How can I Learn Painting Techniques?

This was a question I have been asked a few times, especially when a learner wants to be able to paint something specific like hair for example.  Learners can get very hung up about techniques and how to learn them.  Techniques need to be thought of as ways to apply or remove paint to create a visual effect, that is all they really are. Some techniques are extremely simple although at first glance you may not be able to tell how the painter achieved the effect.  Some techniques are more complex and require more of a knowledge of materials.

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What is Pointillism?

Pointillism is a technique used in art which means to paint or draw in dots. The idea first came from neo-impressionist painters who used pure colour in dots which looked blended from a distance.  Seurat was one of the famous painters who developed this technique (as seen in header image) and below.

Today, very few artists use this technique however it was very popular with impressionist artists in the nineteenth century.  The dots of pure colour give a very bright finish due to the intense colour of each dot.  Tiny spaces of white are also enabled to come through the canvas which makes for a bright and light feel to the paintings.

How do I use this technique?

This technique isn’t easy because you have to make a judgement about the colour and where to place the dots.  Painting this way is also quite slow as coverage takes much longer.  The results are interesting however and I think dots give a soft, static feel that strokes can’t create.

Simply work in dots, building up the colours and tone,  try to allow some space between the dots at first and then fill in as the study develops.   You could try out the technique with pen or pencil at first to get used to seeing tones with dots.

Fossil study in dots using a fine pen
Fossil study in dots using a fine pen
Above we see a study of a fossil done in fine pen, all in dots.  Dark tones are built up with many dots and lighter areas have less dots, rather like the print of a newspaper close up. Once you have done a study in monochrome you could then try painting in this way with colour.
Tinted paper with pastel and fine dots with fined nibbed pen
Above is a study again using a fine nibbed pen in dots and the paper has been tinted with pastel for stuble colour.  Not for those without a lot of patience, as this study took six months to complete!