Technique Tuesdays: The Multi-Loaded Brush

Technique Tuesday multi loaded brush

What is it?

Most everyone would probably be able to guess what exactly is meant by the phrase  “loading the brush” as it relates to painting–you dip the paintbrush in the paint! It’s pretty simple. There are all sorts of ways, however, that artists adjust the way that they load their paintbrush in order to achieve the effect they desire. An artist might adjust the amount of paint they apply to the brush, the wetness of the brush, the consistency of the paint, etc. Today we’re going to take a look at a fun and simple technique with an awesome effect: the multi-loaded brush. Essentially, this refers to the technique of dipping the paintbrush in more than one color of paint, so that multiple colors appear together and blend when the brushstroke is made. Here’s a pretty clear visual example of a double-loaded brush, courtesy of the website wikiHow:


Examples from art history:

This technique was one that was frequently used for several centuries as a method of decorative painting. When painting a design onto furniture, ceramics, or other small decorative objects, the method of using a double-loaded brush, sometimes referred to as “one stroke painting,” was often employed as a simple way to give a bit of highlight and definition to the simply painted shapes and forms. (See a video example of the method by clicking here.) The double-loaded brush effect became especially characteristic of  “rosemaling,” which is the Norwegian term for decorative art and a word that has become associated with the beautiful folk art style that evolved in Norway. Here’s a good example of rosemaling painting on a bowl:


In fine art painting, however, visible strokes of a multi-loaded brush were not commonly seen until the late 18th century, when the Post-Impressionist movements began to celebrate a looser, more expressive manner of painting. As brushstrokes became less exact and precise and more free-flowing, many artists used a double-loaded or multi-loaded paintbrush (meaning even more than two colors on the brush at once) to achieve a fresh and interesting effect to the look of their brushstrokes. It was a way to blend colors without doing so too seamlessly, and it gave an attractive an multi-dimensional appearance to certain areas of the work. Unlike with the more precise style of decorative painting, the artists did not always use a neatly divided and even distribution of paint across the tip of the brush, but rather added the colors with a bit more freedom and looseness. Here are a few examples from the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 20th century of fine art paintings that include some visible strokes of a multi-loaded brush. (You can click on the image to see it a bit larger.)

(from left to right) crops of Marc Chagall’s “Bonjour Paris,” Henri Matisse’s “Portrait of Madame Matisse (Green Stripe),” and Edvard Munch’s “Love and Pain”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

There’s something free, interesting-looking, and vibrant about the effect of a multi-loaded brush. Colors appear blended, but not too perfectly blended, and it’s very visually appealing. Typically, artists whose work is very realistic looking (for instance, Larry Preston, Jorge Alberto, Cindy Procious, and many others) will carefully and precisely blend the colors and brushstrokes in a painting to give a sharper and more true-to-life appearance to the finished work, rather than leaving visible brushstrokes from a multi-loaded brush. But there are also many artists at Principle Gallery whose brush work is a bit more loose, expressive, and energetic, and some of these artists, make beautiful use of the effect of a multi-loaded paintbrush. Here’s just one example of a landscape by Lynn Boggess that includes several details of areas showing the technique:

details (left) of Lynn Boggess's "7 November 2014" (right)
details (left) of Lynn Boggess’s “7 November 2014” (right)

You can spot creative and lovely use of a multi-loaded brush (or more accurately in Lynn’s case, palette knife or cement trowel, not brush) in nearly every single one of Lynn’s vivid landscapes in his solo exhibition, currently hanging at the gallery. Visit the online preview here and click through the paintings to see if you can spot them!

Another artist who makes brilliant use of a multi-loaded brush is Barbara Flowers, a talented painter whose gorgeous work we have begun to show this year. Click here to check out all of our available works by Barbara on our site, and take a look at the image below to see how Barbara’s use of a multi-loaded brush gives gorgeously subtle yet vibrant effect to each facet of her still life painting.

details (left) of Barbara Flowers's "Two Peaches and Hydrangea" (right)
details (left) of Barbara Flowers’s “Two Peaches and Hydrangea” (right)

Join us next week on Technique Tuesday as we continue to explore these amazing tricks of the trade utilized by our talented artists here at Principle Gallery!

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