Discover the secret painting techniques of some of the world’s most influential painters. Take a journey back in time with artist Mark Menendez in this week’s Jen’s Picks video, Painting Techniques of the Masters, available on ArtistsNetwork.tv!
“It’s been said: To know where you’re going, you need to get a handle on where you’ve been,” says Mark. “There’s so much that we can learn from the artists of the past, techniques that we can incorporate into our own art. When I was learning under the apprenticeship of my instructor, I was brought through learning techniques of some of the greatest painters that have ever lived.”
Leonardo da Vinci’s Smoky Effects
The sfumato is Mark’s favorite secret technique of Leonardo da Vinci. “Sfumato in Italian means ‘smoky,’ and this is the quality you can see in many of his paintings — especially in the Mona Lisa,” he explains.
After priming the panel, transferring the drawing, creating the underpainting, and establishing the glazes — all in a style similar to da Vinci — Mark demonstrates the sfumato technique by mixing up a flesh tone to create a highlight. He applies this highlight to the contours of the painting, adding in medium (a mixture of linseed oil, turpentine and a little varnish), to create a soft, milky edge, which blends delicately into the background.
Next, Mark demonstrates how Michelangelo Buonarroti would capture a sculptural essence by creating a dynamic outline/form in his paintings. “He was primarily a sculptor, but he created one of the greatest paintings ever done. It’s not on a canvas; it’s not on a panel of any kind; [it’s] on a ceiling, and that’s called the Sistine Chapel.”
Watch as Mark creates a bold form, explaining how Michelangelo used the fresco technique — painting into wet plaster — to paint one section at a time, working quickly to ensure the plaster didn’t dry before he was finished.
Rubens’ Serpentine Contours
In this exciting tutorial, Mark demonstrates a key technique of Peter Paul Rubens, who is considered “the prince of painters,” which involves serpentine contours, or S-shaped lines. “This is like modifying what something actually looks like — the contours of it — in order to create movement and vitality,” shares Mark. “Rubens was also known for using a lot of bright colors, and this also adds to that effect as well.”
Mark uses these snake-like, curvy brushstrokes to establish forms and details, creating a realistic portrait that appears to come to life right before your eyes!
In this chapter, Mark creates an alluring portrait using Rembrandt Van Rijn’s technique called chiaroscuro. “It’s Italian. It means ‘the dark and the light,’ and he really emphasized that,” explains Mark. “So he was the painter of light long before anyone else ever got that title.”
Starting with a dark ground, Mark works dark to light using ragged brushstrokes to achieve dramatic results! By following this fast and fun demo, you can create your own version of Mark’s “Menendbrant”!
With a methodical approach, Johannes (Johan) Vermeer would paint in a very flat way, blending colors only slightly while keeping the edges soft.
“His paint was often not as blended as other artists would do. He would just kind of block it in from dark to light and have the actual tone sitting side by side,” states Mark. He notes Vermeer captured a photographic-like realism within his paintings by using a camera obscura: A box with a lens at the front and a mirror placed at a 45-degree angle inside; a frosted glass at the top of the box would project the desired image.
Boost your painting skills for lifelike results by mastering Vermeer’s flat tone and soft modeling techniques showcased in this simple lesson with Mark!
Hals’ Expressive Brushwork
Do you want to create more expressive paintings? Watch this painting lesson with Mark to learn Frans Hals’ energetic brushstroke techniques.
Mark shows how Hals would work alla prima using “fast and furious” strokes in a loose and free style to create sharp, angular lines — a contrast to Ruben’s serpentine contours.
“One thing you can say about Frans Hals’ paintings is that they do not ever look overworked,” exclaims Mark. “They always are fresh and [look] as if they were just painted just yesterday.”
Van Gogh’s Line & Color
Vincent van Gogh’s unique and instantly recognizable style continues to rise in popularity. With colors inspired by Vermeer, van Gogh’s paintings are filled with energy, vibrancy and entrancing linework — purposefully employed throughout to direct you back to the focal point. “It’s possible that he sold only one painting in his life,” says Mark. “But today, his paintings command the highest prices at auction.”
Follow along with Mark as he shows how to emulate van Gogh’s technique by double-loading a flat brush in thick paint (using a different color on each side) to establish two colors side by side with each quick stroke.
“From the smoky lines of da Vinci to the expressive, energetic brushstrokes of van Gogh, there’s a lot of ways to infuse your paintings with line and color, light and shadow — as Rembrandt did in his paintings,” concludes Mark. “And there’s a lot of information in these segments; so we hope you watched them, and then put them in practice. You’ll see that you can create your own personal style by implementing these timeless techniques.”
About the Artist
Acclaimed artist Mark Menendez has artwork housed in numerous permanent collections, both private and corporate. He has illustrated books for a wide range of publications, including Anne Rice’s The Mummy, as well as several children’s books. He teaches an array of art classes and workshops per year, which cover a vast assortment of mediums and styles, helping students develop their skills without being bound to one genre or medium.