View Full Version : Okay- I'm confused

05-18-2004, 11:09 AM
Or, rather, intrigued. In one thread, we have someone wishing to be "looser", giving examples of work which appear to be smears of colour in barely enough order to almost pull some sense of a scene out of the abstraction, but which, to my eye, look as if the artist was viewing the scene through a piece of cheesecloth. In another, this same person states we should strive to make the thing we are painting look as "beautiful" as possible. In the past couple of days, I've read "loose, loose, loose" as if it is some mantra, yet an example of a vase and the need to make sure it appears perfect in shape and delineation is given.

It goes without saying we all have our own taste in art- what one finds wonderfully mysterious, another finds messily vapid. One person thinks a painting is "full of light" and another bemoans the loss of values. One person sees intriguing negative spaces, and another sees a jumble. So is that all it boils down to- a matter of taste?

I just find it amazing to critique a work without knowing the artist's intent in style; "That eye's a little wonky" is said, but since the rest of the portrait is ALSO a little wonky in terms of form and colour, how can anyone say "Fix it"? "This is handblown glass" on the one hand, "It is our duty as artists to make things graceful and beautiful". Perhaps the beauty lies in the assymetry, eh? "Paint what you see" "You don't have to paint every detail". There's a dichotomy going on here which may be confusing to someone whose own sense of style is not strong enough to stand against so many diverse opinions.

I enjoy the work of many of the Impressionists- Renoir springs to mind as THE Master of the genre, scenes which hum with life, colour, "painterly" technique, but still absolutely "readable"; I can admire the work which goes into photorealism, but if I wanted a photo, I'd've taken one, the piece itself is no more than a technical exercise to me, usually. My own work I like to fall somewhere in-between: a classical realism approach- the object depicted looks real, by use of techniques which take advantage of the qualities of whatever medium. I do NOT enjoy works which I have to squint at, and leave me wondering if the artist wouldn't have been better served with a pair of corrective lenses, and, right now, hope I NEVER get that loose; "Ohh, look- a frog! No? That's a man's foot? Oh, sorry...."

I don't even know what, if any, question I'm asking, because I'm pretty secure in my "style" right now; but I am very curious how those who wish to be looser justify "looseness" with the notion of painting what they see, painting something so "loose" it becomes nearly abstract in it's lack of definition. How do you decide you've managed to capture an object if it's just a smear of colour?

K Taylor-Green
05-18-2004, 11:33 AM
Well said, Julie, well said! I, too enjoy looking at "loose" painterly pieces, but I don't want to have to be told what the painting is supposed to be. I want to use the eyes God gave me and be able to tell for myself. I want those pieces to follow the rules of good painting, even breaking a rule occassionally, to make the piece work.

As for photorealism, I see that a little differently. Yeah, you could do that with a camera, providing the artist only used one reference. To me, people who can do by hand, what it takes others to do with a machine, is something to admire. Kind of like machine made lace versus handmade lace, made by nuns in a convent, 2 centuries ago! So, I like that, too.

Like you, I feel my style falls in the middle. I try to keep my animals as realistic as possible, with a looser background. But I also feel that as my skill with habitat grows, most of my BG choices will change.

Kathryn Wilson
05-18-2004, 11:37 AM
Hi Julie - good observations and I think this will be a good thread to watch and digest the answers and comments slowly - :)

I'm not sure exactly what you are asking either - maybe as the comments come in you can direct a more exact question - but I kind of like it that it is left to the reader's interpretation - just like paintings. It's all in the viewer's interpretation - how many times have all of us commented on someone else's work and we all see so many different things in it.

As you say, if you wanted perfection, you could buy a photograph. I admire paintings that are photorealistic, but they don't hold my attention like a painting that is looser in style because the looseness leaves some mystery to let me fill in - use my imagination to enjoy what I am seeing. As a painter, it let's me interpret what I am looking at in so many different ways - if I tried to be photorealistic, then I am locked into exactly what I am seeing.

I do say I want to get to a place in my own painting that is a style all my own, that will be recognizable to others, and that I enjoy painting. I am totally miserable when trying to be realistic - it hampers me, it brings the joy down. But in the end, I want the person looking at my painting to delight in seeing the vision I see, but more important, I want to be happy for me.

05-18-2004, 11:46 AM
lol Kate- you're dead right on the value of handwork- it is not that I do not value photorealism, but that I do not find the stsyle engages me in anyway other than the technical. I look and look, to be sure, but it is with an eye which says "How'd they DO that?!?" and my interest wanes when I see they did that by pretty much copying a photograph.

I don't think I have a question for myself, Kat, so much as an observation that styles in art are a matter of taste. Is Renoir "better" than Michael Newberry? Is VanGogh "better" than Monet? Like liver, it's a matter of taste. As for being ambiguous, since I do not have a question, I suppose it seems so, but truly, I'd just like to know what others think on the subject of "loose" vs "recognizable" vs "good work". lol- I've studied some of Whistler's later, Impressionistic works, and I gotta tell you, they're the REAL studies in gray....

But you're right- the stances people take and whether or not they can apply their thoughts to their own work in their replies, will be interesting. I expect some defensiveness from some- but I am not trying to confront, simply discuss how our taste in art drives our own, individual styles.

And unlike you, when something I am working on is too "loose", that is when *I* knot up- and sigh, and try again. My joy comes from making an image look three-dimensional and real, but still very definately a painting.

PS: Y'all's pardon for my typing this morning- I sacrificed a keyboard to St Mavis of Beacon already today, but she's not seen fit to bless my hands yet. "St Mavis I Beseech Thee...."

Kathryn Wilson
05-18-2004, 12:04 PM
And unlike you, when something I am working on is too "loose", that is when *I* knot up- and sigh, and try again. My joy comes from making an image look three-dimensional and real, but still very definately a painting.

Julie, it all depends on what you define as "loose" or "looser" - there are varying degrees and that depends on the artist who is declaring this work is "looser than my last painting." Loose does not have to mean unrecognizable, but to me and my painting it means freer lines (not incorrectly drawn), more color variations, experimenting with different techniques.

These are just my thoughts in trying to relay what I think looseness means to me as an individual.

Another recent thread has brought me to thinking why I am painting faster and looser - time constraints? Catching up from years of not painting? So many things I want to paint and not enough time left before I can see the paper to paint on? Yes, to all the above - and I am having a ball doing it - if only I had a man-servant to feed, cloth, do laundry, forage for food, yadda, yadda, yadda - LOL.

Deborah Secor
05-18-2004, 12:06 PM
Hmmm, very interesting thoughts and questions here. Personally my style has changed over the years from something that's relatively realistic in approach (say blended perfectly with accurate edges, perspective and color that's seen in the objects) to something much less real (painterly strokes, lost edges, no particular concern for perfect perspective and intuitive, personal color interpretations.)

Let's see if I can illustrate. The first two are examples of the realism I did back in the 80s and early 90s. These were not loose and never were meant to be. I painted things this way because this is how I saw them, and although I had a certain amount of skill developing, after 15 years of painting this way I became...almost hate to say this...bored. Not that I could 'do it all'--I couldn't and can't--but that I had jumped all the fences in my pasture, so to speak. The first one was published in an art book. The second one was purchased by the State of NM. Very nice accolades.

The next two are representative of a time when I decided to 'jump off the cliff', a phrase I use to describe risky painting. I wanted to see what I could express using the medium, rather than how accurately I could portray things. The red one was quite a breakthrough, using no resources other than my own memories and emotions. The sky painting was also done out of my experience, my thoughts, my feelings for the place--and won many honors for me.

Recently I've come back to center, more or less, merging the two styles somewhat more. I tired of using the looseness unto itself, and decided that I wanted to explore how I could utilize the accurate edges, color or texture I learned from realism alongside the expressiveness, emotion and painterly looseness of my risky paintings. The last one does that pretty well, in my estimation. I think it contains the accuracy of information that pleases me but also sings about the thrill I see in the colors and gestures of the trees.

For me it's sort of like this. I learned my ABCs, how to make paragraphs and punctuate properly, when I learned to write, just as in my first two examples I learned to express the real-looking world in pastels. Later I used the letters and punctuation not just to write recognizable words and sentences but to express something about the place and my feelings, writing my poetry, just as in the second two I painted out my feelings and emotions. And recently I've found myself returning to the prose style, with poetic inclusions, telling stories.

For me, the looseness is the means of expressing emotional content, the personal calligraphy or handwriting each of us has, but the accuracy of realism is a valuable portion of that expression in that it's more universal, if you will. When I see a beautifully expressive vase that reflects the light and moves me with its color, yet the side of it is all 'wonky' and out of perspective, visually detracting from the universality of 'vase-ness' (is that a word?) I think a tweak or two is in order. Cannot that vase speak eloquently of its shape and utility and still be calligraphically expressive of the artist who painted it? I think so--in fact, I applaud it when that happens! That's great painting.

I have no idea if this answers any questions, or if you were actually asking any questions, Julie! Fun thread. I look forward to everyone's thoughts...


Okay, not sure what is going on with the attachment manager here... I didn't upload anything! FYI:
1. trees and water reflections
2. blue sky over white church
3. red sunset
4. white cloud in dark sky over landscape
5. green trees and yellow wall

05-18-2004, 12:09 PM
Ok Julie, since you were clearly talking about me above, here I am to answer.

IMPORTANT: Let's not confuse LOOSENESS with SLOPPINESS. Underneath Arthur Madersons "smears" there is strong draughtmanship; the figures are perfectly in proportion. The looseness comes from the technique, not from any kind of looseness or inaccuracy in the underlying drawing.

And - the tree comment - have a look again at the trees in the Handell paintings. Do you see poor draughtmanship there? Being totally faithful to nature - ie copying EXACTLY what we see, every bump, every nuance, may satisfy some, and the reason I made the remark about "making the tree more graceful and beautiful than it actually is" was because someone said that trees DO have lumps and bumps, implying that if they do, they should be painted thus. Well, yes, we know that trees have lumpy bits...but thank goodness, we are dealing with a natural object, not a man-made vase, and therefore, we CAN take a few careful liberties, and adjust nature slightly.

a "RESPONSIVE" approach is a process of selection, of relating, omitting, stressing, and otherwise interpreting a subject's actualities. This is quite a different activity to the simple copying of a subject's actualities; and it is quite different from a poor rendering of a subject, done in the name of "looseness".
So - my suggestion about dealing with the drawing of trees, is to search out the expressive nature of the tree (fat and chunky; tall and slender; knobbly and bobbly; ) and then find a way to draw/paint it with sensitivity, in a way which brings out that expressive quality without sacrificing the "portrait" element - that which makes that tree particular. That seems to me be just what Handell has done in each of those paintings I chose for you to study. It would have been nice to see a photo of each of those trees alongside the finished painting, but we do not have that luxury. And I think it is fairly clear that he has portrayed, with enormous sensitivity, the expressive shapes of the tree trunks and has made the tree rather more gorgeous than it might have been in reality.

2. the question "is that what it all boils down to ... a question of taste?" - well, it isn't that simple. What appeals to one person will not always appeal to another, that's for sure. But I can tell you from years of study and experience, that what appeals to you today, won't necessarily appeal to you at some point in the future, because of what you have learned in between times. Your appreciation will change according to your experience, and your learning. Your perception will change. Your values will change. Your understanding will develop and will colour your views.

3. How do I justify the idea of painting so loose that it becomes almost nothing more than a smear of colour. Well, here are the words of artists I admire and respect:

Degas: "Drawing is not what one sees but what one can make others see"

Francis Bacon: "The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery"

Odilon Redon: "While I recognise the necessity for a basis of observed reality - true art lies in a reality that is felt".

Arthur Maderson "a painting is an artifact which needs to have an existence and strength quite independent of the "real" world"


"Bonnard's perception of reality is coloured by his glorious ability to see and to paint with heart and soul. A figure in a bathroom can become paradise on earth, or a collection of cold facts..........imagine telling Bonnard that whilst his bathroom tiles are modified by changes in light conditions, they do NOT swing from blue, through orange, to green".

It is good that you are confident in your current approach, and I hope that I have managed to throw some light on why I made the comments I made. I am quite clear in my own mind that there was no confusion in my remarks and that I was not offering up conflicting bits of advice.

Although in general terms, I am inclined to agree with the following comment from an article written by Arthur:

"...we hold within ourselves the solutions to our own problems. We alone must assume responsibility for developing within ourselves our capacity to respond more sensitively, more creatively, and more affectionately, if we are to paint with heart and soul".

....nevertheless I still believe that it is useful to listen to others, and to learn from others, and to be open to new ideas and approaches.


Kathryn Wilson
05-18-2004, 12:16 PM
dee - a perfect demonstration of an artist's evolving style - I love all your paintings you've shown, but my favorite is the last one - to me a painting that says it all and it shows your love of painting.

05-18-2004, 12:31 PM
Well, since we're just musing here. I think if a person copies a photograph to get a photo-real painting then it's not going to be a good painting. The art to it is interpretation. If you make a shadow from a photo look just the same as in the photo...well, a big black hole. If you paint everything on a flat plane it looks cut out and if you paint the big flash in the center of the forehead...well, yuck. When I paint 'photoreal' it's all about trying to create subtle nuances...if I fool your eye into thinking I just copied the photo then you are missing things...maybe like in real life, we don't take the time to study things...oh that's a leaf, shrug. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder.
As to loose. Well, to me that's laying down confident color and shape without a lot of fuss. I say confident because just because there's a lot of unusual color laid down does not mean it flows right. I used to hate abstract. Still dislike something that is just paint splatter, because I still appreciate skill. But I've learned to open my narrow frame of thought by really trying to see what the artist did intend. Most of the time that is not really possible, but when the color just sings and the whole thing just excites you, well, I guess that's why I like art, it's a visual experience. I used to stare into oil slicks in puddles...it's just colors swirling around and yet it still spoke to me.
As to critiquing when you don't know intent, well sometimes an off eye can just distract you from the flow, so, since asked you mention it. We all get so close to our work that we can lose perspective sometimes.
But I think you're asking about loose more than photorealism. If we all paint like everyone else, what's the point. Some artists are just excited about color...look at DFGray...I love his work...shoot, it doesn't always look like sea and sky but yet it FEELS like sea and sky and quite sucessfully so. When bnoonan puts lime green on a face...well, unless they are messy painters, I've never seen someone with lime green on their face, but she can make it work. To me the most fun about being an artist is I am free to explore what my medium and I can do together. Sometimes an artist really doesn't care if it looks like a frog or a foot perhaps they're just exploring shape or color or pure shape and color composition. Only they know if they acheived the effect they wanted.
It comes down to exploring this and that until you find what turns you on and then you paint with conviction, your way. You have to believe in it I think, even if no one else does. Fence sitters get stuck and never go anywhere. It's all about the journey and marching to that weird drumbeat. Like anything in life, some will like it, some will hate it and some could care less...but if you're true to yourself... in the end, you're happy.

05-18-2004, 12:39 PM
Julie - You've given me lots to ponder on my way down the coast today. EXCELLENT QUESTION!!!

I think what Deborah has offered has hit home for me the most but Jackie's have a lot of value too. (those are the 2 quick ones that come to mind).

Most specifically I think of the vase reference. Even hand blown vases do need to read properly as balanced and I think well drawn vases need to read that way before the loose strokes are allowed to work well. Holding it up in the mirror tells me a lot of this.

I also feel like I'm in the same track as Deborah with my portraits. (At this stage in my painting which may change dramatically later). ex: My technique went from a desire to be photorealitiscally accurate in graphite in portrait drawings. Later I had to get a likeness - and now to more catching an expression. the more comfortable I get with the accuracy, the freer I feel to express but for me (and only me I'm talking about), the eye's still have to be even and the nose on the same plane as the eyes... etc. I also want a likeness. But I felt like I had to have the "bones" to work this way. So in my landscapes, I feel like I have to be able to draw the correct perspective first before I can then create emotion. (again - this is me)

(hmm.... better go get in the car and drive this into some more thought)

thanks for such great food for thought - ps: the peppers are still here.

Barb :)

05-18-2004, 12:45 PM
Deborah, very well put...we both brought up fences lol! But I really like how you expressed things.
Jackie...I did say trees have their own unique personalities and I wasn't saying they SHOULD be painted that way, just that they CAN. Actually I looked at all those examples you put up and in places the branches v'd perfectly even, and in others they didn't, sometimes areas did swell bigger...I thought those were wonderful trees, but what I was trying to say is that everyone shouldn't paint to a formula. I agree a person can adjust things as they wish, and it's needed to make a piece flow. But not every tree in nature is graceful and therefore to me many landscapes look terribly blah...all those perfect trees. Handell's trees aren't blah...they have character and I was just pointing out that it's ok for trees to have character and not be 'copied' from the style of tree that everyone else seems to paint. Because we don't all interpret art the same way we have differing opinions sometimes. But that doesn't mean the other person's opinion shouldn't be valued and taken into consideration. It's not really only about right and wrong.

05-18-2004, 12:48 PM
Julie (sorry to point this at you, but I feel I am still responding to your "confusion" about what I said)

I thought of something else, which is very relevant.

When I commented on the looseness thing, it was in my own thread about my own work, and I commented that I wanted looseness FOR MYSELF. I was not making a general statement about the value of looseness for everyone...just that it looseness and expressive paint qualities presses all my buttons when I see it well done by others, and I would like to be able to do it MYSELF.

Then...the comment about the drawing of the tree was made in the spirit of teaching. When I respond to a post where someone has asked for help, or c&c, I put on my teaching hat, and leaving aside how I might like to have painted that scene, I try to give the "student" some insights which they might find helpful. I pointed out that the trees in that particular painting had slightly unsightly bulges part way up the trunk, and I talked a bit about the nature of the way that trees grow, and how one COULD, if one wanted to, draw and paint them more expressively. It was not a YOU MUST DO IT THIS WAY sort of conversation, but more a "why not look at these examples to see what I mean, and see if the idea appeals to you".

So - it isn't really appropriate to put the two ideas together under the heading of "looseness"

that's all.


05-18-2004, 01:16 PM
eeeeee gods, its becoming like a mad house in here of late .... Ive been reading through the threads...... think I will go back into my 'lurking' position :D on the back row .... quieter and safer there lol....

05-18-2004, 01:23 PM
I can see the very definate change in style, Deborah, and, while I see the merit of the last piece- and very, very easily, I must add- to me, the last piece is about the medium used, rather than the trees themselves, while the first pieces are very definately breathtaking landscapes giving a wonderful sense of peace. I am enarmored of your red mesas- that piece is a strong work in terms of abstract interpretation using colour, and I can also see the huge departure it was from your earlier work. Your work is evolving quite strongly,; you've gone from classical realism, to a dabble in abstract interpretation and colour play to an exploration of the medium rather than the subject- but in each, it is faithful and accurate detail which serves as a foundation. And, even after nearly 50 years of learning and studying what I like, I like the first ones the most- a matter of taste, that.

Lately, Jackie, Kitty has spoken of getting looser, as has Barb, as has Sue, Preston, Dee- and in other forums, it's been a topic- so perhaps you misunderstand my intent; I'm in no way challenging you or asking you to teach me to paint like you. I would no more wish to produce works like yours than I would to produce works like VanGogh (and I am enarmored of VanGogh's work), because neither are my style- whether I like 'em or not. It's simply odd, to me, that people speak of "looseness" on the one hand, and then wonder about wonky lines, graceless trees, hard edges, etc. which are all quite clearly a matter of interpretative painting rather than realism. For myself and my years of study (albeit them from books, museums, galleries the world over) the question "What is 'Impressionism' and what is 'abstract interpretation' " seems to be a gray area (and probably deliberately left so, eh?)

EVERY artist interprets whatever subject they are painting- either through a deliberate skill and technique, or by the very fact no copy of anything is the same thing, it's a copy. The examples of Maderson are simply VERY interpretive- and that you, Jackie, see his skill in line and proportion is his great good luck- for what I see is something uncomfortably vague- like a painting not quite captured. You're right, perhaps my tastes will change, but then, so might yours, eh? But I am curious, Jackie: WHY do you consider such looseness to be your goal? What is *loose* to you??

Edit: Well gee- while typing all this out and trying to correct typoes, I missed a bunch of posts. Mea culpa- I'll get to 'em in a bit. Right now I hafta deal with the laundry- I promised myself clean underwear this week... hahaha!

"There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted." ----Henri Matisse

"Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything." -Eugène Delacroix

"When I am finishing a picture I hold some God-made object up to it -- a rock, a flower, the branch of a tree or my hand -- as a kind of final test. If the painting stands up beside a thing man cannot make, the painting is authentic. If there's a clash between the two, it is bad art." -Marc Chagall

"You must study the Masters but guard the original style that beats within your soul and put to sword those who would try to steal it". ~El Greco

"Realism is more important than the sentiment of the picture."---Edgar Degas

Maggie P
05-18-2004, 01:28 PM
Some *really* interesting ideas and discussion in this thread. It's one thing I love about WC! Where else could you get so many opinions and interesting ideas in immediate response?

Julie your initial post raises some good points. In the past I had teachers encourage me to be looser in my painting. Because I don't personally like extremely loose work, I found myself resisting.

Then I decided that for me, what I wanted to achieve in my own work was what I prefer to call a painterly style. I want to depict my subjects realistically enough that you don't have to wonder what things are, but painterly enough that the work is never mistaken for a photograph. I want to interpret in my own style, rather than copy.

But I do see merit in other styles. When I judge an exhibition, I can appreciate styles and subjects that I wouldn't choose to paint myself, or perhaps wouldn't even hang on my wall. I've given awards to paintings that fall in those catergories, because they were excellent work. I don't choose to paint portraits, for example, but I gave a Best of Show award to a portrait painter in a competition recently.

I can't seem to come to a clean conclusion here except that we must each determine our own style and our own preferences in how we paint, and the fact that we're all different is really a wonderful thing.

05-18-2004, 01:48 PM
hmmmm....that's the question I think, Julie, you want to know what loose is to those of us seeking it.
Well, for me, loose is allowing the STROKE to do the work of portraying an area rather than detail. Oil painters do this a lot, especially with knives...one stroke can be a whole sunflower petal. I want to not be so worried about perfect little edges and exact placement of each thing. {I don't want to do this on everything...the piece I'm working on now is all about every single little detail and that's how I want to do it, I'm painting about detail if that makes sense...the detail drew me to this.) But on some of my work I feel the need to express an object fully with as few details as possible. Loose is the effortless looking way of doing that. It's not sloppy or unplanned, it's just a natural looking well swooped placement of color and form that works with the whole. To me loose and painterly are interchangeable. The medium being as important as the subject. And both being featured as fully.
did that make sense? :confused:

05-18-2004, 01:51 PM
Then I decided that for me, what I wanted to achieve in my own work was what I prefer to call a painterly style. I want to depict my subjects realistically enough that you don't have to wonder what things are, but painterly enough that the work is never mistaken for a photograph. I want to interpret in my own style, rather than copy.

lol...I sit and try to get my words just right on a post and then after submitting it I see someone already said what I wanted to say...and so much better lol!

05-18-2004, 01:55 PM
Another thought provoking thread...very interesting. I think I will just keep thinking about it...I don't think there is any "answer", which is what everyone is syaing...it is a matter of personal style and taste.
I do think I am still a bit all over the place mayself...sometimes I am much looser than other times. And I do know that for me there is sometimes a very fine line between loose and sloppy...I am always striving for loose and frequently end up with sloppy. I think sometimes for me at least, the answer is whether there is anything well drawn underneath...then the loose can work well. If not then it is almost like fudging and looks sloppy.
But that is true for me..not everyone.
I loved looking at Deborah's "evolution"....and can honestly say I like all of the paintings!


edited to add one more comment..I think for me sometimes when I think something is too "tight" (the opposite of loose?)...what I am really feeling is that it is overworked...if it is my own painting it was because I couldn't get it right at first and kept going at it till maybe I thought I had it right. Loose implies that I knew what the heck I was doing.
But I know it is not always that simple.

05-18-2004, 02:05 PM
Hey Kat? Can I borrow that man-servant guy when you're done? I find laundry-folding irritating.

"Sometimes an artist really doesn't care if it looks like a frog or a foot perhaps they're just exploring shape or color or pure shape and color composition. Only they know if they acheived the effect they wanted. " I know you're right there, Sue- when you're trying something different, it's easy to let the rest go hang and concentrate on what your goal is. I think that is when it is most frustrating for the artist that someone else sees only "what is wrong" elsewhere, rather than the effect of the experiment.

I very definately see the relationship between accurate rendition skills and the ability to succesfully interpret an image, Barb- I always love it when people say "My kid could do better work that that!" meaning the piece looks childish and immature in skill- and I want to reply, "Perhaps so, but could your child do it again and again, and deliberately so?" As for peppers- I'll thread 'em onto skewers with this chicken I've got thawing for the grill tonight- *yum*!

Jackie, again, this was in no way pointed at you, but at the idea "looseness" is a desired quality for artists to achieve, and how an artist interested in such looseness thinks they've gotten it. I guess; I think, anyway. Like I said, if the whole piece is "wonky", how can anyone tell some part of it doesn't fit right? Seems to be as Dee answered: A "harmonious wonkiness" ;)

Lurkers are in charge of snacks, Dawn- pass me some of that Toblerone.

I, too, can see the artistic merits in both very loose, and photorealistic works, in abstract and in allegorical works, Maggie. I've studied art on my own for nearly 40 years now, (I was the only second-grader allowed to use the "Big Kids'" section of the library- precociousness was one of my sterling qualities- hahaha!) I've learned all the "rules" and see their uses, and am equally comfortable seeing how far they bend. I REALLY like it when the rules are bent to the breaking point- to me, that is a sign of artistic skill which I would like to achieve- "This shouldn't work, but does". And, I have to agree with you, for myself, I want my work to be as realistic as possible *within the confines of my style*.

Yep, it's nice to be able to discuss these differing points of view without folks thinking a different opinion somehow means "you're wrong". Thanks, y'all !! Now keep talking!

Laura Shelley
05-18-2004, 04:56 PM
To me, looking at tightly rendered realistic artwork is a little like reading a novel written in a style that incorporates a lot of adjectives and adverbs and explanations of what is going on. In other words, all of the objects or all of the characters and plot elements are defined for you by the artist or by the writer; you do not need to make a personal interpretation of the material in order to make sense of it.

In one way, this is an excellent thing. You are left in no doubt whatsoever of the artist's or writer's intention. A consummate craftsman can display a dazzling degree of skill for you to admire. What fidelity to life! What cunning observation and depiction! This is comforting, traditional, solid stuff. The ground is firm under your feet when you encounter well-explained creative work. I could cite many examples of this sort of thing that I enjoy very much--the work of Michelangelo, the novels of Jane Austen.

In another way, it can be highly irritating to have no opportunity to participate in the meaning of the painting or novel, as it were, by helping to complete the image or the story in your own mind, through your own eyes. This may sound a little post-modern, :) but I often appreciate a somewhat loose or even unfinished style in both art and writing for my own benefit. Have you ever read a late-Victorian novel that seemed to preach to you how you should feel about the story? What about mainstream academic art of the same period?

With a less didactic approach, I can more easily enter into the world of the painting or the book, because the creator has left space for me. He hasn't filled it entirely with his own interpretation of what he is doing; his ego and his creative impulse is not the only one present. I am a participant in a joint venture rather than a student being lectured.

In my opinion, one reason that the Impressionists offended so many people at the time was that this invitation to the spectator to develop his own interpretation of a work of art seemed dangerously democratic and upsetting to the traditional order of things. As an extreme example, not meant to reflect on anyone's personal preferences in art, it also seems logical to me that repressive governments always strongly disapprove of non-realistic art; allowing for differing personal interpretations is a dangerous thing.

05-18-2004, 05:21 PM
all good points about realism. But have to inject that choice of subject and setting can also create a story or open you to a relating experience.
You know, art is the one thing I allow myself to be selfish about. It IS about me, right from the beginning up until it goes before someone else's eyes. Sure, I do keep in mind that I want someone to relate to it, but all the rest is me...my choice of surface, medium, composition, color choices and subject. But it's not really about inflating ego, it's more of a compulsion...I'm compelled to create, so whether it is ever appreciated or not, it's something I have to do to be who I am. I'm not trying to lecture a student but I'm not really asking someone to add to my vision either. It's MY vision and the challenge is for me to feel I accomplished what I wanted in that painting. When someone else sees what I felt then it's a validation that I communicated well. But their feeling a part of it is not vital to its existance. Sort of like a flower that grows in the woods...it doesn't have to be seen to be beautiful, it just is. But when someone finds it and exclaims on its beauty then it is enrichened, and so is the viewer. I don't know if that's bad, for myself personally, I can't grow unless I'm totally in the experience. Once I start to invite others in I lose my own unique vision.

05-18-2004, 06:09 PM
All good points, MM, especially relating paintings to literature. Tom Clancy constantly annoys me with his continual repetition of facts and overly-dry descriptions of weaponry- "Gun! Just say 'gun' and we'll know!!" I cannot read him. On the other hand, page after page of stream-of-consciousness doesn't appeal, really- a mind is a terrible thing- especially when you're in someone else's. ;)

" It's MY vision and the challenge is for me to feel I accomplished what I wanted in that painting. When someone else sees what I felt then it's a validation that I communicated well." That's it, Sue- just like that. What was it ElGeeko said in that one thread? "Sure, it is nice when someone sees what I saw... sometimes, it is a seesaw, waiting for someone to see what I saw. A teeter-totter, even." He's far too clever for his own good. "Art celebrates that greatest strength of the human species... individuality."

Nice to have such a wide variety here.

05-18-2004, 06:18 PM
I don't see any conflict between wanting to work more loosely and pointing out that trees generally get slimmer on the way up, or any connection at all, really. (With the tree thing , it's such a universal generality, that I think having many of the trunks get wider would have to kind of be the point of the painting; otherwise they just look awkward- just MHO, and I've painted many an awkward tree unintentionally)

When I say I want to get looser I mean that I don't want to get so bogged down in the mundane details that I lose sight of why I started the painting in the first place and what I want to say with it. What I want to say is rarely, Oh, there's a big tree over there, and some red flowers there, etc. It's rather, the emotional/spiritual/aesthetic response I had when I experienced the scene myself. Or the impression if you like.

Without delving any further into this particular imagery :p I describe my too-tight, overworked stuff as "constipated".

Madame Manga, I love what you wrote! I agree totally!

That doesn't mean I never want to work tightly . Those times I get out the colored pencils. My cp work tends to be still lifes and florals rather than landscapes however.

Looking at Deborah's 4 paintings: all lovely, well-executed... but the ones that made me gasp a little with pleasure were the last two, without question.
Sloppy? Not in the least!

Kitty Wallis
05-18-2004, 06:42 PM
Turner is my internal mantra when I yearn for looseness. He achieved majestic scale with less and less detail as his work matured. He said (paraphrase) "I realized I had already said all I wanted to say before I finished it. Before I put in the details."

His work feels to me like deft handling of space and light on a more profound level than drawing. Drawing everything in journalistic detail to illustrate space and light is a different approach. When I do it I feel pedantic, like a boring, verbous person, a 'motor-mouth'.

A friend once gave me a delicate kick in the posterior with this: "Kitty, your mark is what separates you from the herd, Don't cover it."

05-18-2004, 07:04 PM
Loose is the effortless looking way of doing that. It's not sloppy or unplanned, it's just a natural looking well swooped placement of color and form that works with the whole. To me loose and painterly are interchangeable. The medium being as important as the subject. And both being featured as fully.

For me, Sue's (Dyin's) summary is closest to what I feel. A painting that is loose in a good way is one that is confident and looks like it was easy for the painter - which means that the painting gives the impression that the artist was so confident and in command of the concept and its execution that it was easy to do (no matter that the artist might in reality NOT have been so confident and sure.)

I think that a "loose" painting in the way that I mean it can be very representational. As painters we would be able to look at the stokes of pastel or paint, etc. and see confident marks, which is a pleasure to me (and an inspiration!)

Just like in music, you can only be loose and improvise once you have the basic skills and techniques of your instrument down cold, where they are a second nature, then you can take off from there to add your own interpretation and tone.

No one in this thread has implied, nor do I, that being "loose" is better than not being loose, but I am inspired when I see a piece that has bravado and confidence, and often there is a loose feeling, that the artist risked some loss of control, and trusted their training to add some personal twist and managed to pull it off!

Great thread for making us all think about how we feel about art!

05-18-2004, 07:06 PM
So, Wendy, what does "loose" mean to you in the actual work? "Not geting bogged down in details" is still kinda wide-open- especially since your plein aires are wonderfully detailed. One of the last ones, a "c" of pines mostly, was wonderful- and the icy marsh was, again, quite detailed.

Now see, Kitty? I llike Turner's earlier works, especially some of his delicious watercolours, but the later works from the 1820's onward ("Approach to Venice" and "The Téméraire") I find to be *so* loose, they've become abstracts- and, while abstracts are a neato genre, they aren't what I enjoy, much. An abstract has to really speak to me, personally, for me to want to study it, much, other than technically. lol- your quote is nearly a lyric from U-2's "Losing My Religion": "I said too much- I said it all."

But it 'minds me of Picasso's remark a week or so before he died when asked what he planned next for his art (he was in his nineties by then); he said he thought he might change styles again....

05-18-2004, 11:05 PM
So, Wendy, what does "loose" mean to you in the actual work? ...

This is detailed. (cp)

This is loose (o.p.)

This is detailed (cp)

This is loose (soft p)

Most of my little landscapes, if you see them up close, have very little drawn detail..lots of smears and not much else.
(gotta go, it's somebody else's "turn" on the computer! :rolleyes: )

05-18-2004, 11:09 PM
I likes 'em all- for loose, you have GREAT control !

05-18-2004, 11:44 PM
You know, art is the one thing I allow myself to be selfish about. It IS about me, right from the beginning up until it goes before someone else's eyes. Sure, I do keep in mind that I want someone to relate to it, but all the rest is me...my choice of surface, medium, composition, color choices and subject. But it's not really about inflating ego, it's more of a compulsion...I'm compelled to create, so whether it is ever appreciated or not, it's something I have to do to be who I am.

This says it all for me. Most of mine go into a drawer. Occasionally they are given as gifts. But, each painting is a part of me. I have to be satisfied with it independent of how others feel. Don't get me wrong - it's a wonderful feeling to have someone "understand" your painting. No better reward.

With respect to perfect trees or vases, I asked a local artists about lessons. He was not taking on new students but offered the following advice: Always remember it's purely about the painting. Not about the subject. I guess that means if a wonky tree works, then its ok.

05-18-2004, 11:52 PM
Always remember it's purely about the painting. Not about the subject.

Quite apart from this thread, I am making this my painting mantra. Thank you, EdK!


05-18-2004, 11:56 PM
I never really "got it" about "painterly and loose" styles until I got to see Singer Sargent's and Frans Hal's great portraits up close and personal...Sargent can make the most elegant, aristocratic little finger out of just one seemingly effortless swoop of his brush....you'd swear you can see details that aren't there at all, right down to the manicure. Frans Hals convinces you of his minutely tatted lace ruff with the stringiest, messiest looking blobs of white I've ever seen. THAT's looseness to me....the essentials are all there so that the viewer is absolutely convinced of details the artist never painted at all! The viewer unconsciously brings his own filter to such work and adds all the details he needs to "read" what the artist intended....more or less, of course.

Maybe THAT'S a good definition of "loose"? A controlled, almost deceptive chaos of color, line, and value. If it's totally uncontrolled it WILL be difficult, if not impossible, to decipher. If a master does it, it just sings a perfect note while more detailed and more technically accurate work sometimes sounds but a pale echo. I love both methods of art, BTW, and have NO idea which side of the pendulum I'll wind up on eventually. These are just my thoughts here today, pondering what's been said here.

As to the looseness question -- Some can do this, some can't; some want to do this, some don't; but nobody's got dibs on the only way to see -- and paint -- their souls. And thank heavens for that!

05-19-2004, 12:09 AM
Oh, Sooz,

MASTERFULLY and lyrically said -- that was a pure pleasure to read. :clap:


Deborah Secor
05-19-2004, 12:31 AM
Okay gang, rate this thread!


Lisa Maria
05-19-2004, 01:09 AM
"Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things." (Edgar Degas)

When I'm painting... I feel like I'm in another world... If I enjoy it or not.. I don't think of it... I just.. play with colors.. and sometimes.. experiment without knowing.. I dont know how to explain...

Kitty Wallis
05-19-2004, 01:53 AM
"Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things." (Edgar Degas)

Thanks Lisa, Another great definition of loose.

Here is a detail of my painting "Swan" which shows moments of forgetting myself and entering the painting. I'll post the whole piece as well.

05-19-2004, 03:56 AM
Julie -loads of posts overnight, but you asked me directly WHY I want to paint in a looser fashion and it is rude not to answer a direct question. I really thought I had answered that fairly clearly, but to reiterate and hope not to bore the knickers off everyone here is a list of answers. It kind of forms my "artist's constitution", now I come to think of it.

1. I want to be more expressive and less literal.

2. I want "the mark" to be as important as the subject.

3. I want to be more inventive, more innovative, more adventuruous. I want my paintings to be intriguing., and ambiguous.

4. I want to reach into and touch my imagination, and put what I have touched onto the surface of my paper.

5. I want to paint the magic of the light. I want to paint colours that sing. I want to use gestural marks which have a power and beauty of their own, quite independantly of the subject.

5. I want to RECREATE my subject. And that doesn't mean, by copying it faithfully. It exists, I feel no need to copy its exactitude. My camera is better at that than I could ever be. Using my subject as inspiration, I then want to create and shape something ELSE, something unique and special in its own right, and yet I want that unique product to show something of the original inspiration. If I did not want this , I would be an abstract painter.

Madame Manga said it all beautifully for me.


05-19-2004, 08:14 AM
This was absolutely wonderful reading this morning.

Jackie, Dang you!!!! You said exactly what I feel!!!

I am glad that not everyone feels the same - it would be quite a boring world if so. I can see the value in all kinds of handling of medium and choice of subject matter.

I want to paint like me. And it keeps changing! I keep learning new things -- but I want to paint with a confidence of stroke, making the viewer think he is seeing something. But, upon closer inspection, he can tell that what he thought he saw is not really there, he supplied the missing information. With saying that, I want the person viewing to know exactly what the gist of the subject is! He doesn't have to see every bit of the shoelace in a shoe, just know that the shoelace is there.

To me, this is what I call "loose". I want to paint somewhat looser than I am painting at this time in my life. I still want you to know what you are looking at. I don't want it to look like a perfect copy of what a camera can do.

The best comment I have heard when painting a demonstration from a photograph: "Your painting looks better than the photograph."

05-19-2004, 08:22 AM
So sorry Marsha, to have taken the words out of your mouth! All I can say is...........Great Minds Think Alike.


05-19-2004, 12:29 PM
Interesting thoughts, Jackie and Marsha- it seems you are interested in the use of the medium, itself, moreso- and pastel is SUCH a versatile medium! I remember watching Michael Newberry's WIP and noticing that he uses a near pointillistic technique: tiny, tiny lines over and over and over- as if he was using pen and ink- and yet the finished work is nicely smooth, and still interpretive. Exhausting to think about, but I bet it is deeply satisfying to him, also, as the "painting zone" we all fall into must be very deep and absorbing to sustain that level of concentration. And, of course, it's easy to see by the prices his work obtains and the respect he commands within the art world the technique serves him well in more ways than one.

For myself, and GMTA as you said, my outlook is more like Maggie's: I do not care for overly loose styles- too early an exposure to artists like Lucy Glick, I s'pose- who interprets the image right into a vision of "mess" to my eye. Her work always looks angry- no matter what the subject; I've read critics call her style "highly energetic" but what I see is "nearly violent"- and since she works in figures, the juxstaposition of such a style and subject is off-putting. Sometimes, when I muse on the it, I think that the style, the technique, must be variable enough to pay homage to the subject painted- that a serene setting should not be disturbed visually by chaotic technique, whereas a more energetic subject can hold its own using bolder technique. And I s'pose that's kind of it, for me: The technique should be subjugated to the painting, not the other way around.

Thankfully, there are enough subjects, and enough styles and techniques, each of us can find our own.

K Taylor-Green
05-19-2004, 01:13 PM
I have been following this closely, after making my little comment in the beginning. And no matter what opinion each of you has stated, there is one thing coming through from all of you. "This is just me, It's personal, individual."
What one sees one way, another sees differently. I don't think this is a deliberate choice. I think there is something in each one of us, a vision, if you will, that leads us to make the artistic choices that we make. And sometimes I think our way of working chooses us, not the other way around. That first medium we try, or the second, or the third! Something hits a responsive note, and a feeling is invoked, "I have to follow this and see where it leads!"
And we find where we artistically belong. Not, that we don't explore other avenues. A departure only makes our chosen medium feel like coming home.
And everyone has to have a home.

05-19-2004, 01:24 PM
Oh Kate! Aren't you the wise one! Have some chocolate- you belong here in the backrow keeping the rest of us on level....

05-19-2004, 03:20 PM
So... Are you still confused?


05-19-2004, 03:53 PM
lol- as I said, I was more properly intrigued. Seems it is a matter of individual taste, individual style, and how determined someone is to fight their own natural instincts. Me- I really respect instincts- I think that goes well with your sig line, and that other "rule": Paint what you know, and what you love.

05-19-2004, 04:02 PM
... and not forgetting......

Different Strokes, for Different Folks ;) :)

05-19-2004, 04:38 PM
I meant to come back in and explain myself after I was booted off the computer last night, but everybody said it for me while I was asleep!

for loose, you have GREAT control !

Does "loose" connotate a lack of control? Or does an artist who wants to work more loosely wish to control the medium so the result is looser-looking?Maybe "loose v/s tight" handling of a medium is more accurate than "loose versus detailed". Semantics.....

{QUOTE=SweetBabyJ] ..and how determined someone is to fight their own natural instincts ..[/QUOTE]

I may have missed what you mean by that, but in my case, wanting to work more loosely is the desire to increase my skill so as to FOLLOW my own natural instincts, and say what I want to say, the way I want to say it. ;)

05-19-2004, 04:57 PM
I've been following this thread with interest, but have nothing new to add except, forgive my ignorance, but who is Lucy Glick? Did a Google search = nothing. Would love to see a sample of the work that corrupted Julie early on.:evil:

Kitty Wallis
05-19-2004, 05:18 PM
Here's another try,
Loose: To fling it on accurately, with lazer sharp focus, from the shoulder joint (therefore more directly in contact with the vicera)

Tight: To anxiously, carefully, draw it using every fingerbone and knuckle to control each centimeter of the line, keeping the rest of the body rigid.

Two extremes of the continuum we all occupy?

05-19-2004, 05:41 PM
Had to laugh, I just love "fling it on" and "from the shoulder joint". However, seems as though "with laser sharp focus" goes back to the word "tight". How about "with eyes closed" or "from a great distance" or "with your back turned"?

After Kitty's post I thought it might be fun to look up the actual synonyms for those two words.

Synonyms for loose:**
apart, asunder, at large, baggy, clear, detached, disconnected, easy, escaped, flabby, flaccid, floating, free, hanging, insecure, lax, liberated, limp, loosened, movable, not fitting, relaxed, released, separate, slack, slackened, sloppy, unattached, unbolted, unbound, unbuttoned, uncaged, unclasped, unconfined, unconnected, undone, unfastened, unfettered, unhinged, unhooked, unlatched, unlocked, unpinned, unrestrained, unrestricted, unsecured, unshackled, untied, wobbly

Synonyms for tight:**
bound, clasped, close-fitting, compact, constricted, contracted, cramped, crowded, dense, drawn, enduring, established, fast, firm, fixed, hidebound, inflexible, invulnerable, narrow, quick, rigid, secure, set, skintight, snug, solid, stable, steady, stiff, strained, stretched, strong, sturdy, taut, tenacious, tense, thick, tightened, unbending, unyielding

Just more food for thought.

05-19-2004, 06:23 PM
hmmmmmm word association :D ..... I like games ;)

Loose _______

Tight _______

:evil: :D

Ok, Im on the back row again....... SBJ, got anymore Toblerone :cool:

Deborah Secor
05-19-2004, 06:30 PM
tsk, tsk, tsk, Dawn!!! We're going to have to seat you in the FRONT row if you aren't careful.


05-19-2004, 06:40 PM
hee hee..... ohhhhh nooooo Dee, anything but the Front Row :)

.... of course I was thinking

Foot Loose

Tight Lipped

;) :evil: :D

Now own, up, who are those now having to sit on that Front Row lol

05-19-2004, 07:06 PM
...at this point, I only know what I mean by loose- seems everyone's definition is personal. I know I do NOT mean lack of control, but a, hmmmm, "result which looks rather slapdash no matter how controlled, how exacting, the planning and work done". I also like Barb's definition about it looking "effortless"- that makes a great deal of sense to me.

A few here have said in other threads they "wish they could get looser"- which logically means they have to go against what they are doing instinctively to do it another way, instead. Doesn't mean they *cannot*, or that they cannot develop such "looseness" as an instinct; just that, right now, it isn't.

Georgeanne, LucyGlick was a painter I was introduced to in Germany many years ago- and one who a freind of mine there truly admired, and wanted us to take lessons from. I politely refused on the grounds I couldn't afford it (hey- it was the truth, in a way), but to this day, I see no beauty whatsoever in her work.

Lucy Glick:



These are actual portraits of people- and she says "My hope is to give an idea of the joy I experience, the pleasure I feel responding to the figure in the light in the environment." Oddly enough, neither of those paintings look "joyous", to me, instead, they look angry, almost.

05-19-2004, 09:00 PM
Thanks for showing me the work of artist Lucy Glick. My curiosity is now satisfied. Very loose technique for sure, and very stylized, gestural with bold color. I can see where one would interpret this work as having an "angry" or harsh element. Some years ago, the 70's I think, this style of painting was popular. Was that about the time frame for this work? It would be interesting to see what she is doing now... scratch that, it's not really relevant to this discussion. Anyway, thanks again for answering my question.

05-19-2004, 09:13 PM
Hahaha! I just remembered what I asked my friend when she first showed me this artist's work: "How does she know when she messed it up?"

Yeah- this was the late seventies very early eighties, I think- I was surprised to see the work later featured in a painting figures book- but I s'pose the author was being democratic.

K Taylor-Green
05-19-2004, 09:27 PM
Oh Kate! Aren't you the wise one! Have some chocolate- you belong here in the backrow keeping the rest of us on level....
Hey, I'm all for chocolate, but I want white wine with mine! The backrow is definetly the place to be.

I like Kitty's definitions of "loose" and "tight". And I think Wendy has the feel of loose worded to perfection.

When I first started to draw, as a child, and later as a learning adult, I wanted to draw things exactly as I saw them. As I worked and learned, I wanted to emulate the photo realistic style. But the more I tried, the less patience I had with trying to "get" every little detail. But a friend and teacher showed me different. While I bemoaned my seeming inability to catch every whisker and hair, she taught me to see who I really am. That type of work is admirable, it just isn't me. I'm in the middle, painting like I'm supposed to paint, in order to be true to myself. I still sigh over Carl Brenders, and my animals are very realistic, just not photo realistic. And, boy, do I still have a lot to learn. But as me, not someone else, and my evolving style no longer gives me a stomache ache!