One great and sometimes surprising thing about the Internet is how good content can pop up again several years after the initial posting, and in the process, reach a totally different audience. James Gurney’s BLAST rule about painting is a good example. 
The BLAST rule — big brushes, large to small, accents last, soften edges, and take your time — was first posted on Gurney’s blog on January 30, 2009. He was addressing painting in general. “But in my experience the principles apply particularly well to plein air painting,” says Gurney. “Regardless of the medium, I get out the biggest brushes first. Typically, some overall light and dark value statement should be made right away, even if it’s in a lighter key. It also helps to consider large shapes first: rough them in, get them right, then subdivide.”
He continues, “Edges shouldn’t be all soft or all hard. They should have variety. But softness is often a measure of quality and professionalism. To avoid the ‘coloring book look’ it takes a conscious effort to capture a feeling of melting, merging, blurring, and blending. Especially with water media, softness must be accomplished early in the process. Forms get sharper and more detailed in the later stages.
“Accents are the eye-catching darkest darks and highest highlights. They should stand apart from the rest of the system of values. Usually with oil, they should be added last, saving the final punch for the end. With transparent watercolor, the whites have to be considered from the start.”
Gurney adds, “Patience is so important that it appears on the list. The limits I run up against are my ability and willingness to focus deeply and for long periods, often despite distracting conditions of wind, changing light, and intrusive passersby.”
Gurney says the BLAST rule has proved so popular, some of his students printed stickers with the message on them to place on their easels.


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