Painting The Textures of Lace

written by Sophie | Materials & Technique

While I am working on a series of new works for my show at Catto Gallery (spring 2016) I am exploring different and more expressive ways of painting lace. I am experimenting and trying out different approaches, although I must admit that some are more successful than others. I might never be able to fully express the transparency, delicacy and refinement of the lace I work with, but I will at least keep on trying.

So far my lace paintings were created with small brushes and wet paint. I would carefully draw patterns, stitches and netting with a small sable brush. While this works great to show detail and refinement, it is less suitable for painting very large pieces of lace. Unless I create huge paintings it is practically impossible to see every stitch and loop in the netting of the lace. So I am ‘forced’ to work in a more painterly manner. I am still working with very small brushes (that give me control over every inch of the canvas) but instead of carefully hatching and drawing with a sable brush, I scrub dry paint onto the canvas (‘scumbling’) and layer the paint with a bristle or synthetic brush in order to get the right amount of detail.

I use a scumbling technique a lot (my poor brushes can testify to that as it ruins them pretty quickly) for portrait work, backgrounds etc.  It sort of became one of my staple techniques as my on-and-off painting approach (family life!) left me with nearly dried up paint on the palette on a regular basis. Although it is clearly hard to make dry paint ‘wet’ again, nearly dry paint is very suitable for scumbling! A transparent thin layer of scumbled paint can work as a glaze, creating beautiful effects. The dry brushing technique also gives some options in creating textures as different types of brushes  and the length of time scrubbing will give different effects.

The ‘wet brush’ technique allows for intricate detail

I am exploring what I can do with a ‘dry brush’ technique here:

Published: September 28, 2015

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  1. I greatly admire artists who can realistically paint lace. It requires such careful attention to detail that I cannot visualize in my mind’s eye how an artist is able to paint every little swirl and thread and make it look so real. I was looking at the lace collars worn by subjects in portraits painted by Cornelius Janssens, and every tiny bit looks utterly real. Sophie’s lace is painted with amazing realism. I read her description of her techniques, but I still cannot comprehend how she and other gifted artists can paint something as delicate and complicated as lace with such realism.

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