Lordy knows I love pushing around paint with a brush. But sometimes I just wanna shake things up. For instance, I’m currently working on a painting, and I had a ton of trees to paint.

Here is the sketch so you can see what I mean.

A cool thing happened when I did that drawing. I like using a variety of marks when I draw so it is not the same stroke all the time, and when I got to the tree tops I started drawing weird pom-pom shapes.

I dug it and wanted to find a way to introduce something similar into the oil painting, while also bringing a new flavor to the paint. Like the drawing, I did not want the same sort of stroke everywhere. Often times this is a reasons I add a weird pattern or abstract area to a painting. Gotta shake things up and hopefully get the viewer to tilt their head like a dog who hears the word ‘treat’. Something unexpected.

So I got out a ton of craft foam and a blade and started cutting. Once the shape is cut I hot glued them to little bits of foam-core.

I made a ton. And of course you can also use precut shapes as well.

Then I tested by smearing some oil paint on pallet paper, and seeing if I could lift the paint out.

Yup that was what I was after, so I went nuts, just lifting out the paint with different shapes. I found if you press it in the paint and twist the stamp a tad, you get better lift.

Ok but I didn’t want a big cloud of paint around the edges everywhere. So I grabbed a rubber spatula thing and squeegie tools and cut in some silhouette and scraped details within.

Fun shapes! Next up lets get additive. Using a makeup sponge I applied darker oil paint to the same shapes which added contrast. This created something that might be very useful to me down the road as a scanned texture.

How did this apply to my actual painting? Well it is still in process, but so far so good! I love the sense of adventure and risk it took me on. And I liked having something different to judge in front of me.

I found myself working in and out of the shapes with a brush. Accenting certain things.

I am excited about the different feel those areas have, and can’t wait to use the same ideas elsewhere in the painting.

Believe it of not this is not my first rodeo with foam shape stamping. I first discovered it on the Lottie Paris series of books I illustrated. Those paintings were so experimental. The difference is that all the stamp work in Lottie, was additive. I was using acrylagouache, so there was not time to use a lifting technique.

Could you make the same shapes with a paintbrush and paint and not bother cutting little stamps? Absolutely. But I will say the limitations of a static foam shape added an unpredictability to the whole process. This can be a good thing folks. Like good brush work, using different pressure and different areas of the brush- I sometimes would only use a small portion of the stamp. Sometimes I press hard, other times just a dab. Scraping it through the paint at moments to lift even more paint. It got me excited. I get bored with myself easily. And if a piece is falling flat for me, I usually ask, “Dude where is the unexpected in all this? It is all so predictable.” And I find that bit of unexpected. This is the curse and blessing of being a process junky. I always crave new ways of making marks.

Plus if the results were unexpected and surprised me in a good way, hopefully those passages will make the viewer tilt their head, and hear the word ‘treat’!