Green Squash, Oil on Panel, 10 x 8 inches
Tightness in paintings equals a lack of emotion and expression. Tightness is bad.
Looseness equates to freedom, expression and emotion. Looseness is good.
You hear this a lot.
Actually (and although I’m painting more loosely now) I couldn’t disagree more.
Tightness or looseness is an aesthetic decision. There is bad and good painting made with both approaches.
If you press me, though, I would say that looseness as an approach results in more bad painting than tightness, because it is often used to attempt to cover up a lack of skill, a lack of diligence and a lack of the sheer stamina it takes to paint realism well.
Personally, I do prefer my looser, more brushy paintings on the whole. And I do find them to be more expressive.
But that shouldn’t suggest that they’re painted with less control.
If anything, I think painting loosely requires more control, more dilligence, more care.
Because for loose painting to work, you have to get it right pretty much first time. You can’t hide a poorly made brush strokes because the brush marks are an integral part of the piece.
You’d better make sure they’re good, and that requires care and forethought.
I also believe that looseness need to be earned. To work well, it requires a very good understanding of value in particular, and also of colour.
Those things can only come from deliberate practice of the fundamentals, in my view.
Here’s this painting near the start (this is a still from the live stream of the painting session):
It looks pretty loose at this stage.
I’m trying to work very broadly, thinking about the value balance of the picture as a whole, and also trying to introduce texture in brush strokes at the very start that will show through a little when the painting is finsihed.
Here it is a little further through. After you’ve noticed how broad and loose it is, I’d like you to notice the palette:
I have careful modelling strings pre-mixed for the light and shadow of each of the main objects, the squash, the onion and the garlic. Later I’ll have one for the cloth too.
Looseness, and control.
Because I have the colour so carefully controled, I can be much looser with the application without losing the plot with the values and the colour. It enables me to take a more “meta” view of the picture as a whole, concentrating on the overall value balance and painting broadly.
Here it is much further through that session. The ordeliness of the palette appears to have broken down a little! But you can still see the orginal modelling strings, I still have a separate area of the palette for each part of the painting.
For me, most of the thinking is done on the palette. That’s where most of the action happens. If I don’t have it right there, I won’t get it right on the painting.
Looseness and Control
This isn’t the only way to approach it. But it is one way.
The point I want to underline here is that what apprears to be loose and brushy work is very often the result of a lot of practice and a high level of skill – of control.
If you have control of your process, which comes through the development of skill, you have more freedom to express yourself as loosely as you like.
If you try to do that without first developing the necessary skill at the fundamentals of form, light and shadow…well, frankly, it’s likely that you’ll just make a mess.
Looseness and control need not be mutually exclusive of each other. They complmeent each other and can both part of the process.
Control first. Freedom needs to be earned.
Here are the recordings of the three live streams during which I made this paiting. I talk as much as I can about what I’m doing and why, especially the decisions I’m making about value and colour as I go along.
If you have the patience to watch them, I hope you find them useful.
Follow or friend me on facebook to see new stream as they’re made. I stream live a few times a week now, and they’re free to watch.
Best wishes and thanks for reading,
Session 1: Drawing out and block-in
Session 2: Refining the block-in
Session 3: Finishing
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