More Fingerpainting

I am still quite intrigued by the idea of fingerpainting with oil paints. Surprisingly, I haven’t done much with it yet. Mostly I’ve been thinking about it, making a realistic assessment of the techniques involved, wondering what different effects I could achieve with different materials, and looking at various photo references — all in preparation for another attempt at fingerpainting with my water soluble oils.

Maybe you remember my first fingerpainting?


Summer Day

I definitely liked this. I still intend to put it back on the easel one day soon — Sketchbook Revival 2022 has taken up a lot of my time recently — and make a few “tweaks” with a brush here and there to give a bit more definition to the scene.

One day, I did attempt a second oil fingerpainting, and I wasn’t nearly so enamored of it.


Autumn Day

Let’s not dismiss the elephant in the room. Obviously I had trouble creating the textural effects I wanted. This, of course, is part of the learning experience when it comes to new techniques and methods. For the first attempt — Summer Day — I followed the procedure very closely. With the second attempt — Autumn Day — I got a bit more adventurous. It made for an interesting experience, but not for a very good painting.

The process for creating paintings like this is to first apply a coat of gesso or molding paste and then cover it with a piece of plastic while the layer is still wet. Remove the plastic immediately, leaving behind interesting textural marks. Next, after allowing the first layer to dry thoroughly, apply an acrylic tone over the canvas. The woman I learned this technique from — Valerie Berkely — uses iridescent acrylics. I’ve been using metallics, but plan to try both the iridescent and the new “color shifting” acrylics I’ve seen. Of course, any acrylic paint could be used for toning.

Once the toning is dry — which doesn’t take long — you start the fingerpainting process. Valerie uses water-soluble oils, and that’s what I’ve used. For the first painting I used my Winsor Newton “Artisan” paints; for the second, I tried my new “student grade” Cobra water-mixables. You’ll notice, I’m sure, that I didn’t get the same bright hues, but maybe that’s because of the darker metallic acrylic I used for toning.

Now, back to the obviously over-done texture. With the first painting, I used textile to create texture, and I liked it. It gave the painting a more consistent overall textural feel. This time, I used a plastic sheet, and I found it impossible to really create a consistent texture. I had lines and streaks running this way and that — and at first, I liked it.

But here’s the big mistake I made. I considered the reference photo carefully, then used the end of a small brush to delineate specific areas. I was essentially “drawing” the main shapes of the scene. And then, guess what! I ended up turning the canvas around. I wasn’t liking how dark my sky area was getting, so I did a “switcheroo” and re-oriented the painting with the dark area on the bottom. That meant that all those lines and marks I’d made were in all the wrong places.

Oh, well. Live and learn, and next time I’ll do better. Yes, there will be a “next time”. I think there will probably be a lot of “next times” with this fingerpainting technique. I like certain aspects of it. Other things I’m not liking quite so much.

  • What I love most is the free and fun nature of fingerpainting! Of course it’s fun to literally get “hands on” with paint and apply it directly to the canvas. I love all the possibilities, the experimental “what if” aspect of this fingerpainting method. What if I use a colored gesso? What results would I get from a color-shifting acrylic? What different textures could I create?
  • I do like some of the textural effect. I don’t like the effects in the second painting. My own painting style naturally incorporates a bit of texture, but I don’t want to over-do it. In my experimentation now, I want to find the right method. I like using sponges for texture or coarse cloth. I think those applications are easier for me to handle than using plastic wraps or papers.
  • I want to improve my techniques for using gesso so that I create variable effects — from smoothly-iced areas to roughly-textured places. Maybe this is all the texture I need. It’s one more thing to play with.
  • I want to work with my palette knives, my scraping tools, and other implements — including brushes — along with the tips of my fingers. I want to try different things.

On the down-side, I have to admit that fingerpainting in oil is very messy. It seems, too, that it takes longer than usual for the paintings to even begin drying. Still, it’s an interesting process with a lot of variations and that makes it all exciting for me.

So, I’m working to choose proper subjects, find ways to use textural elements properly, and work to create the bright, beautiful colors I want. It’s definitely a learning process. For me, learning means trying a lot of different things. Some will work and others won’t. Along the way, I hope to create a few lovely landscapes.



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