desert watercolor painting by Billy Alexander
Inspiration, Painting

How to Loosen Up Your Painting Style

June 4, 2014

Easy Tips to Paint More Loosely 

By Alina Bradford

desert watercolor painting by Billy Alexander

Desert watercolor painting by Billy Alexander.

Fussy, tight strokes can turn a beautiful painting into an uptight, stale disaster. Loosing up painting styles can make all the difference.

When an artist learns to loosen up her brushstrokes the painting is allowed to flow around the canvas, becoming more visually pleasing. To learn how to be more loose, the artist needs to substitute good painting habits for four major loose painting no-nos.
How to Hold a Paint Brush for Loose Painting 

Holding a paint brush like a pencil is the best way to get tight, stiff looking strokes. So, the best way to counteract this habit and loosen up your painting style is to hold the brush by its end. This is done by placing the last inch or two of the brush handle between the pads of the index finger, middle finger and the thumb. To guide the brush, the artist simply has to move the wrist.

Use a Bigger Brush 

To fuss up a painting with tons of little tight strokes, the artist has to have a small brush. That’s why artists that want more fluid, loosely painted subjects use the biggest brush possible at all times.

For example, at the beginning of the painting, an artist can lay in shadows and darker areas by using a 5 inch flat brush. For laying in blocks of color, the artist can move down to a 3 inch flat brush. As the painting gets more detailed, the artist should stick with a 1 inch brush. Smaller brushes should only be used at the very end of the painting process for the smallest of detail work.

Don’t Color, Paint 

Many artists like to do a detailed drawing of their subject and transfer the drawing directly to the canvas. Oftentimes, the artist then proceeds to fill in his drawing with paint. This coloring book style approach tends to leave nothing for the creative side of the artist. Filling in shapes with paint isn’t creative and looks controlled and life-less.

This habit can be counteracted by making simple sketches instead of detailed drawings. The sketch should be used only to remind the artist of the shape of the subject and the composition. This will leave a lot of room for creative interpretation and fresh technique.

Wet on Wet Painting 

The last bad habit to banish is painting parched. To paint more fluidly, use more fluid. This means using wet paint on wet paint and/or using wet paint on wet paper. If an artist is painting on paper, she can make the wetness last even longer by wetting the back of the paper, as well as the front.

Banishing these bad habits and replacing them with good ones can take an uptight artist and transform him into a much freer painter.

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