When I am teaching Classes and Workshops, no one ever says "Show me how to be a tight painter". Everyone wants to know how to loosen up and paint in a fresh, colorful style. Painting loosely is my natural approach, however there are many elements of a loose technique that can be taught. Through my years as an artist I have developed a series of notes and observations on what it takes to "loosen-up" your paintings. Nearly all of these tips have a common denominator - simplification. The more you simplify what you do, the more it frees your mind to concentrate on staying loose. These are very simple techniques that anyone can do, so read and enjoy!
1. Painting Loosely is a State of Mind. Before beginning a painting you must consciously think about loosening up. Tell yourself that this time you will approach the subject matter with reckless abandon. It is essential to be positive. Tell yourself that something wonderful and magical is about to happen - then make it happen!
2. Stand Up to Paint. Stand up to paint if you are able. Standing keeps you at arms length from the painting surface, and forces you to move your arms and shoulders as you paint, thus encouraging the loosening-up process. Make big, bold strokes across the paper or canvas and feel the exhilaration that it brings.
3. Always paint with Large Brushes. This is an absolute must. It is much easier to loosen up if you are using a large brush (2 inch or larger). A large brush makes you focus on painting the large shapes and discourages you from painting details. You should use a large brush until the painting is nearly complete. At this time your large shapes should be in and you should be ready to place any smaller shapes and calligraphy by using a small flat brush, round brush, or a rigger brush.
4. Use Plenty of Rich, Juicy Paint. Don't skimp on the paint! Don't be afraid to use lots of juicy, wonderful paint when you are painting. I can't tell you how many students are afraid to put out on their palette. You can't get color on the canvas if it's still in the container! Saturate your large brush with juicy pigment and splash it across the surface. You will be amazed how it automatically frees your mind and loosens up your approach. Plus, it just feels good!
5. Hold Your Brush by the Tip of the Handle. Don't hold your brush like a pencil! If you hold it like a pencil, you'll use it like a pencil. Hold your brush by the very tip so you'll have less control - that's right, less control. Holding the brush in this manner keeps you from painting small shapes and details.
6. Forget the Details. Be willing to forget the details so you can focus on the larger parts of the painting. Once the larger parts are in place the details will take care of themselves. Don't get carried away with painting blades of grass or leaves on trees. A few peppy bright colors and some snappy calligraphy should be all you need to create just the right amount of detail in a painting.
7. Compose with Large Shapes. Your composition should consist of 5 to 7 large to medium sized interlocking shapes that form the building blocks of your painting. Simplifying the number of shapes will help you create paintings with greater clarity and visual impact. Large shapes are also easily painted with a large brush.
8. Limit Your Color Palette. Just as limiting your values and the number of shapes will strengthen your painting and free your mind, so too will using fewer colors. The fewer colors, the fewer color decisions to be made as you paint.
9. You're Not Painting a Masterpiece. Nothing can hinder painting loosely more than trying to paint a masterpiece every time you put brush to paper or canvas. Some of my best pieces have been created when I was just experimenting. Painting is a journey to be loved, not a collection of masterpieces. Learn to love painting for the act and process of painting, not just for the product of the effort. If you make a big mistake, turn the paper over and begin again - it is only paper. If its canvas, paint over it with gesso and begin again.
10. Know the Design Fundamentals. Knowledge of the design fundamentals should be ingrained in your mind so you don't even have to think about them. If you are an experienced painter they are second nature. There are many that can be named and used, but I simplify them to only five that I believe are the most important: shape, value, color, edges, and center of interest. These are common to all types of painting from realism to abstraction and provide an underlying structure for your work which frees your mind to think about other things - like loosening up!
11. Use Expressive Color. When painting with the process of abstraction you are not bound by the color of subject matter, or descriptive color. You are free to use color to create a mood or feeling. Color moves from being merely descriptive to emotional and expressive. Allow yourself to be expressive!
12. Be Spontaneous and Just Let Go. Hey, we all have distractions, but we should not let them into our head while we paint. Close the studio door, clear your head, turn on your favorite music and let yourself get totally absorbed in the work. Lots of times I dance to the music while I paint. It helps put me in another place, a place where there is nothing but me and the canvas and the paint. It keeps me loose. Spontaneity comes from the heart - it is real, it is you, it will show up in your painting unlike that of anyone else. Allow yourself to be spontaneous and use your intuition.
13. Paint Fast. Not only does this help you produce more work but it helps turn off your analytical mind so you rely on your intuition. This approach of course takes a lot of trust in yourself and your abilities as an artist. Learn to trust your instincts. When you get to the point you think you are nearly finished with the piece, then you can sit back and analyze the painting to see if needs changes before it is totally complete - but don't allow this to happen too soon in the process.
14. Be Fearless - Don't Fear Failure. If you aren't failing you aren't learning anything. Failures are learning experiences, nothing more. Some of my canvases have 3 or 4 paintings on them. I go through acres of paper and canvas; I use gallons of paint; I move forward; I don't stop; I'm not afraid.
15. Reject the Need for Results. This point goes hand-in-hand with being fearless. You can't be fearless if you are always painting for results. You should be process oriented, not results oriented. Results come from the process of painting, learning and experimenting. Enjoy the fun of painting and positive results will follow.
16. Embrace Experimentation. When is the last time you did something you had never done before while painting? Take a different approach, use some different colors, apply the paint differently, use something besides a brush or palette knife. Let go; be different; experiment!
17. Ask Yourself What If? When you are painting don't be afraid to take risks. Ask yourself: What happens if I do this? What happens if I change that? What happens if this color were different or in a different place? Don't think about it, just act and move forward.
18. Accept What it Gives You. When painting, sometimes you have to be willing to accept what the paint and canvas give you. You must literally go with the flow. Sometimes the mixtures that you didn't mean to happen, or the extra drips or drops of paint can be interesting additions to the work. Remember that the greatest joy of painting is in its spontaneity.
19. Make Lemonade. If things don't work out as planned, don't worry about it. Grab another piece of paper, another canvas or the gesso and keep moving forward. It is only paint and substrate. Take what it gives you and challenge yourself to work it out, or simply start over. Life is too short to worry about bad paintings. Instead be thankful that you have the talent and ability to create!
20. Paint for Yourself. The creation of art is a selfish endeavor. It is something you do for yourself because you love it. It makes you feel alive. You express your feelings through your art. You don't need to paint for accolades, awards, pats on the back or anything else. If you are lucky enough that others enjoy your work, then that is just an added benefit!
I sure hope these tips help you to Loosen Up. I have been using them for about 15 years now and are essential to my success as an artist. If you would like a FREE EBook of these tips You Can Click the Button to get it now!
If you would like to learn more about how to put these tips into practice, then think about coming to a workshop to paint with me. You can find a list of those workshops by Clicking Here.