivot half circle stroke

Although the whole arm is used for the stroke, the brush also needs to be turned between the fingers. Stand the Flat brush on it's chisel end, in a horizontal position, decide which corner of the bristles is to be the pivot point. Put a small amount of pressure on the brush, turn the brush between the fingers as you move your arm, forming a half circle. This time you need to stop to lift the brush to finish the stroke. Normally there would not be a gap in the centre, I put it in so you could see the brush stroke.

Line Work
Rigger Brush
rigger brush work      rigger line work

Practice with the Rigger or liner brush until you feel in control. It's often best to have the paint thinned to a watery consistency, try writing your name and just doodling with the brush. You need to be relaxed but in control. The paint needs to flow and so does you arm and wrist. Try swirls and figure of eights, long , loose comma strokes and flowing 'S's.


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Design and Artwork Jacqui Blackman 1999
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