How to Create an abstract Squeegee Painting like Gerhard Richter

Squeegee Painting

A squeegee becomes the subject. The squeegee was initially used in printing techniques to remove excess ink from the ridges of printing cylinders or screen rollers.

The squeegee painting became a painting technique more by accident. When a painter mixed paint with glue for his son, he came up with the idea of removing it from the canvas as quickly as possible after application. The fastest way to do this was with a squeegee.

In this article, you will learn all the facts about the tools needed, a detailed tutorial, and the most famous painters of the squeegee technique. We will also show you which artist achieves the highest auction prices of a living artist worldwide with his squeegee paintings.

Introduction to squeegee painting

The squeegee technique in painting is characterized by fast movements and changes of direction, which give the work its speed.

But it is much more than just the improvised “wiping over the picture”.

Post-war artists used the squeegee for a long time as a protest against figurative painting to demonstrate the diversity of art, including abstract art.

Equipment needed for this painting technique

The squeegee technique does not only require materials from painting accessories. Many things are familiar amidst the DIY industry or other everyday situations. Even the inventory of an office provides tools for this abstract painting technique.

Tools

In addition to a squeegee, which explains the technique’s name, a spatula and brush are commonly used. The brush is used first, as it serves to apply several layers of paint on the canvas. The brush should be quite large in relation to the size of the canvas to be able to spread the color quickly.

Then the paint is blended with the squeegee, which consists of a wooden base with a mouldable rubber or plastic lip. Alternatively, a polypropylene or PVC clip folder is also suitable for the technique. The strength of the material is particularly important.

Squeegee in Printing

The spatula is used in between. For more detailed work, small brushes, sponges, spatulas, or a painting knife are suitable towards the end.

Color

Oil paint is predestined for use with the squeegee technique, but acrylic paints can also be a suitable option with the right additions.

In the squeegee technique, the use of oil paint is most common. Oil paint is based on hardened oils, in most cases, linseed oil. Oil paints have ratings for lightfastness and opacity. The thickness of such paint is a little bit higher than that of toothpaste. One reason why oil paint is so well suited for this painting technique is that the drying time is longer than acrylic paint. This means that even large formats can be squeegeed without having to rush the process.

Acrylic paint, in its basic composition, is only suboptimally suitable for squeegee painting, as it usually begins to dry and harden within a few minutes. If you wish, you can extend its drying time by adding a drying retarder and binding medium. The resulting acrylic-based mixture can be used without almost in the same approach as oil-based color.

Painting surface

The surface on which you paint is most often the canvas. The use of paper proves to be problematic when trying the squeegee painting. Due to the countless layers of paint, the painting can become heavy and would easily tear.

Make sure that the canvas is tightly stretched to the frame to avoid sagging in the middle of the painting. The surface tension of the stretcher frame can be increased by using wooden wedges. If necessary, you may need to retighten your stretcher.

Since a lot of paint is used and you will be wiping the surface with a squeegee, the canvas should have a certain thickness or weight. More than 300 g/m² is recommended.

Creating a Squeegee Painting

Step 1

First, you pick up the brush. With it, you spread several colors on the canvas at your own preference. These overlap partially.

Step 2

If the entire canvas is covered with at least one layer of paint, you can spread more paint on the squeegee, which is then pulled over the painting several times. You decide in which direction to pull the squeegee, where you start and where you take the tool off again.

Step 3

Irregular and jagged movements make up the majority of the stylistic features. You have the possibility to alternate fast and slow movements. You can also draw flat or angular shapes on the canvas. The strokes may look from faltering to a fluid. There are no limits to the exact design, and it takes some practice to understand the effects of individual strokes.

There are no limits to what you can do, and it takes some practice to be able to estimate the effects of individual movements.

Step 4

Use the spatula to uncover deeper layers of paint. With more and more spread layers of paint, an individual masterpiece is created.

Step 5

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The squeegee painting is a way to create an abstract image in a short time. This technique can make up the whole artwork or provide an inspiring background for further creative methods.

Use different tools and the existing structure to express your imagination. You can highlight certain areas of the image and let others fade into the background.

Note that squeezing is not as easy as it may seem at first. You need to develop an understanding of composition and learn to express feelings through color, texture, and movement.

Some of the well-known squeegee artists are highly trained painters who have a complete repertoire of techniques and painting styles. The best example is the painting “Lesende” by Gerhard Richter, a realistically painted work by the celebrated abstract artist.

Famous artists that used the squeegee painting

Karl Otto Götz

German artist Karl Otto Götz is considered the inventor of squeegee technology. He was the first to apply paint to a glued canvas and immediately smeared it. In the year of his discovery, he exhibited his latest oil paintings. From then on, he painted exclusively with paint on glue.

He taught at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, and his invention of the squeegee technique made him one of the most important representatives of abstract art and the German Informal art movement in the post-war period.

In 1958 Götz painted his first triptych. He alluded to two American rockets that were stationed in Germany at the time. His pictures increasingly referred to contemporary events. Thus, on the day of German reunification, in the intoxication of his strong emotions, he spontaneously painted a painting called Jonction.

Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter, a former student of K. O. Götz, popularized the squeegee technology to a broader audience. His works achieve among the highest prices of a still-living artist worldwide. Most recently, a work by Richter was auctioned off for more than 40 million Euro.

Gerhard Richter, Rain (2)
Gerhard Richter, Rain (2)

Richter is famous for the contrasts in his work. In an early phase, he painted black and white portraits of deceased RAF fighters. At the same time, the picture of his daughter Betty shines with a joy of color that leads the viewer to a peaceful mood.

Since the 70s, the painter has devoted himself increasingly to abstract art.

Walter Zimmermann

A painter, who in his career gradually abandoned convention, liked to paint with a squeegee. In addition to the rediscovered use of silkscreen printing, in which the squeegee also plays a role, he left the brush aside as a conventional painting tool. The temptation to use paint as a means of depicting an object, as he once did, would be too great.

Zimmermann saw color as an independent means of making a statement in his painting. To this end, he used the relationships of several colors and their arrangement in space.

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