THE SECRET TO PAINTING LOOSER
Many of us wish to paint looser and I think this is because looser paintings have more appeal to them. They look like they are painted with a brush, and a tight painting can look quite photographic.
Loose paintings have movement, and to me they are the painting equivalent to a movie, as the eye moves along with the visible, bold brush strokes. In contrast a highly worked painting can be more of an achievement than a work of art. A thousand-hour canvas is certainly epic, but it doesn't make it a better painting than one which took a few hours in a loose style.
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 in the imagination of the artist. We must be able to simplify it in our minds before we can in paint, whether it is from a photo or real life. Our natural instinct is to copy everything and painting looser requires that we leave out stuff, smudge, blur and leave in some edges and contrasts. It's a true education in art to paint this way, even if we only do it occasionally.
Big brushes, especially in the early stages will help a lot. It's hard to be fiddly with a 2-inch brush! Actually, the size of the brush should be in proportion to the size of the canvas and a bit of experience should be the teacher here. The very last part of the painting might need a bit of small brush, but not much.
If you have a million colours on your palette, you will be at a disadvantage. Concern about colour can tighten things up 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 of our own and those of others.
In a conversation with a fellow artist and teacher recently, we discussed how many artists wanted to paint looser, as if it is a thing you can just do. We agreed that actually that looser style comes largely from confidence. That untouched brush stroke that looks just right is probably the product of years of experience.
Can you speed things up? I think you can and it's done by painting lots of pieces but with the initial intent of them not being finished works. This mindset will help you from being too careful, after all a practice piece is just that. You will find that a carefree practice painting might just present itself as one of your best!