Monday, February 22, 2010


Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669), Titus at His Desk

Here are two very different portraits, by Rembrandt and by Modigliani, that each use the technique of scumbling. Rembrandt's is a portrait of his son, Titus.

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669), detail of Titus at His Desk

To scumble is to drag a dry brush with opaque or semi-opaque paint across another dried layer, and color, of paint, in such a way that allows you to see the color underneath. Often, as in these paintings, lighter colors are scumbled across darker ones, which creates beautiful light, drama, and texture.

Amedeo Modigliani (1884 – 1920), Maud Abrantes

Scumbling allows you to transition, beautifully and subtly, between light and dark passages, or between colors. Notice how it creates an almost pearlescent appearance in Modigliani's portrait of Maud Abrantes?

Amedeo Modigliani (1884 – 1920), detail, Maud Abrantes

By scumbling lightly over the darker underground, Modigliani created beautiful areas of shadow, particularly on her neck.

Amedeo Modigliani (1884 – 1920), detail, Maud Abrantes

Using a thin undercoat allows you to use the texture of the canvas, as you scumble across the top, as you can see clearly in this detail.

Don't limit yourself to painting light colors over dark ones – this technique is useful with any color or value combination.

Karen Lynn Ingalls, detail, Sunset Meadow

Here is a detail of clouds at sunset from a painting of mine. Although the colors and values are more subtle than the examples above, layers of scumbling created the hazy color transitions and feelings of light and dark in the clouds that I wanted.

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