Saturday, December 19, 2020

The secret to painting looser

There is something about a loose painting that attracts our attention whether we are an artist or not. There is an intriguing way in which such works draw us in to finish the unfinished and revel in that which is suggested. These looser works also tend to be the painting equivalent of a movie, as the animated brush strokes carry us along.

Some time ago In a conversation with a fellow artist and teacher, we discussed how many artists wished they could paint in a looser style as if there was some formula available. We agreed, that a looser style largely comes from confidence, borne from doing it a lot. The untouched brush stroke which can sometimes make a painting, has likely come from years of experience.

So, there is a real interest in being able to paint in that looser style, but the question is, how is it possible?

Firstly, the subject matter must be simplified. Simplifying everything in our minds is the key even before we start painting, whether it is from a photo or real life. Our natural instinct is to copy everything and painting looser requires that we see bigger shapes, leave out a lot of detail and suggest that which is small. It's a true education in art to paint this way, even if we only do it occasionally.

Big Brushes
Big brushes, especially in the early stages will help a lot. It's hard to be fiddly with a 2-inch brush! Having said this, there are artists that can produce loose paintings with a small brush. All said and done, painting looser is a state of mind.

Limit the colour
Also, If you have a million colours on your palette, you will be at a disadvantage. Concern about colour can tighten up things because we are thinking about the mechanics too much. Colour doesn't make a painting, but feeling and movement certainly does and this often comes from tones rather than colour.

The biggest contributor to successful loose paintings is confidence and there is no way around this. Painting is an acquired skill and skill is a product of repetitive practice.  Confidence is the product of this practice - many hours of practice and learning from mistakes - our own and those of others.

Can you speed things up? I think you can and it's done by painting lots of small pieces but with the initial intent of them not being finished works. This mindset will help you from being too careful, after all practice pieces are just that. However, you'll find that a carefree practice piece might just present itself as one of your best!

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