Pointillism as a technique.

Vintage Portrait - pointillism and victory rolls

(Mixed media: Pointillism with various Micron pens and collage.  Light wash with Gelato in the background on watercolour paper).  Read about this portrait here.

If you have never tried pointillism, or dot art, you should!

The word pointillism was first used in the 1880s to describe French artist Georges Seurat’s work.

"Simone" - pointillism in sketchbook
"Simone" - vintage collection. Pointillism in sketchbook.

Pointillism, quite simply, are hundreds (or more) little dots or strokes of colour that are placed together to form a pattern. The closer the dots are stippled to each other, the darker the area will be.

Pointillism fools the eyes; instead of noticing the little dots, our eyes (and our brain) see the picture as a whole image.

I have only ever used pens to paint in this style but other artists use colour in a similar method as the Impressionists.

My paintings are often completed over many months and sometimes even years because I start them and then stop. I do not know how many hours have been invested in these portraits; however, artists much better and more skilled than I am will spend well over 100 hours on their realistic portraits.


More dots, more portraits

I started using dots ( and squiggles) to paint portraits a few years ago when I painted this vintage portrait.

pointillism art in portrait for Remembrance Day

(Canadian Women's Army Corps, also known as the Petticoat Army, mixed media: pointillism and watercolour wash on watercolour paper).  Read the post here.

I use Sakura Pigma Micron pens for my dot portraits. If I want a smaller sized dot, I will choose the 005 nib, but I admit to cheating and have used Sharpie markers to finish wide swaths of dark areas.

Pointillism is perfect for travel

Dot painting requires patience. But this artwork is appealing to me because it lends itself well to travel. All you need is a sketchbook and a few pens. The urge to paint occurs even when I am away on holidays, and this is one way to satisfy that need.

I am not struggling anymore with the initial sketch when I bring the dot work with me on the plane, or for instance, in my hotel room because I have started it at home.

I always begin with a light pencil outline and I keep the black and white photograph close by as a reference. Using a light touch, I start stippling an area that will immediately give a sense of the person being painted, and that area for me is usually the eyes.

At times, the dots might turn into tiny strokes especially when there is shading. Usually, this means that I am getting tired and should stop. Many artists use hatching and I will eventually experiment with that technique.

Pointillism isn't particularly popular these days. I have not seen it in any of the many art groups I follow on Facebook. This is unfortunate.

Pointillism is another method that helps the artist observe the correct values and shapes in the subject to be painted.

New on the market: I have seen a new way to achieve pointillism using a battery operated stippling pen. I prefer to do it the old-fashioned way even with the little errors here and there.  What do you think of using such a device instead of painting by hand?  Yes or no?

pointillism - Christmas 2013
"Anaelle". Mixed media. Collage and acrylics with pointillism on 6 X 9" watercolour Bee Paper.

2 Responses

  • I have always loved your work using dots, such patience as I needed when I did my hatched leaf… to answer your question, personally I would prefer the old fashioned way…

    • It is getting difficult to know what has been done by hand and what art has been enhanced in some way. I think something is lost for the artist when art is done with a mechanical stippler. But that might just be my old-fashioned ways of thinking. I appreciate your feedback Sally!

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