Brushwork: Expression and Mark-making

At Plein Air South I spoke on Brushwork and Mark-making and I promised to share the slides from the presentation. It seemed appropriate to share a little of the discussion here with you as well.'s always a hot topic among artists. Remember these words of wisdom: All of the fancy brushwork in the world will not make up for other, poor skill sets (i.e., drawing, composition, value, color, etc.) Your fancy brushwork should never upstage the painting itself either. It should be what is noticed AFTER someone is drawn into viewing the work. With that said, here we go...

I get a lot questions about my own brushwork and the tools that I use. Understanding how each type of brush can be used doesn't replace the personal knowledge that you gain by experimenting. Actually seeing how the brush and paint react as you glide, scrap, drag, push/pull it across a surface is the best way to learn about mark-making. You can read more about my brushes and how I use them in Rosemary and Company's newsletter.


Achieving the desired shape, paint consistency and texture starts with confidence. Knowing what your tools (including paints, mediums, brushes, surfaces, etc.) can do allows for expressive brushwork/mark-making. That confidence comes from allowing yourself opportunities to explore. Your confidence and strong brushwork will follow as you gain knowledge and understanding of how to use the many tools at your disposal. 

How to start: grab a brush that you haven't used before or a different surface you haven't used before and large piles of paint. You probably have drawers of stuff left over from workshops that you will never use. Here's a a good way to learn without feeling like you're wasting your favorite colors. Do whatever it takes to loosen your mind. Put on some music, dance a bit, stand or stretch. Without having to focus on your drawing, color, values, etc., you can really take time to play around and see what you can discover. Remember it's only old paint and your time.

To view the entire presentation in pdf format, click here.

Lori Putnam's Starter Brush and Complete Brush sets are available through Rosemary and Co.