Do you remember fingerpainting as a child? I didn’t get to do much of that because, for me, it was just a waste of paint. I was not an “artsy” child, you know. All I was… was messy, and let me tell you, it doesn’t get any messier than fingerpainting. So even though I begged and pleaded, I rarely got to do any fingerpainting.

Of course I played along with my children, and even then, all I did was make a mess. That was all right, though. We did our fingerpainting on large sheets of newsprint on a table underneath a tree. It was always a fun way to spend a summer day.

Now, I’m fingerpainting again, only this time, it’s much, much different. It came about when I saw a painting in a Facebook art group. It was gorgeous! The colors were absolutely stunning. I’d never seen anything quite like it, so I asked the artist if she would tell me a little about her technique.

Turns out, yep, it was fingerpainting done with water-soluble oils. There’s a bit more to it than that, though. Her technique begins with molding paste, and as luck would have it, I’d just bought a jar of molding paste. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but it sounded like something fun to play with. After connecting with Valerie Berkley I knew just what to do!

Before I explain the process, let me show you my very first “fingerpainting.” Here is “Summer’s Day”.

It will need a little “tweaking” here and there, but for now I’m happy with what I’m seeing here. I’m excited by the entire process, and I’m fascinated with the technique used.

So, I began with a 5 x 7 canvas panel. I had started toning the canvas previously. I’d used a reddish-orange acrylic to tone what would become the “sky area” for a painting. Originally I planned to use a second color acrylic to tone the lower portion of the panel. But then I moved on to other things, and the half-toned canvas panel simply sat there waiting to be picked up again.

Why not use it for this fingerpainting experiment? Sounded like a good idea to me. The first step was to take that molding paste — I have Golden’s Light — and spread it quite liberally across the canvas. I used a palette knife, and it was a bit like icing a cake. Here’s how the panel looked afterward:

The next step involves creating texture. Valerie uses tissue paper. She presses it into the gesso to create different effects. Instead of tissue, I reached first for a washcloth sitting on my easel and pressed it into the gesso. It made a very rough surface. Maybe it was a bit too rough, I thought. So I grabbed a large plastic wrapper from my “junk box” and pressed that into the surface, too. I still had a very rough texture, but this was all an experiment so I decided to keep going.

I allowed the medium/gesso to “cure” overnight. Once it was completely dry, I used a silver metallic acrylic paint to tone the canvas again, this time covering all of the canvas. The acrylic I used, by the way, has a matte finish. You can see how rough the texture is in this photo.


Once the metallic acrylic had dried, I took a deep breath, donned a pair of nitrile gloves, and dug into my painting box. I used French Ultramarine and Titanium White for the sky. I had no idea what I was doing, so I just squeezed paint from the tubes directly onto the canvas. I began playing, using my fingers to rub the paint over the surface, letting the blue and the white come together, now and then stepping back, and just moving the paint over the textured ridges until the sky was covered.

I then added some Cadmium Yellow Light, allowed it to mix with the Ultramarine Blue, and began building up the “grassy” areas. Later, I added in Sap Green and touches of Lemon Yellow.

It was fun to play with shapes, to use my fingers to suggest grasses and bushes and yellow flowers poking their heads up. Now, I’m letting it dry — as is — and then I’ll take a good look at it and decide if I want to add more through fingerpainting, or if I might want to do a few “touch-ups” with a brush. Of course, I want to play now with different textures, different colors, different metallics.

How about using black gesso/paste? Or a gesso with a different pigment? I see yellow, red ochre, and gray available at Amazon. How about using a clear gesso?

And think of all the ways texture can be created! Plastic wrap, tissue paper, cloth… just for starters. I’ve sometimes used a torn sponge to create a bit of texture with my landscapes and impasto style. I’m sure I’ll be doing more of that now.

And how about using different metallics? I have a set of six different metallic acrylics. There are also “iridescents” — color-changing acrylics. These are what Valerie likes to use, so I’ll give them a try, too. There are even “glitter acrylics” so that might be something to experiment with.

I do like the effects that can be created with techniques like this. I feel it goes well with my own “impasto” style of oil painting. I know I’m definitely going to have fun with this. I’m already looking through my “Inspiration” folder at various reference photos I’ve collected, thinking about how I might use fingerpainting techniques to put them on my canvases.

Have you ever tried this technique with oils? Have you used gesso or molding paste to create textures? I’m eager to hear about it all!




  1. Good Morning! The painting is beautiful. Its funny how those things that we avoided at some point in our lives, turn out to be the things we try and like the outcome. I never like anything about painting. Well, I liked it when other artists did it, but me, nope. I find that I enjoy painting more than drawing. Its something relaxing about it. I may have to do some fingerpainting to see how I feel about that. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Doing this with the texture and the metallic sheen was so much fun! I want to try a lot of different things now, using different metallics and different textures. I really enjoyed doing this!

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    1. Thanks. I want to do a bit of “touch-up” in places, but overall I was really pleased with how it turned out, especially for my “first try” at this technique. It definitely fits in well with my impasto style of oil painting, so I plan to incorporate elements of fingerpainting into my art now. I’m glad you like it. 🙂

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  2. A few decades ago as a newly minted artist I set out to do some snow scenes. My instructor suggested I try laying in some modeling paste texture on the canvas before painting. I wasn’t sold on the idea but did it anyway. That first effort turned out to be one of my favorite paintings and still hangs over the fireplace in my living room today. As a bonus, that painting was in an exhibit which happened to be attended by a blind man. He had a great time following the patterns of the modeling paste with his fingers and getting his own interpretation of the snow scene.

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    1. What a beautiful memory of art! I think we should make more “touchable” art, art that’s meant to be touched, traced over with our fingers, caressed, and enjoyed at the physical level. I’d love to see the painting, too! Have you ever posted it on your blog?

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      1. I have never posted that one anywhere for copyright reasons. I painted it from a photograph that wasn’t mine, so the painting will remain in my living room forever. I was just starting out and didn’t know all the rules, so that’s how it ended up in an exhibit. I did do another snow scene from my own photo, using the same technique of modeling paste. You can see that one here:

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      2. Oops, I take that back! The original and the second one are right together on my “Blast from the past” page, titled “Winter Reflections” (the one in my living room), and “Sophie’s Snow” (which was sold).

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  3. so beautiful and so full of feeling!! it’s just what I needed to see with how cold it currently is, it also looks to me like looking over leafy, breezy, summer trees – touched and warmed by the afternoon golden sunshine☀️~ it feels me with such warm feelings and hope of the continuing warming seasons :o), thank you as always for sharing your work ♡!

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