Broken Color – The Concept
In Broken Color Painting, one or more shades of paints are applied in broken layers to impart an interesting look to a surface. Mostly used for interior walls, this technique yields a painted background with different colors applied on it in a variety of ways. The aim is to create a ‘patchwork’ effect instead of a smooth blend. It creates a ‘sensation of light’ by rendering the facets of surface illumination for an appealing visual effect.
French Impressionist Oscar Claude Monet (1840-1926) invented the Broken Color Painting technique. His new mode of painting was called ‘the new painting.’ He used broken color and rapid brushstrokes such that the lower layers of color shined through the upper thin layers. Monet built textures using the tiny dabs of light, adding contours for definition and color harmonies. Led by Monet and his contemporary Impressionists, Broken Color Art was opposed to Ingres’ (French, 1780-1867) carefully labored drawings and the absence of brush-strokes. The ‘insurgents’ made an unabashed use of brush strokes to express a rush of visual sensation personal to the respective artist.
o Color washing – Here, a coat of translucent paint is applied over another color background, most often using latex or oil-based paint. Different textures & patterns can be created using brush strokes on the thin outer layer.
o Shading – In this, the different shades of a color are applied to create a transition from light to dark and vice-versa, usually with eggshell or flat oil paint.
o Sponging – Here, a cloudy soft finish is provided with the different shades of the same color, using cellulose or actual sea sponges. The two basic techniques are ‘sponging on’ (applying) & ‘sponging off’ (removing) color.
o Dry Brushing or Dragging – This involves dragging a dry brush through a wet glaze before it dries out. The base color shows through the glaze giving an illusion of wood, fabric, or other woven surface.
o Combing & Stippling – Combing is similar to Dragging done with a comb, instead of a brush. Often oil paint is used for glaze. In stippling, a flat brush called stippler is dabbed into a wet glaze of oil or water paint for a finely textured matt finish.
o Spattering – It involves striking a paintbrush with a piece of wood. An alternate spattering technique is to run a comb over the bristles of a paintbrush held upright.
o Ragging & Rag rolling – Here, a different color glaze is painted over a base color, which is then distressed using a cloth or rag. In rag rolling, the glazed surface is rolled with a rag folded into a cylindrical shape. In ragging, a crumpled piece of cloth is pressed against the glazed surface.
The Impressionists of the 19th century captured a fresh and original vision through their Broken Color Paintings. During the Post-Impressionist period, this genre became a rather empty and routine form where standard techniques were used to create pre-determined effect. Over the years, Broken Color Painting has failed to fascinate contemporary artists due to its limited use of uplifting interior walls.