Oil Painting Techniques #9 - Scumbling

This Oil Painting Technique is a great alternative to glazing and is an easy way to get you painting like a pro. To scumble is to use a dry, light, patchy colour over a dark opaque layer. This is similar to glazing but the scumble shouldn't be too thin. The important thing is to apply colour unevenly. Your goal is not to cover the lower layer. You will find this method good for foliage, animal fur, painting clouds and water, especially when combined with Blending.

For the first coat use a flat brush but for the scumbling use any stiff bristle brush, flat or round it doesn't matter. Either an old battered one or a synthetic one you don't mind bashing. Use dry as you can get paint and only allow yourself tiny amounts of it. Make vigorous strokes, swirls and dashes. Vary the pressure to stay in the uneven rule. See this example. I am attempting to depict a cloudy sky.

I apply the darkest tone, which is a mix of cobalt blue and black, with a flat brush (Two inch). Allow to dry.

Using the method described above I lightly draw my brush over the first colour with a mix of the first colour plus a little black and white. Remember, you do not have to follow my colour palette. You must buy colours you feel comfortable with. In time you will become skilled at mixing but, if at the moment, you are still learning then please use ready to use colours.

Repeat the process with a lighter mix by adding a small amount of white.

Now I switch to light blue and suggest a clear sky, just glimpsed behind the cloud cover.

Add slightly off white for the lightest part of the clouds.

Now I notice the sky isn't going to be as interesting as I first thought so I mix a blue-gray that is about halfway between the darkest and lightest tones. This is where scumbling comes into it's own as a valuable Oil Painting Technique. A glaze would have slowed me down and forced me into a corner. Remember Dark to light is always right? Had I worked in glaze layers I wouldn't have been able to use a darkish blue-gray because I would have already applied the lightest tone. In other words, the patchy nature of scumbling has given me areas of the canvas where I can add darker colours without going against the dark to light rule.

Finally, I use a dry decorators brush to gently blend the colours.

This is the final effect. The clouds look as if they are moving and promising rain. The exact effect I was looking for.

This is the completed painting.


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