How to Paint in the Expressionism Style

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When a painter engages in the expressionism style, he distorts the reality of the painting for an emotional purpose. Expressionism began as photography was invented. There was no longer a purpose to copy reality, so painters started playing around with the rules.

Things You'll Need

  • Acrylic or oil paint
  • Paper or canvas

Distort Reality in Your Expressionist Painting

  • Consider how you would like the viewer of your painting to feel as he looks at it. Make this decision before beginning the painting, because this will change the way you paint. The expressionist style dictates to the viewer how the painting should be viewed.

  • Use the appropriate colors for your intentions. If you want the viewer to be saddened by your painting, choose a lot of blue tones. If you want to emphasize how beautiful a woman is, choose the brightest possible colors for her eyes and hair.

  • Draw attention to a certain object or person by making the figure larger or smaller than it would be in reality. For example, if the painting were about a single father dealing with the burden of a child, shrink the father to a child's height and enlarge the child to a grown man's height to emphasize the emotional direction.

  • Do not adhere to the laws of physics in your painting. If there is something you deem spiritual, have it float a little. If a person desperately reaches for something unattainable, have the person's arms stretch abnormally. Consider Munch's The Scream. Physics is distorted throughout the painting for a purpose.

  • Use different kinds of brush strokes to influence the viewer. For particularly violent parts of a scene, paint with thick brush strokes that dry raised up from the canvas and barely blend colors together. For particularly serene parts of a scene, paint with soft, smooth brush strokes that blend all neighboring colors together seamlessly.

Tips & Warnings

  • Go to an art museum and check out the expressionism collection.
  • Spend some time examining The Scream by Edvard Munch or the works of Vincent Van Gogh. A lot of expressionists found inspiration and influence in these paintings. Why shouldn't you?
  • There is no official expressionist movement and no group ever called themselves expressionists. The term is used by art historians to compare and contrast similar style trends in art in the first half of the 20th Century.

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