Painting in Impasto

Impasto definition – The process or technique of laying on paint or pigment thickly so that it stands out from a surface.



Hello this is an article on painting figures and busts in a impasto method!

Most of us have been taught from day one in miniature painting that our figures need 2 things. Contrast and smooth transitions. Up until Alfonso Giraldes class I was of that mind. During and after though my eyes were opened. The study of fine art paintings became my pursuit into how I could study from old masters and apply that knowledge to my figures.

My studies were mainly done on the computer in photoshop as It saved supplies as well as allowing me to learn a new skill. (Its also very forgiving) I started with landscapes and many different artists. Eventually Portraiture became my key interest and eventually I made my way to Van Gogh. After looking through many of his fantastic works I discovered an incredible sense of motion and control of color! But also that he was a very troubled person, someone who did not receive much praise for his work. This saddened me, I could relate to that fear and empathized with the man. The more I learned the more I put myself in that mindset of fear and anger and passion and most importantly the need to express myself through color. I wanted to get these feelings out I did on the computer but the result did not have the same effect and depth of color and emotion that I wanted. It was soon after this that the idea to paint the Anonymous bust came. study was done to find out how canvas was toned and prepared.


With the Airbrush the bust was given a base coat with a yellow brown acrylic. It was sprayed thick and at low pressure to create a course texture to work off of ( not necessary but an experiment)


The oil paints, spirits and glass pallet came out and the colors for the piece where mixed and laid out. At this point here was quite a bit of experimentation with different brushes and different consistencies of paint. After some time it was established that paint out of the tube applied with a W&N S7 miniature 00 was the best tool. I would encourage you to experiment with the brush as some other size may fit you better but the consistency of the paint most definitely needs to be thick.


After a evening session of painting I had a rough outline of color and texture of paint.



I was exhausted. For me this was a study and expression of emotion it came to me that this was also something Alfonso was trying to teach. The piece was not painted to prove a point about miniature painting but because I wanted to learn from a Master and create something beautiful. The reception of the Work in progress was very surprising. I was taken aback by all of the kind words. Because of that though I lost the Mindset and could not continue. I do not thing a that specific mindset is needed to paint in Impasto but for me at that time and the second time it was important.

Some time had past and life happened. But Adepticon was coming. I wanted to finish this piece and display it at the show. I immersed myself in those emotions again the smell of oil and mineral spirits filled my studio once again, my hands were stained with oil. The shirt element was completed first with true stippling. The day after the face and hair were refined and finished.That is the end of the story. It’s my personal experience on how the piece came to be and I hope you enjoyed it!

Now let us talk about the theory!

In many ways this method of painting is similar to stippling in that you are using color side by side to create the feeling of a different color. Complimentary colors are used frequently in different intensity to create browns and different tones of one color for instance intense red with a dark green gives the effect of a brown red. Blue with orange produces a much more intense sensation of blue whereas blue with yellow or light green gives a more ambient and light feeling to blue. These things can be observed and then replicated by studying art but there will always be an element of experimentation!



Instead of stippling Van Gogh used the brush stroke to create movement to great effect to guide the eye or to create the illusion of motion on a canvas. Keep this in mind as you can change the viewers feeling of the piece as well as the volumes with a different angle of brush stroke or shorter or longer brushstrokes.



The brushstroke and line (also called gesture) can also cancel its movement out. (Gesture captures movement and energy and is not necessarily figure drawing)



As I said before thick oil paint is a great option to paint in this style although artist acrylics could also be used. I prefer oils for the smell and feeling personally. With oil as well you must be precise with the brushstroke so that the color does not mix to much. When thicker oil paint is used it can be caked on thicker with more ease if a change must be made. Oil can also simply be scrapped away with a knife and then you can start over. Our canvas is the figure! I encourage you to get a set of oils to try this sometime, don’t be afraid be bold and adventurous. You do not have to give up on smoothness, I sure haven’t!
If you have read this far thank you for reading! I hope this serves as some kind of inspiration! I truly hope you use your favorite artist, figure painters, traditional artist and whatever else around you to inspire your next work!
Anthony Rodriguez “Pirate Monkey Painting”



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