Drybrush Demystified

Drybrush, as its name suggests, is a painting technique that uses very little moisture. It works with various media, including oil, watercolor and acrylic, and produces distinctive, broken fields of color that leave the impression that the brush “skipped over” or “missed” areas of the painting surface. This effect is often used to create such subjects as reedy grasses or craggy rock surfaces, as in the watercolor demonstrations here.

You can approach drybrush in two ways. In the first, you simply charge your brush with paint, then blot most of the color off with a sponge, rag or paper towel before touching the brush to your painting surface. (This technique is particularly well suited to working with a thin medium on a smooth surface.) Or, you can dab your brush in paint and work it at a shallow angle with a light, dragging motion. Old, worn brushes and rough canvas or paper are great for producing drybrush effects.

In The Artist’s Magazine, you’ll see forms of the word drybrush used three ways: as a noun (“I used drybrush to create the grasses.”), as an adjective (“Next, I used a drybrush technique on the rocks.”), or as a verb (“I drybrushed the details.”) Don’t confuse this compound word with the phrase “dry brush,” as in, “I used a dry brush to blend the edges.”

Birgit O’Connor maintains a home and studio in Bolinas, California. To see more of her work, visit her Web site at www.birgitoconnor.com.

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