Baltimore painter Tim Kelly loves to paint his city. That means knowing how to depict the building materials that make it up. Careful study has allowed him to completely internalize these processes so that when he is participating in a plein air event held anywhere at all, capturing textures comes naturally. 

Kelly said he would share his tips with our readers, then he hit us with the truth. “My formula for painting bricks is to have no formula,” he says. “Treat each circumstance on its own.”

Kelly painting in Wayne, Pennsylvania

He goes on, “There are a few things to keep in mind, though. Be on point with your perspective. Inaccuracies will be immediately noticeable to others. Strike a balance between neat and sloppy. If the bricks are painted too neatly, the painting can become too antiseptic and uninteresting. If they’re too sloppy, it might look like the artist has lost command of the painting. Along this line of logic, know when to specify and when to generalize. (Most of us spend a lifetime trying to figure that out.) I will often wash on the color of the mortar first, early in the painting, with some alkyd gel added to the mixture. In the course of an hour or two, that layer of paint will stiffen up adequately for me to start painting the brick. I mix a variety of brick colors and go over them a couple of times at least. I usually use an angled shader for painting the bricks. A palette knife can be used to add texture. I will use a thin rigger for touching up details.”


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