“Swing a bigger brush – you don’t know what fun you are missing.”

So wrote Charles Hawthorne in that little gem of a book assembled by his widow upon his passing, Hawthorne on Painting.

A big brush keeps you from getting too fussy too soon. “It is the large spot of color that tells the story,” Hawthorne says. “Make the big tone and make it true…Don’t look up at nature and consider an inch at a time.”

Big brushes let you do that by freeing you from trying to “get it right.” Giving yourself the freedom to throw some paint around is a wonderful way to connect what you’re doing on the canvas with what you’re feeling and not just what you’re seeing.

Howard Friedland, Virgina Falls Revisited (detail). Friedland, whose method is not all that different from Woodbiry’s vibrant “spots of color” approach, has a video on painting waterfalls.

“Working with a big brush really forces you to simplify, which is the NUMBER 1 thing I tell my students to do,” says Tiffanie Mang. “Since you cannot fiddle with detail, you are forced to rely on well designed shapes to form a cohesive painting. Readability and unity is the goal, not detail.” Simplifying, as Chuck Marshall also advises in his workshops, is an essential piece of the landscape painting puzzle.

I’m with Hawthorne in believing that “painting big” is akin to “seeing big” and can help you put more of yourself into the work. “The big painter is one who looks and does, the little painter is always tickling with a camel’s hair brush,” Hawthorne says. “My plea is for something big and fine and honest.”

April Showers Bring ‘Mandolin with Flowers’ … and $60 Million in Art

“Mandolin with Flowers,” 1948, Milton Avery (American, 1885–1965), oil on canvas.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) recently announced their receipt of a significant gift from longtime patrons James W. and Frances Gibson McGlothlin. With a total collective value of nearly $60 million, the donation includes a substantial contribution to VMFA’s expansion campaign, which will culminate in a second major wing at the museum named after the couple — the James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Wing II — as well as 15 remarkable paintings by prominent American artists.

The McGlothlins’ recent donation comprises 15 works by American masters from the 19th and 20th centuries, including paintings by Milton Avery, Albert Bierstadt, Frederick Carl Frieseke, Marsden Hartley, George Luks, Maurice Prendergast, Theodore Robinson, Norman Rockwell, John Singer Sargent, John Sloan and Andrew Wyeth, as well as two pastels by Everett Shinn. Norman Rockwell’s 1971 painting, The Collector, is the first work by this beloved American artist to enter VMFA’s collection, while Andrew Wyeth’s 1973 tempera painting Ericksons is considered to be one of the artist’s greatest works.

“Ericksons,” 1973, Andrew Wyeth (American, 1917–2009), tempera on panel, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Purchased with funds provided by James W. and Frances Gibson McGlothlin, 2021.