Making Only Final Strokes

Today I did a very ugly painting where all I did was focus on using only final strokes, no preparation, just going for it.

Yes this painting looks absolutely terrible, it was an exercise, a very scary exercise. I still had the elephant setup from my last time painting it and I figured I could utilize it for this exercise. Basically the exercise was to only make final strokes. No drawing, no pre-work, no adjustments. If I laid down paint with a brush stroke in a particular area it stayed there without any adjustment at all. I have had this idea for a while, and I kept putting it off because I knew it would turn out terrible and it would take some extreme focus to get close to the subject.

So why do this crazy exercise? Well, all paintings are just a massive amount of brushstrokes and all of them lead up to finial strokes in their respective areas. Some brushstrokes are drawing, others determine value and some do everything in one, drawing, value, edges and color. But, when a painting is “finished” what the artiest is showing is his indication that everything on the canvas are the final strokes the stokes he wants you to see. I figured, why do we need all those previous strokes? Is it possible to contain all predatory strokes into the first stroke while at the same time having perfect drawing, values and edges for that stroke. This is basically what a printer does but the strokes are super small dots, the computer has broken the image down into such small pieces that each and every stroke only has one difference, color. But I don’t want to paint in super small dots. I want the brushstroke indicating the glare on the ear of the elephant to have the exact value, shape, color and edges as I lay it on the canvas. I think it is very well possible to do this, but only as a master level artist. So this is my attempt to make a final stroke only painting.

I think that in the end, I should always strive for the final stroke as soon as possible, or maybe with every stroke. Maybe the key, is to act like every stroke should be the final stroke but allow for adjustments throughout the painting.

Theory: What separates masters from novices is time, the time it takes to gather experience and knowledge to make strokes perfectly accurate. What separates masters and really great painters is time, the time it takes to complete a painting, because the really great painters if given enough time can render life perfectly, a master can do it in a short session. So based on this theory a master painter is a person that can complete a perfectly accurate and beautiful painting quickly and with ease.

Now lets see what I have learned…

The Painting

After I finished the painting I wanted to soften it down and kill all the edges. I was hoping that this would give me a better idea of how close this would be to a normal painting if I had better edges.

The Setup


My hierarchy of painting importance

  1. Drawing
  2. Value
  3. Edges
  4. Composition
  5. Color



How can I improve the drawing

Of course the drawing is off. Honestly I thought the contour would have been worse than this.  The real issues are the internal strokes everyone of those have drawing problems also, and most are in the wrong place. While doing this I found that I really had to load my brush thick with paint and when I moved it over the canvas I went in very slow and deliberate movements. Most of the time I would adjust / twist the brush while I moved it so that I could depict the shape that I was trying to make as accurately as possible.



How can I improve the values?

Seems like the value is the closest thing here. Except for a couple places I got it pretty close.


Edges seem to be the biggest issues here after drawing. Really, without sensitive edges this whole thing turned into a very abstract looking painting. I know now that one of the hardest things for me to do is to put edges in with a stroke of paint rather than adding on edges after a stroke as been laid down. Typically I would lay down paint then soften certain edges afterwards.


Well the color isn’t correct by any means, but I still feel like it is unimportant compared to drawing, edges and value. It really doesn’t matter how close the color is if those three things are wrong.

Session Details