When we say someone is “laying it on pretty thick,” the comment is derogatory, keeping company with putting lipstick on a pig. Personally, I have always thought pigs to be quite comely without makeup, but that is a topic for another day. This evening I shall mount an argument for thick lay-ons.
Make no mistake — my heart belongs to glaze oil, where only the last few strokes of the brush might create texture or catch the light. But it is a gas to drop all pretence of building a painting with patience and concentration and just lay it on in smears and gobs. “Impasto” is definitely is a thing. And what a thing if you are in the right mood! You can layer up a painting knife with a range of colours and just drag that sucker to create the sense of mass. You can scratch out “calligraphy” here and there, incidentally exposing the colour you have toned the canvas. It’s texture on a drunken rampage. As long as the extra paint doesn’t end up on the couch, everything is fair in love and impasto.
Only two caveats:
1. Impasto in a representational painting has to bear some logical relation to the subject matter. Trees with gnarly bark are great, and rocky cliffs just beg for an impasto approach. (However, believe me, impasto portraits are rarely appreciated by the subject.)
2. Paint miser that I am, it always horrifies me how much pigment this technique hogs. Have you priced paint lately??? Glaze oil is far more economical….but on the other hand...
So knock yourself out on small panels! Imitate tectonic plate shifts, pushing and pulling that paint for all it’s worth. Take your glasses off. Have a sherry. Trust me, you will have FUN.
Just wear your smock. And have someone roll you in kraft paper when you are finished. Who knows — you might even get an accidental print out of the exercise—I have my suspicions about some of Jackson Pollock's work or late Picasso, although my personal favourite is that mad artist in the trapeze harness in The Big Lebowski. (Must ask Jon about re-bracing our living room ceiling.)
"Knock yourself out" might have been the wrong advice.
This wee painting reflects my delight with Newfoundland. It represents a small fortune in paint.