Vincent van Gogh used it to add emotion and movement.
Rembrandt van Rijn used it to depict aged skin or the reflection of jewels.
Jackson Pollock used it to accent his innovative abstract work.
And Andrea Tarman uses it to render freedom.
It is the impasto technique, the building up of thickly textured paint to an almost three-dimensional appearance — like a sculpture on canvas.
The effect is difficult to achieve: The application, done with a brush or a painting knife, may crack or wrinkle. And layers of pigment may change color if thick applications are left to dry slowly.
But the painting method offers the artist several advantages. For instance, the rough texture can draw attention to certain points of a composition.
This is what drew Tarman to the methodical process, which can be seen in her "Butterfly Pop Paint" collection at the Signature Gallery during the Laguna Beach Art Walk on Thursday evening.
Tarman, a Huntington Beach resident, wife and mother to a 5-year-old son, painted throughout her childhood.
She opened a successful advertising firm, where she was able to use her artistic nature to create logos and art for marketing campaigns for global and national clients, including Gucci Timepieces, United Healthcare and Verizon Wireless. But her love of drawing won out and she quit the business.
Tarman studied with world-acclaimed master painters Jove Wang, Corinne Hartley and Rey Isip. After completing her studies, though, Tarman wrestled with the idea of making a living as an artist. Again, art won out.
But the conflict affected her. It's why she gravitated toward the butterfly for her new series. The butterfly is about overcoming obstacles and flying to new heights.
"It seems like people aren't fulfilling their dreams, and I wanted to help people with stress in life, and butterflies symbolized that for me," said Tarman as she sat in the Costa Mesa-based Rod Alan clothing showroom, which was showcasing a few of her pieces. "They're very light and they have their own world. They're not obsessed with anything. They're free."
Since November, Tarman has worked in her home studio, creating canvases like "Perspective," which features a large butterfly soaring above skyscrapers.
"When I came across her work, I realized she used such a colorful and vibrant palette," said Jessica Fry, gallery director at the Signature Gallery. "She's got the impasto technique, which you don't see often because it's so difficult."
And time consuming. The artist has to wait about three days before adding another layer, Fry explained, and since Tarman incorporates white paint, that's an additional challenge, since it's difficult to keep the colors from seeping in.
During the "Spring Flight" show at the gallery, Tarman will paint live before guests to demonstrate the art technique. Her butterfly collection will be featured for the one night only in the gallery.
The gallery will also present a collection of bronze butterfly sculptures by artists Ron and Sheila Ruiz.
Tarman, whose works are in private and corporate collections, including Bistango restaurant and gallery in Irvine and Rutan & Tucker LLP in Costa Mesa, said she'd like gallery visitors to reflect on where they are now and how they can ascend to their highest potential.
"Being afraid is not worth it," Tarman said. "I want people to feel something new inside, something alive and feel inspired, excited and happy to do something in life."
IF YOU GO
What: "Butterfly Pop Paint" collection
When: 5:30 to 9 p.m., Thursday
Where: The Signature Gallery, 220 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach
Cost: Admission is free
Information: (949) 376-4244 or visit thesignaturegallery.com