Technique Tuesdays: Pointillism

Technique Tuesday PointillismWhat is it?

Pointillism is a painting technique that popped up in the late 1800’s as an off-shoot of Impressionism. Essentially, pointillism uses small, distinct dots or strokes of different colors in a pattern to form an image. This technique relies on the ability of the eye to blend the dots of color–it’s actually quite similar to the way that computer screens and printers use tiny pixels of just a few colors (most printers have just four inks, CMYK) and posititions them all just right so that our eye blends them and sees a smooth image with normal-looking colors. So instead of mixing colors on a palette, the artist presents dots on the canvas that we mix with our eyes. To give you a very basic idea, here’s a visual example:

Seurat detail

detail of a crop from Georges Seurat’s “La Parade de Cirque”

In the close-up detail on the left, you can see a wide variety of colors–yellow, orange, red, different shades of blue, and shades of green–but take a look at the upper left corner of the crop on the right. That’s where this close-up comes from. But, when we’re a bit further away, we see the dots begin to blend into a warm shade of green. And check out how blended everything becomes when we take another proverbial step back to look at the painting as a whole:


Georges Seurat, “La Parade de Cirque”

Examples from art history:

Fun fact: when I (Pam) was in the eighth grade, my art teacher taught us our first art history mnemonic device with the rhyme “Seurat knew a lot about dots.” Yes, indeed he did! Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” is probably one of the most well-known pointillist images ever:


Georges Seurat, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”

Georges Seurat and Paul Signac were the original pioneers of the use of pointillism, referring to it as Neo-Impressionism. “Pointillism” was actually a derisive word coined by art critics, but the connotation of the word is no longer mocking. Many artists began to experiment with this technique, including Vincent Van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, and Maximilien Luce, among many others. Later, a group known as the Divisionists would tweak the idea by using larger, more square brushstrokes to create similar blended colors and patterns.

AH Collage

(left) Vincent van Gogh, Self-portrait; (middle) Paul Signac, “Le Clipper, Asnieres”; (right) Camille Pissarro, “Apple Picking at Eragny-sur-Epte”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

Several artists that we represent here at Principle Gallery occasionally dabble in pointillism in their works (check out the work of Mia Bergeron and Colin Fraser!), but one artist springs to mind in particular, with his classical and frequent use of the technique. GC Myers, whose annual solo exhibition opens THIS FRIDAY, has a knack for using pointillism to create a lovely and magical effect in the skies of many of his colorful landscapes. The dappled effect can give a sense of starlight, the glow of a sunset, the sparkle of bright sunshine, or sometimes just pure, magical texture.

The whole exhibition will be on display at the gallery by the end of this week, so please join us for the official opening on Friday, June 5th, from 6:30-9 PM! If you’d like to see a complete digital preview for the show earlier in the week, just send us an email! For now, please enjoy this sneak peek!

The Singular Heart 72

GC Myers, “The Singular Heart”

Freed to the Wind 72

GC Myers, “Freed to the Wind”

Solitude and Reverence 72

GC Myers, “Solitude and Reverence”

Clair de Lune 72

GC Myers, “Clair de Lune”


Technique Tuesday: Painting from Imagination

Technique Tuesday from imagination

What is it?

Continuing our mini-series on different reference methods artists use, today we’ll be looking at painting from the imagination. Nearly everyone who has ever had an interest in art had at some point created an artwork from imagination or memory; most all of us have at least doodled from imagination! When there’s an image that an artist wants to capture, but they either cannot or do not wish to use reference photos or a live subject, an artist can rely on their own memory and imagination to provide all the inspiration they need. As it’s difficult to accurately remember all of the details and shadows of a scene just from memory, some artists will use reference photos or a live subject to help enhance the realism of a scene they are creating from their mind, but the overall combination and placement of subjects still spring from the artist’s imagination. Other times, the realistic rendering of the image is not so important to the artist as the subject and content, and in this case, they can paint from pure imagination alone!

Examples from art history:

There is little doubt that painting from one’s imagination or memory is an art form that goes back as far as art itself (after all, it would be a bit difficult to get the buffalo to come pose inside the cave for those ancient cave paintings!). Additionally, when ancient cultures created artworks depicting scenes from their mythology and lore, particularly those involving strange creatures or deities, they had no option but to create from imagination, and as we can see looking at ancient art, the imagination is as diverse and prolific as humanity itself:

ancient art collage

artworks depicting deities from Ancient Egypt, Greece, and India

In addition, outdoor subjects were very difficult to paint from anything but one’s memory and imagination, as before the innovation of paint in tubes, it was difficult to paint en plein air at all! Many artists sketched outdoors, observing and copying details so that their final paintings would be more realistic, but in the end the works were created indoors and the artist had to rely on their mind to fill in the blanks. This was a large part of why nearly all landscapes preceding the 19th century were painted as what is termed an “idealized landscape.” But even when it became more accessible to paint en plein air, some artists chose to continue to use their imagination to help create a composition, for a variety of reasons. Take Van Gogh’s famous “Starry Night” for example–that scene does not actually exist anywhere in the region of France where he painted it; rather, Van Gogh was inspired by the surrounding landscape as well as by his thoughts of home, so he created an imaginary village and churches that reminded him of his Dutch homeland.

imaglandscape collage

(left) idealized landscape by John Paul Rubens, “An Autumn Landscape with a View of the Hetsteen in the Early Morning”; Vincent Van Gogh, “Starry Night”

As the twentieth century dawned and artists began to explore expressionistic painting more in-depth, many different styles of painting from one’s imagination evolved. One of the most well-known of these styles is Surrealism, a movement from the 1920’s in which artists explored themes of dreams and the subconscious through irrational pairings of images. All of these movements encouraging artists to use their imaginations and emotions as reference for their art have continued to have a major effect on art today, both in the world of fine art as well as urban art, which relies heavily on the artist’s imagination.

collage 3

(left) Salvador Dali, “Ship with Butterfly Sails”; (right) Urban art from Atlanta’s fourth ward

Examples from Principle Gallery:

At Principle Gallery, we show the artwork of a wide variety of artists, each with their own preference for what they use as reference. We do have two artists in particular, though, who delight in painting from their imagination. Francis Livingston, an artist often known for his city scenes painted in brilliant color, also enjoys the playing with odd and unexpected juxtapositions of subjects as you can see from his combination cityscape/animal artworks. Plus, if you happen to remember our post last summer on National Ice Cream Day, you can see some more examples of Francis’s ice cream paintings, which he also creates from memory alone. The results of his imagination-infused work are whimsical, beautiful, and intriguing.

Livingston Collage

(left to right) Francis Livingston, “Deference”, “Mating Season”, “Triple”, and “Night Moves”


Another Principle Gallery artist who paints from imagination, GC Myers is a painter based in upstate New York who creates colorful, stylized landscapes from his imagination alone, resulting in lovely, emotionally charged scenes. Keep an eye out, because our annual solo exhibition for GC Myers is coming up next month, so we’ll be getting in a lot of great new pieces!


(left to right) GC Myers, “Interconnected”, “Happy Trails”, and “Allura”

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Technique Tuesdays: Tonalism

Before we start to look at this week’s Technique Tuesday topic of Tonalism, we’re going to start with a mini discussion of two basics that are important to understand when talking about this style. So, in case you are not yet familiar with these concepts in art, let’s take a quick look at these 2 terms:

In art, “value” refers to the relative lightness or darkness of a given color. Lighter colors are said to have higher value, and darker colors lower value.

“Tone” is a very similar concept to value, and refers specifically to the intensity of a color. Adding white or black to a color will change its value (lightness or darkness) by also changing its intensity. The more pure the color, the more intense. Therefore, the mid-value and mid-tone colors used by Tonalists end up reading as very soft and quiet.

a chart depicting the scale of values and tones of various colors

a chart depicting the scale of values and tones of various colors

So, on to Tonalism!

Technique Tuesday TonalismWhat is it?

“Tonalism” is the name that was eventually given to the art movement popularized in the late 1800’s by American  landscape painters. Essentially, Tonalism is a way of painting landscapes that is characterized by soft, blurred lines, gentle use of colors in the mid-range of tones and values, and an elegantly simple composition. For many Tonalist painters, the use of this style was inspired by the philosophers and Transcendentalist ideas popular in America at the time Tonalism began. By painting a landscape in this certain way, artists sought to transform the portrayal of a landscape into something that might elicit a spirit of contemplation and introspection from the viewer, turning it into a tranquil and meditative device. An early member of the Tonalist movement, Birge Harrison, once described the objective to his students as that of striving for the “big vision-the power to see and to render the whole of a given scene, rather than to paint a still-life picture of its component parts; the power to aint the atmosphere that surrounds the objects rather than the objects themselves; the power, in one word, to give the mood of a motive rather than the scientific statement of the trees and rocks and fields and mountains that make up the elements.” Tonalism took many varied forms in the work of different artists, but here’s a word cloud to help give you an idea of the common qualities of Tonalist paintings.

word cloud

Examples in art history:

Inspired by the Transcendentalist philosophies of writers like Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walt Whitman, American landscape painters in the late 19th century developed the progressive and spiritual style of painting known as Tonalism. Two well-known artists from this movement were George Inness and James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Both Inness and Whistler experimented with the use of Tonalist qualities such as soft, mid-tone colors, simplified compositions, gentle light, and blurred focus to create contemplative, peaceful scenes like these below. Tonalism continued to inspire painters in later movements as well, as one can see in the work of more modern masters like Andrew Wyeth (and, as we’ll soon see, Principle Gallery artist Kevin Fitzgerald).

tonalism collage

(left) George Inness, “Sunset on the Passaic”; (right) James Abbott McNeill Whistler, “Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Old Battersea Bridge”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

To give a quick visual example of how effective Tonalist techniques are in creating a peaceful, moody atmosphere in a painting, let’s take a look at two lovely landscapes by Principle Gallery artists. On the left, Lisa Noonis has used higher-contrasting values and colors and energetic brushstrokes to give this water scene a lively and dynamic feel. You can easily observe, though, how on the right, Kevin Fitzgerald’s Tonalist-inspired landscape (while it shares some of the basic characteristics of Lisa’s painting) makes use of the principles of Tonalism to achieve a poetic and tranquil effect. Both of these artworks depict sky, clouds, and water using a range of blues, greens, and grays, but it’s easy to observe how different the resulting “feel” is between the two.

(left) Lisa Noonis, "Rain Likely"; (right) Kevin Fitzgerald, "River Clouds"

(left) Lisa Noonis, “Rain Likely”; (right) Kevin Fitzgerald, “River Clouds”

Inspired by a wide range of artists, from Renaissance Masters, to Tonalists, to the French Impressionists, to color field painters like Mark Rothko, Kevin Fitzgerald has developed his own style of painting landscapes in a way that, like Tonalism, transforms the scenes into something that the viewer experiences emotionally as well as visually. Kevin uses the vistas that he paints, often near his home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, as a poetic means of communicating the spiritual significance of each moment in nature.

In his personal statement, Kevin writes, “The landscape, both cultivated and wild, can serve as a reminder of the beauty and power that exists beyond our grasp. There is always something happening in the landscape before us, and something is always about to happen. We are traveling along, almost unmindful of everything around us, when suddenly we are startled to see in a distant field a strange arrangement of color and light. We know that in a moment it will pass. Perhaps all we can manage to say is that it is beautiful. For an instant we feel the presence of the miracle once again, allowing itself to be revealed.”

We are thrilled to be anticipating the opening of Kevin’s annual solo exhibition this coming Friday, March 20th. Join us from 6:30 to 9 PM at the gallery to view these amazing works of art, meet the artist himself, and maybe even find your own moment of comtemplation and peace. Enjoy this sneak peek of some of the beautiful, Tonalist-inspired landscapes in the show! For a full digital preview of the exhibition, just send an email request to, or keep an eye on Kevin’s artist page on our website for other available works.

Potomac Dawn 24x36 72

Kevin Fitzgerald, “Potomac Dawn”


Black Hills Grove 24x36 72

Kevin Fitzgerald, “Black Hills Grove”

Gulf Stream Wave 40x30 72

Kevin Fitzgerald, “Gulf Stream Wave”

Ironshire Dawn 18x24 72

Kevin Fitzgerald, “Ironshire Dawn”


Technique Tuesdays: Dry Brush

Technique Tuesday dry brushWhat is it?

Today’s featured technique is the dry brush technique. Like last week’s technique, the multi-loaded brush, this technique deals with the way that the artist loads their brush before applying it to the canvas. With the dry brush technique, rather than using a brush moistened with oil or water (depending on the type of paint) and an ample amount of paint to get a nice smooth brushstroke, an artist will instead use a mostly dry brush and a smaller amount of paint. This way, when the brushstroke is made, it has a more scratchy, textured, and wispy appearance. This is a technique that is used in both water-based painting (watercolor, egg tempera, acrylic) and oil-based painting.

Examples from art history:

One of the most beautiful and iconic uses of the dry brush technique can be found in ancient Chinese art. Chinese brush painting involves a brush dipped into black or colored inks, and dates very far back. It was during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), however, that Chinese brush painting reached a new level of sophistication and began to incorporate techniques like dry brush painting. The lighter, softer, and more blurred effect produced by using a dry brush allowed for a range of atmospheric effects. The images below are examples from this dynasty:

(left) Fan Kuan “Travelers Among Mountains and Streams”, 11th c.; (right) Chen Rong detail from “The Nine Dragons”, 13th c.


During later periods of art history, artists also began to use the dry brush technique in a way that is referred to as “scumbling.” Though many use “dry brushing” and “scumbling” interchangeably, the distinguishing aspect of scumbling is that it is used in the layering process of paint. (So, while dry brushing might sometimes involve the paper showing through, scumbling in particular allows the other layers of paint to show through.) One of the great Masters of the Baroque period (17th and 18th centuries), Rembrandt van Rijn was perhaps one of the most famous artists to make use of scumbling technique, as he used it to achieve unique and extraordinary lighting effects. The image below shows the technique as used by Rembrandt, as well as an example from over two centuries later, in a painting by Edouard Manet:

(left) detail of self portrait by Rembrandt van Rijn in 1661; (right) Edouard Manet, "Emilie Ambre as Carmen", 1880

(left) detail of self portrait by Rembrandt van Rijn in 1661; (right) Edouard Manet, “Emilie Ambre as Carmen”, 1880

Examples from Principle Gallery:

Artists today still use the dry brush technique in a variety of ways to achieve the effect of lighting, texture, and atmosphere they desire. One Principle Gallery artist who makes frequent and beautiful use of the dry brush/scumbling technique is landscape painter Kevin Fitzgerald. Kevin utilizes this technique in many ways: to give a blurred softness to the edges of the fields of color in a piece, to give the wispy impression of clouds, to add an interesting texture, to loosely blend layers of colors, and to give a misty, peaceful atmosphere to the work–just to name a few! “Indian River Morning,” one of the pieces included in Kevin’s upcoming solo exhibition (opening March 20th!) is an excellent example of this technique:

Kevin Fitzgerald, "Indian River Morning"

Kevin Fitzgerald, “Indian River Morning”

Enjoy these additional beautiful examples of Kevin’s use of the dry brush technique below (or click here to see all of his available work on our website), and be sure to keep an eye out for many new works to arrive soon for his solo exhibition!

Blue Pond Clouds 72

Kevin Fitzgerald, “Blue Pond Clouds”

Chincoteague Dawn 72

Kevin Fitzgerald, “Chincoteague Dawn”

Kevin Fitzgerald, “Boca Dawn”


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!

Technique Tuesdays: En Plein Air

Technique Tuesday en plein air

What is it?

Today’s Technique Tuesday topic takes us on a trip to the great outdoors as we explore the world of Plein Air painting. The term “en plein air” is a French expression that translates to “in the open air.” It is used to describe the technique of painting outdoors, with the subject in full view of the artist. Although these days many artists work in their studios, often with photographs as reference, many artists still love to paint en plein air–especially landscape artists! When a landscape is created outdoors, the artist is often able to capture the space, the air, and the light more accurately than they could from a photograph alone. The task of plein air painting can be a bit tricky, as artists have to deal with obstacles like unpredictable weather and shifting light throughout the day. Many artists truly enjoy the challenge, though.

Examples from art history:

Painting outdoors has been done for a very, very long time, but it was not until the mid-1800’s that it had a true boom in popularity. After the introduction of paint in tubes and the “box easel”, an easel with telescopic legs and some storage capacity, painting outdoors became a lot more convenient, and the Impressionists were among the first to take advantage of the fact. As the growing movement of Impressionism was largely focused on looser representations focusing on light and color, plein air painting was the perfect method. Impressionists like Pierre-August Renoir, Claude Monet, and Camille Pissarro took advantage of the plein air painting technique, and the popularity soon spread across Europe and the Americas. Check out this neat plein air painting done by American artist Winslow Homer in 1868– not only is this a plein air landscape itself, but it depicts several other artists working en plein air as well!

"Artists Sketching in the White Mountains" by Winslow Homer

“Artists Sketching in the White Mountains” by Winslow Homer

Examples at Principle Gallery:

Many, many of our artists at Principle Gallery have painted outdoors, but some of them make special effort to do as much of their work en plein air as possible, to give their landscapes a real sense of freshness and life. Sometimes, as it’s understandably easier, artists will paint en plein air and create small studies, then go back to their studios to create a larger version of the work. Either way, it’s often easy to sense when observing a landscape whether the artist used the plein air painting technique in their work; the paintings seem so realistic and fresh, you can almost smell the great outdoors! Here’s a collage of several Principle Gallery artists who delight in working en plein air. Click on the artists’ names in the list below to view more of their amazing work on our website!

Plein Air Collage


(Upper left) Bethanne Kinsella Cople: Bethanne is a great lover of the plein air painting technique. She travels all over the country to paint different outdoor vistas with her signature lush and loose brushstrokes, and has experienced all the ways plein air painting can be both exhilarating and tricky–and sometimes bizarre! Once, when on a plein air painting retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Bethanne stepped away from her canvas for a few moments, only to turn around and find that an enormous bear had wandered up to inspect her work! (Not to worry, though, he soon moved along and Bethanne was safe.) Pictured: Bethanne Kinsella Cople’s “Tow’rd Some Far-Distant Wood”

(Upper middle) Lynn Boggess: As you may have noticed, we’ve just had an exhibition of Lynn’s work open this past week! It’s a great show, so be sure to click here if you haven’t yet checked it out. Lynn paints outdoors about three times a week in the woods of his native West Virginia, armed with canvas, paints, and cement trowels in lieu of palette knives, because they give him the flexibility he needs to create his vivid, thickly textured landscapes. Somewhat abstracted, though remarkably realistic at the same time, Lynn’s work has the true ability to make the viewer feel as though they’re truly out in the woods themselves. Pictured: crop of Lynn Boggess’s “2 January 2015”

(Upper right) Kevin Fitzgerald: Based on the eastern shore of Maryland, Kevin has some beautiful views right around him, so it’s no wonder that he enjoys taking advantage of them to create plein air works. Kevin often works in the method mentioned earlier, by creating smaller works en plein air and sometimes painting larger works in the studio based on those studies. Kevin’s work has an incredible sense of peace to it, as the colors and light are captured so beautifully at all different times of day and painted with a profound softness and grace. Keep an eye out, because we’re expecting a whole bunch of new paintings from Kevin within the next few weeks, as we prepare for his solo exhibition, opening March 20th! Pictured: Kevin Fitzgerald’s “Wheatfield Dawn”

(Lower left) Douglas Fryer: Currently based in central Utah, Douglas Fryer is well known for his incredible paintings, and his landscapes in particular. They have an ethereal, thoughtful quality to them that seems to at once capture a sense of stillness as well as the movement of the outdoors. Though he sometimes paints in the studio from photographs, Douglas excels at capturing landscapes en plein air, even occasionally participating in plein air competitions! His landscapes capture what he refers to as the “hidden poetry” in the places all around us, even those that may seem mundane at first glance. Pictured: Douglas Fryer’s “Autumn Memory, South Randolph”

(Lower middle) Gene Costanza: An artist who delights in the “painterly” application of oils, Gene focuses on a semi-Impressionistic portrayal of landscapes and man’s interaction with nature. Primarily self-taught, Gene shifted his career to painting after spending over 20 years in law enforcement. Using the discipline and patience developed during his time on the force, he now creates landscapes with a soft yet vivid atmosphere to them, inviting the viewer to “step into” the scene themselves. Gene will be part of a two-person exhibition called “Coastal Light,” coming up at Principle Gallery Charleston in March, so check out this link to see his new works! Pictured: crop of Gene Costanza’s “Winter Creek”

(Lower right) Sergio Roffo: Sergio Roffo was born in Italy, later immigrating with his family to Boston, MA. He currently resides on the Massachusetts coast, where he paints his incredible coastal landscapes and nautical scenes. With an elegance and freshness, Sergio captures the light and texture of his coastal environment in his beautiful paintings. Sergio will also be exhibiting with Gene Costanza in the upcoming “Coastal Light” exhibit at Principle Gallery Charleston next month–view it here! Pictured: crop of Sergio Roffo’s “Daily Catch”


Technique Tuesdays: Gesso


Welcome to another Technique Tuesday! Today we’re going to take a look at a substance that is near and dear to many an artist’s heart: gesso.

Technique Tuesday Gesso


What is it?

Pronounced “jesso”, this unique substance acts as a type of primer for many mediums of painting. Traditionally, gesso (an Italian word for gypsum) consists of a binder of some kind (historically, animal glue) combined with gypsum and chalk. Mixing and applying gesso is an art form in itself, but many artists find it well worth the effort to master the application, as gesso acts as an excellent primer that not only extends the archival life of a painting, but also can add an incredible textured effect to the finished work, as we will shortly see.

Examples from art history:

The use of gesso dates back to ancient times, as it was often used to create relief sculptures like those inside Egyptian tombs. It was also once popularly used in the production of ornate mirror frames. In fine art painting,  gesso has long been used to help paintings and especially frescoes (paintings done on a wall) to last longer. Today, many different types of gesso exist, for oil paints as well as for egg tempera and for acrylic. Though the very popularly-used acrylic gesso mixture does not contain the gypsum for which the substance was named but rather calcium carbonate, the term has firmly stuck in art vernacular, as both a noun and a verb (you can gesso a canvas by applying gesso).

Many old religious panel paintings and icons were painted on a surface of gesso to preserve the paint and delicate gold leaf

Many old religious panel paintings and icons were painted on a surface of gesso to preserve the paint and delicate gold leaf

Example of gesso at Principle Gallery:

Many of the artists whose work you see in Principle Gallery make use of gesso or very similar primers. One excellent example of the use of gesso for more than simply increasing the longevity of the work is seen in the paintings of GC Myers. Most of the pieces that he creates on canvas are begun with a carefully applied layer of gesso, thickly applied and manipulated to create just the right texture. In fact, Myers admits that sometimes the finished effect of the gesso layer is so lovely that he’s almost reluctant to paint over it! (He always does, though). Let’s take a look at this work by GC Myers, called “Neighborly.”

"Neighborly" by GC Myers, 18x18

“Neighborly” by GC Myers, 18×18

GC Myers is well known for his striking landscapes, and their distinctive stylization and color palettes. Each one seems to emit an energy and a luminosity that adds poignancy to the already evocative paintings. Check out this picture, taken at an angle to reflect the light, to see the swirling, textured layer of gesso beneath the paint:

Myers tilted

Gesso is used not just as a primer in Myers’s work; the use of a textured layer of gesso under the paint serves to add a visual interest and energy to every part of the composition.

Myers detail neighborly sun

Detail of “Neighborly” by GC Myers

Detail of "Neighborly" by GC Myers

Detail of “Neighborly” by GC Myers

To see more incredible landscapes by GC Myers, visit his artist page on our website by clicking here!

Check back with us next Tuesday for another Technique Tuesday post!