Art History

No One Could Beat Rembrandt at This

No One Could Beat Rembrandt at This

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Rembrandt: The Ultimate Draftsman … with a Paintbrush

When it comes to being able to draw with a paintbrush, no one can touch Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. He was able to turn abstract brushstrokes into forms with texture, weight and liveliness.

Rembrandt could turn two swipes of a painting brush loaded with white paint into the coarse cloth of a girl’s sleeve. He captured ruddy and calloused hands with just two or three colors, and no more than a dozen strokes of the brush.

But it is the way these strokes were applied that makes all the difference. The Dutch Master didn’t let thoughts of anatomy override him, nor did he micromanage his strokes.

Rembrandt made a stroke abstractly — as if he were not painting forms at all. As a result, the viewer sees the paint articulating as much information as possible. Because of this, Rembrandt’s work is very subtle. Each stroke does a lot of heavy lifting, in terms of conveying information.

A dab of reddish paint around a paler area, for example, indicates a knucklebone poking at the surface of the skin of the hand in Rembrandt’s A Girl With a Broom. It sounds simple, but the way the artist applies the paint conveys the lax way the girl is holding her hand, with the muscles at rest, as well as the chapped texture of the skin that has been exposed to hard work.

Mastering Your Technique

To build up your ability to make each stroke count and learn how to paint as Rembrandt did, try painting a simple still life with a large brush using only black, white and burnt sienna.

Focus on communicating with each brushstroke, since you don’t have color to fall back on. It may be a frustrating exercise, but well worth it. You will begin to recognize how to make your brush move in different ways and “say” more than one thing.

To enhance your art techniques and solidify your painting process like Rembrandt did all those years ago, check out Painting Techniques of the Masters with Mark Menendez.

In addition to taking a closer look at the style of this Dutch painter, this video workshop walks you through the processes of the Old Masters, including Vincent van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Johannes Vermeer, Peter Paul Rubens and more. Watch the preview trailer below, and then head to to start your lesson with the Masters. Enjoy!

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