Friday, December 1, 2017

Painting looser

So you'd like to paint looser?

If I could have a dollar for every time I heard an artist say "I must paint looser", I'd be a rich man!
Even though we may wish to paint looser we often soon revert to how we always paint - it's just natural and it's just easy to go with our own flow.

Painting looser takes effort, practice and confidence and quite frankly, it's not for everyone.
Most importantly is the issue of simplifying everything and that means ignoring lots of small stuff or converting it to a stroke or two instead of 100 strokes of the brush. I think you know what I mean. It's the difference between stroking the canvas many times with a little brush until you are happy with the result or placing just a few confident marks, so that the result resembles the object enough for viewers to fill in the details. This is the appeal of such paintings. It takes a certain amount of bravery to do this and certainly practice.

Reducing objects to much simpler forms is a big part of painting looser, but so is using bigger brushes. Using a brush that is bigger than you thought suitable for the job, is the first step. I can tell you by recent experience that painting small figures works out much better for me using 1/2" flat than a pointy sable.  The pointy brush has me fiddling, the 1/2" flat gives me a more realistic random shape and keeps me loose even though I don't particularly want to be!

The truly loose painting will show confident strokes and not overworked areas of blended colour.  Those seemingly brash marks will give your painting so much energy. I say seemingly brash, because the strokes are quite considered and have come at the cost of some practice.
Painting outdoors is the perfect arena to practice that loose painting style and in fact, it really demands it! 

So, let the wish come true and give it a try. Half the problem is getting to the easel and remembering that we would like to paint looser!

Be brave and use a stupidly large brush to paint the whole picture. Then at the end you can use a small brush for a minute or two - it is exquisitely enjoyable to put in those little highlights.
Simplify shapes, simplify colour and use confident strokes. It doesn't matter if you mess up, just regard each piece as a practice without the pressure of perfection and it will come together.
Happy Painting!
Mike Barr

Caption:  This street scene was painted reasonably loosely and then some small work right at the end. It has some energy because of it, with plenty the viewer can add.  Simple shapes, simple colour and obvious brush strokes.