The Importance of a Brushstroke

Posted on July 18, 2022 in Painting for Beginners

A swath of paint… that’s all a brushstroke is, right? 

It’s easy to view a painting as the sum of its parts – a singular, whole product limited to one image. But would you say the same about a dance? A dancer’s every step and movement conveys unique energy and emotion that embodies the spirit of the dancer. Each action of the dancer is a distilled representation of their history, their soul, and their emotional response to the performance. 

Painting is more like dancing than people think.

What Is a Brushstroke?

A Tool of Mood

A brushstroke is a swath of paint… but it’s also the lifeblood of a painted work. Each stroke is one of the great many puzzle pieces that come together to inform an observer’s sensory reaction to a painting. Some artists attempt to eliminate the appearance of strokes, while others accentuate them. The stroke of paint is physical. It has form and dimension, in addition to color. This tangible, textural quality transforms the painted work from something that is purely visible to a tactile experience. Even without ever having to touch a painting, you can feel its presence and form.

A close-up of Paul Kirby painting at an aisle

The Factors That Affect the Brushstroke Texture

The type of brush stroke and everything that goes into it – amount of paint, type of brush, speed, angle, intent, etc. – radically affects the sensory experience a painting conveys. Even when the same painter paints the same subject multiple times, the image represented can be altered radically with the use of different strokes and techniques. Take, for example, Vincent van Gogh’s many self-portraits. 

Learn More: 7 Basic Paintbrush Techniques

the paint brush created for Dulcinea the AI painting robot

A Tool of Soul

A brushstroke is a swath of paint… but it’s also the lingering spirit of the painter caught in the act of painting. Have you ever wished you could talk to someone like Leonardo da Vinci? In a way, you can sit down with him and have that experience. Watch the movements of his brush, and you can hear his soul.  

See The Creators Experience Through Brushstrokes

In looking at brushstrokes you can experience, moment by moment, what a creator was thinking, feeling, and going through at the time of creation. You can track their movements through a painting and sense, to a degree, what it was like in the moments when they were crafting the narrative that would later go on to have a life of its own. 

Think of a step in a dance. Think of the rich subtleties in an actor’s expression as they perform. Think of a loved one’s varied tone and style of voice as they tell you a story. Think of a perfect note in a symphony.  

That’s what a brushstroke is.

Learn More: See AI Paintings Created by A Robot Painter

Notes in an AI Painting Symphony

Paul Kirby views the almighty brushstroke as the most powerful aspect of a painting. It should come as no surprise that when Paul’s robotic master painter, Dulcinea, creates a work of art, much consideration is given to Dulcinea’s expressive communication through the brushstroke dance. 

How Dulcinea the Painting Robot Creates Brush Strokes

Dulcinea is not communicating the in-the-moment, improvisational gestures of a human artist, but is instead acting-out an interpretive translation of AI simulations previously run by Paul. The process is somewhat similar to a composer creating sheets of music that are then performed by a trained musician. It makes sense, then, that Paul refers to each individual brushstroke as a “note.” Each note contains a dense bundle of coded information that the “performer” (Dulcinea) transforms into music (a finished painting). 

Captivated by Paul & Dulcinea?  Watch the award-nominated short film to discover their story.  

This coded bundle of information that Dulcinea receives for every note includes:

Custom brush stroke information is created for each note, and this may vary  within each section of a specific painting that is under development. Brushstroke design and implementation will vary, just as with the music in a dance.  

Learn More: How Modern Inventor Paul and Dulcinea Make a Painting

As mentioned before, a single stroke and everything it contains radically affects the sensory experience of an individual painting. It’s imperative that Dulcinea be able to use a brush as well (or better) than a human hand, but it’s also paramount that Dulcinea be able to effectively understand the above data and transform it into the expected tone, style, and emotional impact. How does she do it? See for yourself!  

Learn More About Paul Kirby & His Robot Painter

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Are you interested in hearing the complete story of Paul and Dulcinea? Watch the video (nominated for Best Short Film at the 2021 Vail and Portland Film Festivals) for more info.

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