Thursday, February 25, 2016

Painting Lesson - How to "Loosen Up"

I have a couple of friends who asked me to assist them with their painting skills.  They are very dedicated artists who are returning to more painting as their lives have freed up time to do so. Sometimes I am asked, "how do I paint like you?"  Well, I hope your aspirations are far more broad than painting like me or someone else.  I believe that everyone has a unique painting signature - something that is in your gift that is specific to your style.  But I think anyone can improve by study and painting more and more.  I have said before that I heard it takes miles of canvas to be an artist. 

More often, people will write to me and ask, "How can I paint more loose?"  Richard Schmid in his wonderful book entitled, Alla Prima, Everything I know About Painting, speaks to the matter of "looseness" in painting.  He states that "looseness is not a frivolous departure from control, quite the opposite.  It arises from the freedom which comes with superb control.  Any athlete or accomplished performer will confirm that.  Looseness should describe how a painting looks, not how it is done."  

 With all that said,  I gave my few "students" a homework assignment.  One that I got from C. W. Mundy.  Several years ago I read an article about C. W. Mundy (, February/March 2005).  He is described as an American Impressionistic Artist and he suggested painting a photo upside down to override your logical tendencies enabling you to unleash the creativity in your soul.  He states, "The power of the suggestive is much greater than the statement of reality". I have gone back to this exercise over and over when I feel like I am stuck in my painting or I am painting too tight and exact.  

I took the photo below and placed one inch grid lines on it.  (Click on the photo for a larger view)   The students then took a 5" x 7" canvas and divided it into 1" grids with very faint pencil lines that could be covered with paint during the process.  Then the photo with the grid lines became their reference and they painted the color notes and shapes that were apparent in each square - for instance, paint what is in square #1, then #2 and so forth.   They were instructed to not turn their painting over until it was finished.  I always find the results amazing.  

If you take this challenge or homework along with us shoot me an email at and send me a copy of your finished work.  I would love to see it and then we could compare here.  Happy painting upside down!

                                            #1       #2

Our Finished Paintings


  1. COOL! Was just looking at my heron painting yesterday you did and thinking, gee I'd love to paint loose like that........gonna try this.