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I have just registered and am looking forward to getting to know the community here.

I have a question regarding blending.

Why is an un-blended painting considered superior to a blended one?

I know and admire greatly the work of JSS but he, along with the other great masters, were painting on large canvasses designed to be hung in large rooms.

Today living areas are much smaller and so even a JSS could not perhaps be appreciated the same way?

So I assume the practical reason for little blending is to make the painting points of interest 'stand out' from distance. So then why does the un-blended painting remain superior?

I suspect the reason is simply to show off the skill of the painter, am I right?


  • @gsthomps ,excellent question! Many attempts at blending, especially for the beginner, often ends up appearing amateurish, it's a lot hard work, self-defeating. Not blending is more professional and real mastery at work. The confidence!  
  • But why is un-blended considered superior? Just the artist showing off?
  • The idea with Mark's method is to paint without blending, and then blend where necessary at the end. If you blend whilst painting then you can overblend through the values.
  • gsthomps

    Welcome to the Forum.

    The craft of copying a photograph is blending 'til figures look like flat, plastic cut outs.

    The art of creating a human figure is to apply paint in a manner that the viewer optically mixes the values to create depth and roundness of form, from the normal viewing distance, regardless of canvas size. Often referred to as a 'painterly' approach.

    But there are no rules. Just preferences. If you like blending then blend.


  • dencal, Take for example 2 paintings. Each viewed from the same

    distance and each appearing the same as the other. But on closer inspection we

    see that one is very loosely painted, painterly with little blending and the

    other well blended. Do you consider one superior in terms of art?

  • To me, just different styles.
  • BOB73BOB73 -
    edited April 2017
    Welcome @gsthomps, You make a valid point about modern rooms and the way art is viewed. I think superior in this arena means not blending is a superior way of learning the skills, crafts and discipline of oil painting. It's an easier way and surer way to learn how to handle a brush-- mix true colors-- and maintain color - maintain value integrity while you "Construct" a painting. You also learn how a certain paint behaves on the support. If you blend before all your colors are in place you risk muddying values or losing definition and all other sorts of troubles that are too difficult to fix for a novice/student painter. @dencal and @Richard_P are right too. There are no rules against blending and whether one style or the other is superior is a matter of opinion (preference) of the observer. Even scholars have differing opinions on this.
  • gsthomps

    Assuming they are the same or equivalent in other respects; I would value the loosley painted portrait more, as it demonstrates the artists skill in handling paint to depict character, detail, color and light that disappears on closer inspection. Such a portrait is a creative interpretation, more than a camera can do and more than a careful artist who draws and blends to approximate reality.

    That being said, and in seeming contradiction, there are beautiful tight paintings and beautiful loose paintings. As an artist I would like to be skilled in both and apply the approach that best fits the subject.


  • @BOB73, I now adopt the "no rules", since the beginning of this thread I've come to a new understanding about blending vs. not blending, for both are quite useful and equally valid. And I just have to agree with @dencal  "there are beautiful tight paintings and beautiful loosely painted", and I do like both, I tend to go tighter for smaller paintings but not always, depends what is best for the subject matter or on what I may be feeling at the time in what I may want most as an end result. Thank you, I must not get caught up in differing opinions and just follow what is really best for me! Being most confident is best.
  • I don't think blending is inferior its just that as dencal stated the eye will optically blend for the viewer.  In addition most painters don't have the skill level required to do it effectively so what they end up with is a bunch of mud when they try blending using wet on wet painting.  You may be thinking of glazing which inherently has a more "blended" look.  That is a totally different process of painting.  Where as wet in wet (Mark's Method) when you place a brush stroke you are taking into account color and value at the same time.  with glazing you establish the values in the underpainting and add transparent glazes of color over the top.  They both get the job done but both have a different look and kind of a different thought process.
  • edited April 2017
    I've since changed my mind since the beginning of this thread, both are OK. And I agree, beautiful tight paintings and beautiful loosely painted ones and I agree with @dencal, become skilled in both.... In the end, it's about enjoying yourself!, really enjoying yourself!

    I absolutely agree to what @dencal said above. I pasted a link above for a few examples. You will see that the same JSS painted one painting semi-rough (blended only the edges of planes) and one heavily blended. 
    I paint very rough. But if our Prime Minster tells me paint his picture, I will produce a very polished one. Maybe I can do an additional smaller one for him just to show him what I like. 
  • Very educational @Kaustav , I think the Prime Minister would be foolish not to sit for you. I hope that happens for you.
  • I enjoyed the discussion.  Sometimes I blend more than others.  It depends on what you want your painting to look like.  Some subjects will speak to me and say paint me in watercolor and some say pastel.  Sometimes it's colored pencils or graphite.  Let the subject tell you what to do with it, whether to blend or not to.  Foremost is to enjoy the journey and not stress out.
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