Tuesday, August 5

Viscosity and Painting

Las Tres Palmas
Oil on Canvas Panel
9 x 12 in/ 23 x 30.5 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014

Today's brief blog is about viscosity. If you don't understand what that is, here's a definition from Wikipedia: 

The viscosity of a fluid is a measure of its resistance to gradual deformation by shear stress or tensile stress. For liquids, it corresponds to the informal notion of "thickness". For example, honey has a much higher viscosity than water.[1]

If that's a little too scientific for some painters, just focus on the words: the informal notion of "thickness." I think that will clear up any confusion. In painting, it's simply how thick (or thin) the paint is you're using to paint with.

It was important for me to understand what viscosity of paint best suited my ability and style of painting, forget all that tensile stress business.

It also is about how you want your paintings to look. Some like the look of thick impasto, others would prefer fluid acrylic. It's personal taste, but it's also what's currently in the cultural style, if that at all matters to you, which I hope it does not.

I personally like paint with a little body, that is, higher viscosity, but not so high you have to use a palette knife instead of a brush. To put it another way, I like using large planes of color with uniform loading of paint so that you can see the brushmarks after the paint dries, not from across the room, but as you move in for a closer look. 

Somewhere I remember paint being compared to tea, milk, cream, honey, or butter. Mmmm. 

However, I would like to add one more that I find right for me: buttermilk. If I had to add it to that list, I suppose it would go between cream and honey.

What's your favorite viscosity?


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