Painting Lesson - Scumbling Technique

The Scumbling technique, whether you are using oils or acrylics, opaque or transparent is very much the same process. The idea is to build layers of broken color on top of each other to create a texture and luminosity to the painting. It is similar to the dry brush technique, dipping your brush into paint and with a rag remove a good amount of the paint. However, unlike dry brush where you create brush stocks in Scumbling you jab the brush into substrate (canvas, paper, board, etc) causing the bristles to spray out leaving broken bits of color.

In this process you will also use a stiff bristle brush; I would recommend a round to start. You should start with no more than three different warm and cool colors. Work with the first color scumbling the paint onto the surface and allow it to dry. Using the same process with a different color, not using too much paint on the brush, wiping off the excess paint. Use the same process again with another color, stabbing and twisting the second color over the first and then the third color handled in the same way. Work slowly and do not apply too much paint at one time if your brush is too wet wipe the paint off. It is also good to have a test surface to work on until you see that the paint is being applied correctly and then painting on the original work.

When this process is done correctly it can produce beautiful texture with optical mixing of paint fragments. Scumbling can be done with opaque or transparent paint, the multiple layers and colors showing through each other can create a sense of depth and luminosity to the paint. This lesson will require practice and you will have to experiment with painting in this technique.

Below is an example of a scumbled surface.


Examples: Master painters using a scumbling technique.

Claude Monet, (Impression, Sunrise), 1872, oil on canvas, 18.90 × 24.80�

Claude Monet, (Impression, Sunrise), 1872, oil on canvas, 18.90 × 24.80"

William Turner “Margate (?), from the Sea� about 1835-40, Oil / Canvas

William Turner "Margate (?), from the Sea" about 1835-40, Oil / Canvas

William Baziotes Cyclops, 1947, Oil / Canvas, 48� x 40�

William Baziotes Cyclops, 1947, Oil / Canvas, 48" x 40"