What is pointillism?

Wikipedia defines pointillism as; “a style of painting in which small distinct points of primary colors create the impression of a wide selection of secondary and intermediate colors.”  It goes on to say that the mind and the eye mix the color spots into a full range of tones and that it is closely related to Divisionism.  Divisionism was practiced by Georges Seurat during the Neo-Impressionism period.  He broke his color into basic elements and painted very small and regular dots.  His dots are carefully placed as to not touch each other, so the white under painted canvas shows around all of the dots.

I call my painting technique pointillism, but technically it is incorrect according to Wikipedia.  The difference between my technique and true pointillism is that I use all values, hues, tints, and shades of color in my dots, not just primary colors. And, my work is really not divisionism according to the definition in Wikipedia, because my dots are not regular and they overlap each other.  A white under painted canvas is not visible in my work, and if I use an under painting it will be a watercolor wash of many colors.

So, I often refer to my style as a “bastardization” of pointillism.  The reason behind the theory of using primary colors and let the eye do the mixing is that the physical combining of colors supposedly dulls them.  I have not found this to be true.  I think using the “new” paint developed during the last 50 years, fast drying acrylic, helps to keep the dots true to color and does not allow any bleed or smudging as often happens with oil or watercolor paint.

Many people refer to ink drawings made from dots as pointillism, but the correct technical term for ink dots is “stipple” or “stippling.”  The difference between pointillism, divisionism and stippling is that in stipple the dots are all made from the same color, and the other techniques use dots of many colors.  Now, you are experts on pointillism and can help me straighten people out when they ask.

Gail Niebrugge, pointillism artist