Clyfford Still – The Artist’s Materials

Clyfford Still – The Artist’s Materials

Clyfford Still – The Artist’s Materials

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” – Edgar Degas


Clyfford Still, an American abstract expressionist painter, was known for his powerful and emotive artworks. His unique artistic style was not only influenced by his creative vision but also by the materials he used. In this article, we will delve into the materials that Clyfford Still employed in his artistic process and explore their significance in his artwork.

The Artist’s Materials

1. Oil Paints

Oil paints were a fundamental component of Clyfford Still’s artistic practice. He favored their rich and vibrant colors, which allowed him to create bold and expressive brushstrokes. The slow drying time of oil paints also gave him the freedom to manipulate the paint on the canvas, adding depth and texture to his artworks.

2. Palette Knife

Clyfford Still often used a palette knife instead of a brush to apply paint to the canvas. This technique allowed him to create thick and impasto textures, adding a sense of energy and movement to his paintings. The palette knife also enabled him to scrape away layers of paint, revealing underlying colors and creating dynamic contrasts.

3. Canvas

The choice of canvas was crucial for Clyfford Still. He preferred large-scale canvases that allowed him to fully express his artistic vision. The texture and absorbency of the canvas influenced the way the paint interacted with the surface, resulting in unique effects and enhancing the overall visual impact of his artworks.

4. Brushes

While Clyfford Still primarily used a palette knife, he also utilized brushes to add finer details and subtle nuances to his paintings. He carefully selected brushes with different bristle types and sizes to achieve the desired effects, whether it be delicate lines or soft blending.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Did Clyfford Still use any unconventional materials in his artwork?

A: Yes, Clyfford Still was known for incorporating unconventional materials into his paintings, such as sand, gravel, and even cigarette butts. These materials added texture and depth to his artworks, pushing the boundaries of traditional painting techniques.

Q: How did Clyfford Still’s choice of materials contribute to the emotional impact of his artwork?

A: The bold and expressive use of materials by Clyfford Still evoked a sense of raw emotion in his paintings. The thick layers of paint, the rough textures, and the vibrant colors all worked together to create a powerful visual experience, allowing viewers to connect with the artist’s emotions and intentions.


Clyfford Still’s choice of materials played a significant role in shaping his artistic style and the impact of his artworks. The use of oil paints, palette knives, canvas, and unconventional materials allowed him to create visually striking and emotionally charged paintings. By understanding the materials he used, we gain a deeper appreciation for the artistic process and the unique vision of Clyfford Still.