At EMC we put great value on learning from Art, as floral design as a metier is ultimately, an artistic profession. We play with the same elements and principles as any artist, like balance, colour, texture, proportion etc., the difference is the medium we use, ours having one important feature that greatly sets us apart: it lives.
As part of the EMC learning process, we take our students during Advanced class on a trip to the one of the most important Museums in the world, The Louvre, in order for them to interact and feel art at it's best. We guide them through the process of understanding how important it is to be able to understand the lessons of the great Masters, by introducing exercises as collages and assignments such as iconography, in order to give designers the right tools to understanding the infinite power of artistic expression. In the end, it is a introspective journey inside your creative potential and an amazing process of achieving the confidence to put all that back in your unique floral design expressions.
In the early 1400s, Van Eyck perfects the use of oil paint in Art and the medium starts to gain recognition in the word of painting.
A brush stroke = the configuration given to paint by contact with the bristles of a brush, or other painter’s tools
It is important to remember that most artist at this time have been trained or worked with egg-tempera or other water medium paints, so initially, before the start of the Renaissance, the use of oil paint is done with the same techniques and tools as the egg-tempera. Van Eyck’s artistic endeavour is a work of an incredible realism, minute detail, natural light and brilliant colour, all made possible through his ingenious techniques and seamless brushstrokes.
Da Vinci, who was quite the innovator, perfected a brush technique called sfumato, where the outline of forms are softened and the shadows painted so gently that the image conveys an almost misty appearance, referred to as Leonardo’s smoke. He achieved this by painting multiple thin layers and making the changes in value very, very gradual.
Titian the first artist to show vigorous, expressive brush-work. Painterly brushstrokes, where the artist does not really mind that the brush strokes are shown and, in fact, uses the lines of each individual stroke to impact the painting. He used his brush to dab, scrape and smooth. He was also one of the first to use a thick paint, called impasto, beyond emphasising highlights. Once he added impasto as a type of application, the thick paint lead the way for a wide variety of brushwork to follow.
El Greco, in the late 1500’s, is known for using very thick paint. He allowed his brush or painting knife to express emotion. He is one of the first artists to use a very stiff hog hair bristle, intentionally aiming to create textural brush lines by not softening the lines with a smoother brush. He is also the first artist to use an early version of a palette knife to achieve rough, broken strokes. What seemed wrong in those times is now proven to be a form of early Expressionism. Unlike El Greco, his contemporary, Caravaggio, mastered the art of using seamless glazes and almost invisible brush lines.
Peter Paul Rubens is know for using a wide variety of brushwork and one of the first artists to thin his paints with turpentine, exploring in a different manner the medium. With age, his brush work loosened and began to take on a kind of energy that later artist would incorporate in their work.
Rembrandt, one of the greatest Dutch painters, used the thin, smooth glazes common to his period in his, but he became highly influenced by the variety of fluid, vigorous brushwork and began to popularise the single stroke expression, bravura brushwork. Rembrandt is said to have been able to do in on stroke, what would have taken others five passes to accomplish.
Landscape paintings started to become popular around early 1800s and John Constable is an important artist who approached landscape in a more realistic manner, than the idealised version of nature which had been seen in the Baroque period before him. In his studies, he developed lively, free brush techniques in order to capture the quickly changing elements of nature. He took the use of impasto even further than his predecessors and he would fleck on little bits of off-white paint to add texture to his water and skies.
JMW Turner was also an influential painter who, due to his extensive work in watercolour as well, had an additional knowledge of transparency and the benefits of using white spaces. His methods of application included thin transparent glazes, soft scumbling, impasto paint and palette knife work. He also used directional brushwork to the extreme, producing an intense sense of drama in his work and his work was of great influence to the Impressionist who followed him.
Eduard Manet, an experimentalist with his art, included the idea of patches of colour rather than gradual gradients. He uses strokes that are individual, directional, fairly short and also repetitive, including harsh outlining of forms and lack of shadows, which gave his figures a rather flat appearance.
The abbreviated strokes of colour picked up from Manet, became small dashes of colour in the hands of Claude Monet, one of the most influential Impressionist painters. He developed a system of shorter, quicker brush strokes and this was determined by the time restrictions of the changing light while painting outside. Monet's brush strokes were vigorous and generally didn't change in size to convey depth.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was one of the original impressionist painters who painted with much thinner paint than his colleagues. Renoir preferred to apply his colours directly to the canvas wet and then he would slur them together with incredibly free brushwork. He also allowed his coloured grounds to show through his translucent layers and spots.
Paul Cezanné is an artist that crosses multiple stylistic categories his aim was to reflect nature according to his sensations he painted his forms very simply with dark outlines and incorrect perspective. He's also known for the use of repetitive flat planes of colour and rhythmic directional brushstrokes in almost parallel diagonal lines. Cezanné was very particular about the colour of every brush stroke feeling that each stroke was important
George Seurat was looking for a scientific methodical way to convey natural light and atmosphere and In the summer of 1885 he developed his dot method of applying paint that would eventually be called pointillism. His theory is that patches of complementary colour placed next to each other would enhance each of the individual colours and therefore produce a kind of shimmering light when seen at a distance.
The post-impressionists focused on emotions rather than recording what they saw and Vincent van Gogh is the most important representative of that period. He felt that Impressionism didn't allow for enough artistic expression and would became the king of rhythmic directional brushstrokes combining them with his bold complementary colour schemes and a very heavy impasto paint in order to express his feelings.
Another post-impressionist who showed great innovation was Paul Gauguin, who, like Manet and Cezanné before him, paints patches of colour. Still, he takes the concept a step farther painting large flat areas of almost single colour without much form and very distinct outlines. His application of paint is very flat and his brushstrokes generic almost indistinguishable in fact he seems to show a complete lack of attention to brushwork.
John Singer Sargent deserves special recognition as he is the king of bravura brushwork. He's one of the most brilliant artists and had an incredible ability to convey a form with just a few swipes of the brush.
Some of these innovations came with the introduction of cubism and one of the most renowned artists in history is Pablo Picasso, who brilliantly focused on breaking down objects to their most basic forms and then examine how they relate to one another. Picasso used a very thick flattened impasto.
Clifford Still is an American artist credited with laying the foundations of abstract art, where there's typically no single focal point the work is about the whole image keeping the viewer moving through the piece. Typically painted on a large scale, abstract art forced the viewer to take it on in a more intimate way. Still painted broad expanses of color and applied the paint with extremely active strokes, creating jagged edges and lines of color that seemed to cut through the surrounding paint. He applied the paint both very thickly with a trowel as well as thinly with a brush and sometimes left vast areas of canvas completely bare.
Later in the 20th century, Jackson Pollock came up with a concept of pouring commercial paint directly out of can on to a large un-stretched canvas that had been pinned to the floor or the wall. He would often place a stick in the can to act as a kind of guidance for the paint in order to control the flow. He would also fling or dribble the thinned paint and ultimately create kind of a complex web of colourful paint in order to communicate his deepest emotions. Pollock felt that paint wasn't just a substance to be manipulated but instead it was a source of stored energy that needed release.
Helen Frankenthaler was a contemporary of Pollock's who built off of his concept of pouring, but paint instead of using commercial paint she would thin down oil paint to an almost translucent consistency and then pour it onto a large raw unprimed canvas that she had placed on the floor of her studio. As a result the pigment would soak into the fabric and essentially stain the material so where Pollock's enamel paint would rest on top of the primed canvas, Frankenthaler would absorb. This became known as a staining technique.
Later in time, German artist Gerhard Richter creates masterful large-scale paintings using an oversized squeegee to apply smear and lift layers of paint from the canvas. He begins with a base layer over which about 90% of it is covered with subsequent abstract layers of paint. Richter then finishes off many of his paintings by either removing segments of the top layer or adding additional paint with a brush or knife.
In the 1980s through 2010 we see one of the 20th century's most important Chinese artists Wu Guanzhong manages to blend naturalistic realism with abstraction and geometric simplicity. He uses confident single stroke brushwork and splatter to communicate feelings, yet cleverly representing natural forms. His techniques allow him to achieve just enough realism to let us know what the subject is, but enough abstraction to make us feel. And what's interesting about Guanzhong's work is that he seems to combine multiple styles of brushwork from the past to create his own unique artistic style.
article edited by Diana Toma, EMC
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