How to Paint Like a Master: Learning from Cy Twombly

Have you ever been inspired by a work of art and wanted to create something like it?

Noticing what you are drawn to in an another artist's work and putting your own spin on it is the first step in finding your own style.

Copying another artist's works is a major no-no.  But studying the works of artists you like is a fantastic way to learn new techniques that you can apply in your own work. Think of it as not only expanding your artistic vocabulary, but helping you define your authentic voice and your own personal style.

In this week's video, I explore the work of Cy Twombly, an American artist known for his large-scale, mostly neutral paintings that employ scribbles and calligraphic elements. 

Twombly (1928-2011) served as a cryptologist in the U.S. Army in the early 1950s and some writers say this experience inspired his fascination with markings in paintings. 

In the mid-1960s, Twombly's work was panned by artist and writer Donald Judd who wrote in a review of a Twombly exhibition, "There are a few drips and splatters and an occasional pencil line. There isn’t anything to these paintings.” His wild success came later, and he is now one of the most respected Abstract Expressionist painters of all time.

For my part, I love Twombly's use of markings and his free-form compositions.

Another important technique Twombly used was "underpainting." Sometimes he underpainted in red and then went over in white, and then scribbled on it, and the red shows through in various parts and in varying degrees.

I typically begin paintings with a background of dark raw umber and add and subtract layers of different elements on top of that. I do this even with my neutral or white paintings because it creates interest and depth.

Click here or on the image below to see some of Twombly's works I love and how I incorporate some of his techniques into my own painting process.

And click here to download your FREE "Find Your Art Style" guide.