One of the most frequent questions I am asked by beginners is how to paint in a more fast and loose style.
When you are starting out, it is not uncommon for your brushwork to be very tight and overly refined. This leads to an unnatural looking painting.
When you watch the great master’s paint, the paint flows from their brush fluently without hesitation. It is almost as if they are communicating with the canvas using their brush.
It looks almost effortless as they paint with such confidence. How can they do this?
It is all about experience and technique really. The more experience you have, the more confidently you will paint. But there are also techniques which allow you to paint more fluently.
Here are some tips if you feel you are painting too tight and want to loosen things up. I note this is not about painting with sloppy technique. This is more about painting with confidence and without hesitation.
Tips For Painting Fast And Loose
Up-size your paintbrush
This is the simplest change you can make to improve your paintings. Take the largest brush you are comfortable with using, then start using the next size up from that.
Painting with larger brushes is beneficial as it:
Makes your strokes economical
Makes you think about your strokes, as each stroke has such a strong impact
Allows you to easily cut out the useless ‘noise’ in your painting
Helps you focus on the structure of the composition, and not the finer, tedious details
Simplify the clutter
Stop trying to paint every detail in your scene. First, decide the most vital details essential to communicate your idea through the painting and then simplify the rest.
Have a look at the above painting by Claude Monet, The Magpie, 1868-1869. Notice how Claude Monet uses more detail for the focal point in the middle ground but has simplified the rest of the painting to the bare essentials. This draws your eye towards the focal point.
Use your palette knife
Your palette knife can be an amazing time saver and is fantastic for blocking in large areas of paint on the canvas. There is also a unique effect created by using the palette knife over brushwork.
Paint Plein Air
Plein air painting (painting outside) is a fantastic way to forcefully loosen up your technique. When painting plein air, you will be battling the changing environment. You will need to paint with speed and fluidity to capture the elusive scene before it changes much.
Claude Monet Painting at the Edge of a Wood (1887) by John Singer Sargent
I hope you enjoyed these tips for painting in a more fast and loose style. But remember, you should not be sacrificing technique and precision to paint this way. Painting fast and loose is more about painting with calculated fluidity, rather than just painting with rushed and sloppy technique.
Dan Scott is an impressionist landscape painter from Australia. He is the creator of Draw Paint Academy, a community for aspiring artists.