Why should you paint ‘loosely’?

Art Techniques for Dummies Blog

Loose painting is more expressive. It’s the true rendering of our instant reaction to what we see. BUT…there is a big difference between a well executed loose painting and something just slapped unto the canvass without any planning or fore knowledge.

Leonie.e.Brown Artist

Good design helps make the leap from mere rendering to art. There should be a dominant value (dark, middle or light). One of the basic rules I teach my students is to use the rule of 2/3 + 1/3 + a little bit. That rule applies to dark and light values as well as choice of color. In actual fact, it is such a good rule that you can apply it to everything you  do.

An example of this rule would be using color: 2/3 could be yellow, 1/3 red + a little bit of blue. When applied to tonal values divide your painting into three values: Highlight + Mid tone + Base Tone. Each one should then be different to the other. Never have 2/3 Mid tone and Base Tone. Mid tone might be 2/3, Base Tone 1/3 and Little bit the High light. Using this basic rule you will almost guarantee yourself a better painting. Use this rule for your color choice as well as positioning and design.

Three Value Notan Design

So now that you have a good design how do you paint loose?


Keep edges undefined

Soften  outlines

Paint as if there are no lines. Objects are three-dimensional, they dont hav a set form. As your rm moves, so its shape or form changes. You are trying to paint ‘life’ and life moves and changes. It blurs and changes shape.

Use the ‘wrong’ hand

If you’re left-handed, put your brush in your right hand, and if you’re right-handed, put it in your left.

Reduce your light

Reduced light where you can’t see every last bit of detail.    

Don’t put down every detail

Don’t put down every single thing you see. Remember that a photograph and a paining is two different things. You are creating an impression. Only put down the essential bits. Tell the story in the least amount of ‘words’ or brushstrokes.  

Don’t paint outlines.

Objects are three-dimensional, they don’t have outlines. If you’re unsure about this, look at your body and see if you’ve got an outline or if you’re 3-D. You do have an ‘edge’ when you look at e.g. your leg, but as you move, so this changes. Instead of drawing an outline (or painting one) and then filling it in, paint the object as a whole.    

Let the paint drip.

Don’t tidy up the running bits. Let it run! It creates interest and a looseness to the painting. Have some fun!

Use unrealistic colors.

Use some that are completely unrealistic. Paint a self-portrait in your favorite colors rather than skin tones. The result will probably be a lot more emotive – and certainly dramatic. Make use of the 7 variations of color combinations like, Analogous colors, complimentary, split complimentary and more.    

Paint with lots of medium (water or turpentine)or very big and long brushes

First paint your subject with slightly toned medium. Then add very watery or thinned down paint over the already wet canvass. The result will be a ‘bleed’ of color.     Use your whole arm and body to paint…painting with a big brush makes it hard to put down detail. Make broad, sweeping strokes. Use a house paint brush or even roller.     Make a long handle and attach it to a brush. The long brush handle exaggerates the movement of your hand and arm, creating strange organic marks.