Painting Techniques for Crumbling Stone

by Simone Wood

Painting natural or man-made materials that are deteriorating can be a challenge, as these ragged or disintegrating items are messy in their appearance and often cannot be organized by clean brush strokes or straight lines. Preparing to paint a crumbling sculpture, cliff face or stone wall with some possible techniques can be a big help.


One way to create the appearance of texture in painting is the technique called impasto, where you build up thick layers of paint on the canvas. You can use a palette knife or a paint brush to achieve this effect. Impasto creates actual texture on top of your canvas, which can help you contrast the smooth background against the rougher, loose shape of the broken rock.


Limiting your palette to black, white and all the shades in between can help you create more obvious contrasts in texture and volume when attacking this difficult subject matter. By painting the negative spaces black, you can more easily build broken stone and rock powder on top of it to give dimension to your painting. Mix as many light and dark shades of gray as you wish, and apply the lighter gray and white to the surfaces where light hits.


Since the stone you are painting is already crumbling and your task is to reproduce or render this broken rock, using small, dot-like applications of paint rather than long, broad strokes can help you achieve the illusion of crumbled or disintegrated rock or sculpture. Apply dots of darker paint where you wish to create shadow and make the dots closer together in the sections where you want the stone to appear more smooth and whole.


Rather than attempting to include all of the stone and its powder and broken pieces, limit yourself to rendering only the main shapes of the rock. Sketch these out before you begin to paint. Include the outline of the main stone structure and a few representative details of the crumbled stone. For example, sketch the outline of the stone wall, face or statue and choose one intact section, one partially crumbled section and one totally crumbled section to paint, ignoring the rest. This simplifies the painting process and highlights the decaying state of the stone.

About the Author

Simone Wood began writing professionally in 2006. Her work has appeared on various websites. She has a Master of Arts in English from the Johns Hopkins University and is pursuing her Ph.D. in literature at the University of North Texas.

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