There you are gazing at a loosely painted cityscape. Enjoying the somewhat chaotic brushwork and fearless color placements. All the while envisioning your next masterpiece which includes a style such as this. How glorious this experience will be!

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On a mission!

You get in the studio, lay out the paint and brushes, grab a reference photo and start slinging paint. It always starts well, right? Nothing like adding passionate brushstrokes to the canvas.

About an hour in your mood shifts. The excitement has diminished and the painting is nothing like what you had imagined.

What do you do? Naturally you keep at it! It's just a matter of time before this painting becomes the next Mona Lisa.

A few more hours pass and you are exhausted with trying new brushes and colors. Nothing you do seems to work!

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The truth no one wants to hear!

A lack of respect! That's what we are dealing with here. If you don't respect the amount of skill and technique involved in painting loose, or any style for that matter, you will fall flat on your face.

The amount of effort quality loose art requires is easily overlooked by most wannabes. I can't blame them because it can be easily misinterpreted as child's play. But that kind of attitude will cause you a lot of unnecessary pain.

Here are some facts about painting loose from a guy that has done it for over fifteen years.

It takes just as much skill and techniques as more technical art such as photorealism. A loose painting may be done quicker and with less detail but the preparation and technique required to develop the style is the same. Fact!!!

Below is a list of some of the skills you have to own if you want to paint loose.

Again, it's only some so don't get giddy and think this is all you need. But if you become aware of what's involved then you may be on the right rack for gaining the respect this style demands.

  • Painting loose requires just as much skill and technique as more technical art such as photorealism.
  • The design process is the same as any other style.
  • You must be proficient with your desired medium.
  • You can not slosh paint around recklessly.
  • You need excellent drawing skills.
  • You must understand value and tone.
  • Familiarity with subjects matter.

It takes just as much skill and technique as more technical art such as photorealism.

I think this one baffles artists the most. And for good reason. After all, when one looks at an abstract style painting it seems to lack certain qualities, and at times it may read a bit sloppy.

But a well executed loose painting requires years of practice, knowledge and quality instruction. You have to develop the right approach. If you come from a technical background you can add years to that because you need to break old habits.

The design process is the same as any other style.

The amount of time invested in design and composition is the same for any style. A flawed design will stick out like a fly on a wedding cake.

You must be proficient with your desired medium.

If you lack basic technique for your medium(s) you can forget about painting loose. Every medium from pastel to gouache has its own unique qualities and should be used accordingly.

For example most acrylic hues can be applied with both opaque and transparent qualities. It's good to add some of each to a painting to give it a balanced look.

You can not slosh paint around recklessly.

You can go back to the 'design process' I mentioned earlier. If you don't invest time in composing your art it will fail. This is the main reason artists become so frustrated in my opinion. Chances are they didn't stop and think about the design. Which means their approach is out of order!

Slinging paint and hoping the get lucky will cause a lot of heartache. Don't fall into this trap. Invest time in design and composition and you can resume your paint-slinging prowess knowing you have a solid design to back you up.

You need excellent drawing skills.

Construct to deconstruct! If you don't understand how an object, scene, or shape is put together your painting style will crumble like feta cheese.

Investing time in drawing should be a daily routine. Possessing drawing skills is a powerful tool that will open up unlimited possibilities for your artwork.

Once you understand how an object is formed, you can easily develop it into a more gestural drawing.

You must understand value and tone.

Placing light and shadow in their appropriate places is the best way to create an illusion of any subject. After all, as artists we aren't painting real things. We are actually painting symbols of real life objects in a 2D format. They're an illusion.

Light and shadow give the feeling of depth and shape. This is something the viewer needs to make an object believable. If your value pattern is incorrect the art will always lack that added touch, or finished quality.

Tone is directly related to value but we are talking specifically about color. The ability of an artist to mix various shades and tints that represent light and shadow.

Familiarity with subjects matter.

Last but not least on this list is subject matter. If you enjoy painting landscapes you need to absorb yourself with understanding the subtle qualities and things that are synonymous with them.

You could develop a series of tree studies created with a variety of different mediums. Mix acrylic with inks. Try painting them with arbitrary colors but get the values right! Pay close attention to which details intrigue you and which ones clutter the sketch. It's all about that balance of details and lack there of that make loose art work!

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There's a lot more involved with painting expressively that's not mentioned here. But I think this is a great start for anyone that wants to loosen up. It's the truth that you need to hear.

In any case you should respect all styles of art. Believe me when I say this; if a painting is done well you should know that there's a great deal of time the artist has invested in their craft. Don't ever underestimate, or overlook that fact.

Painting loosely means possessing the right skill set and attitude. Yes, attitude plays a huge role but I won't elaborate on that today.

I recommend you develop a foundation for the basics, know your medium(s) and study your subjects. Don't become fooled into thinking painting loose is kids' stuff. You need expertise!

The struggle many of us face with painting loosely can be blamed on our eyes. When you look at a subject it's natural to get absorbed in details. Our brain automatically does this so there's really no way around it.

When you understand that the struggle is in the details you can start to experiment a little bit. Certain details need to be eliminated while others should be included. Areas of exactness are carefully contrasted with scribbles and chaos.

It's that delicate balance of detail and carefree attitude that one needs to pull off well. But it alludes many of us because no one really wants to dive deep into actually working to develop these ideas. There's too much pressure to paint finished art for most of you and taking time to explore is a waste of money and materials, right?

From experience I can tell you that painting expressively is extremely challenging. It's a lifelong journey and I've never stopped learning how to do it better and better. I respect the basic art fundamentals and hone these skills as often as I need to. I've learned that Mother art will sneak up and bite me in the ass if I neglect them.

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