View Full Version : Talking Technique - 'painterly' & 'loose'

12-06-2007, 12:09 PM
Hi everyone. I'm going to introduce a new type of thread, which I'm calling 'Talking Technique'. Anyone can start a thread with this title when they want to talk about some idea which puzzles them or they want to expound on some technical issue. This type of thread is for discussion, not for posting images (unless required to illustrate some point you are making).

What I'd like to know today is how we each define the terms 'painterly' and 'loose' as applied to oil pastels. I feel that what these terms mean to me may not always be what they mean to others.

I looked up the term 'painterly' in my Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques by Ralph Mayer and he said:

1. 'Having the quality of expertly brushed workmanship; technically excellent in terms of control of the brush and the medium of painting...'

2. 'A term applied to the dominance of tonal masses over line as a means of defining form...outlines of forms are relatively indistinct...soft-edged forms..'

Now, since we don't usually use brushes for applying OPs, the first definition won't work. Perhaps we mean a case where OPs have been applied in strokes which are left untouched thus ressembling brushstrokes. But I think that those works where parallel strokes or cross-hatched strokes are used, in the pastel manner, look more like drawings and so I wouldn't apply the term painterly to them. Perhaps randomly applied strokes left untouched fits the bill?

He didn't define the term 'loose', but his second definition of 'painterly' seems more like my idea of loose. My regular dictionary has many meanings for loose, including some which may have some relevance:

'not close or compact in structure or arrangement'...'not strict, exact, or precise'

So what do you think? How do you define the terms 'painterly' and 'loose' as applied to oil pastels? Jane

12-06-2007, 12:26 PM
Interesting idea for a thread, Jane. :)

I think both "painterly" and to a certain extent "loose" refer to a style of painting where strokes are important and visible. Mayer's description of "painterly" seems pretty close, if you think of strokes of the OP instead of the brush. This would be in contrast to a painting in which everything is very carefully and precisely rendered, with generally a lot of detail and precise blending to the point where the strokes themselves almost disappear. (Both methods have value and it's just personal preference that lead us to favor one approach over the other.)

I'm not so certain when Mayer comments about the forms of painterly pieces always being soft and indistinct though. I think a painterly piece can still have some areas of sharp and precise focus for emphasis. In oil painting, there are many excellent artists, such as Richard Schmid, who use this technique very effectively to control where the eye goes in the painting.

OPs differ from oil paints because they can be used as both a painting medium and a drawing medium. To me, this is one of the joys of using them.

12-06-2007, 12:37 PM
Annie, do you make a distinction between the terms 'painterly' and 'loose' or not? I do in that I refer to how the OPs are applied as 'painterly' (or not) and how the edges are treated as 'loose' (or not). I know that's not the traditional way to think of things, as the term 'painterly' was apparently used by Heinrich Wolfflin in his Principles of Art History to mean soft edges, indistinct outlines as opposed to 'linear'. Jane

Tracy Lewis
12-06-2007, 01:21 PM
Interesting thread. I will be poping in to learn.

12-06-2007, 02:27 PM
Jane: I think I do make a distinction, but it's somewhat vague and I'm not sure how to describe it. I do think there's lots of overlap.

Perhaps some examples will help...

When I look at your recent sketch of the tree in snow:
...the word that first comes to mind is "painterly," although the individual strokes are loose too.

While my reaction to Lacey's portrait:
is to see it as very loose, although it's really painterly too.

Julie's flower sketch seems to me both loose and painterly:

It may be that the distinction for me is that I tend to think of the term, "loose," as indicating strokes applied with a greater sense of abandon than "painterly." And I think I may tend to see fairly realistic works that are painted in a looser manner as "painterly," while those that are more abstracted are more likely to go into the "loose" category. But it's an extremely subtle nuance, and these may be an entirely ideosyncratic definitions that I'm applying.

Do you think that it really matters to distinguish between the two?

Pat Isaac
12-06-2007, 04:48 PM
Interesting discussion. I always think of painterly as involving strokes as opposed to line. The application of the OPs are applied as if they were a brush. This also is what I like about OPs. Drawing and panting. As far as loose goes I feel that a loose painting is a departure from a totally realistic approach, mcu like George Shipperley's paintings. http://www.georgeshipperley.com


12-06-2007, 05:09 PM
Annie, I agree with your assignment of my painting to painterly and Julie's painting to both painterly and loose. I'm not so sure about Lacey's, particularly if we were to remove the additional elements which overlap her head. Looking at the figure, the outlines are definite, so to me not loose. But the strokes are visible and hence, for me, painterly. The additional jottings are loose but do not constitute the majority of the painting. Since this was a collaborative effort, we may be looking at two different styles superimposed.

Should it matter? Well, I can envision a painting in which the OPs were blended, which nevertheless treated the margins of objects loosely. I think I would describe that as loose but not painterly. My husband raises an interesting point - he thinks the term painterly would always be considered positive but the term loose could be used to indicate a negative reaction.

Pat, it sounds like you and I are on the same wave length in our usage of the terms. Jane

Pat Isaac
12-06-2007, 05:22 PM
I think so, Jane. Lacey's work that was in the sketch thread is to me a quick sketch and not a finished painting. A lot of drawing and line use.


12-06-2007, 05:59 PM
I agree, Pat, that there is definitely a strong drawing component to Lacey's work. Perhaps it should not be considered painterly in that the strokes follow a more typical drawing pattern. Tricky working with words, isn't it. Jane

Pat Isaac
12-06-2007, 06:36 PM
Yes, it is, Jane and it often comes down to semantics.


12-06-2007, 07:18 PM
Jane: Well, I do see what you mean in the example of Lacey's painting in that it does have drawing elements about it. OTOH, while there are definite outlines in the piece, for the most part it appears she (and Sophia and Shirine) used the negative space created by the dark paper to establish them, while the areas of color are more or less scribbled on, with often indistinct edges. Perhaps Lacey's approach in this work is individual enough that it wasn't really a good example of a "loose" painting, although the individual strokes are themselves extremely loose.

There's also a lot of potential confusion because "loose" can refer to an overall painting style, or to the application of the pastel strokes themselves. And your husband's right, I suppose. It could be that "loose" could be a perjorative term, although I think I personally almost always use it in a positive sense when talking about art.

I can envision a painting in which the OPs were blended, which nevertheless treated the margins of objects loosely. It might be helpful to post an example of what you mean here if you can find it, Jane. I can imagine someone doing this, but it's hard to imagine an entire painting done using such an approach, although some pretty realistic artists (the kind of artist more inclined to use a lot of blending) make use of "lost edges" in areas, in order to enhance the focal point. If that's what you mean, I'm not certain I would call that "loose" per se.

And maybe I should look around for a better example of a loose painting.

12-06-2007, 07:55 PM
Here's a still life posted by Mz_Sketchpad which I think is loose in the treatment of many of the edges - relatively indistinct, soft - while overall the painting seems mostly (but not all) blended. I think that might qualify for loose, but not painterly? Jane

12-06-2007, 08:09 PM
Ah, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and in this case so are definitions.
Loose in painting, and a fully filled page of a pastel is considered a "painting," not a drawing, is a well developed, soft edged, accomplished piece, usually better than a painterly painting.

Painterly could mean whatever, and whatever is what it usually means. It's in the mind and eye of the beholder. People toss off words they've heard willy-nilly without a care of what they mean, like yesterdays socks. Lots of folk talk to hear themselves talking, sans any meaning at all. Painterly does not mean by brush, it's an attitude of painting, a syle.

12-06-2007, 09:37 PM
Jane: Your example is something I would probably define as painterly :lol: (see the definitions below).

Paulafy: I'm not clear on what distinction you are drawing between "loose" and "painterly." I suppose one of the reasons we may be using the words "willy-nilly" is because there doesn't seem to be a clear consensus about their meanings, and although I can't speak for her, clearing that up a little bit may have been Jane's motivation in posting this thread. I also don't think you'll get an argument from any of us OP artists that works done in either OP or SP are generally to be considered paintings, not drawings.

OK...it's clear there's some considerable lack of clarity about these terms. Here's a dictionary definition:
American Heritage Dictionary
paint·er·ly (pān'tər-lē)

1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of a painter; artistic.
1. Having qualities unique to the art of painting.
2. Of, relating to, or being a style of painting marked by openness of form, with shapes distinguished by variations of color rather than by outline or contour. (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=painterly)

And here are a couple of other definitions of "painterly" from various online art glossaries:
(painting) The term painterly was first introduced by Heinrich Wvlfflin to describe the sensuous traits of paint. The term refers to painting where the paint itself is loose, fluid or textured. Photographs and drawings where form is defined more by blocks of color than line are also often described as such. (http://www.picassomio.com/paintings-guide/glossary-of-terms-paintings.html)

Painterly: painting technique characterized by openness of form, in which shapes are defined by loose brushwork in light and dark color areas rather than by outline or contour. Is also a painting technique in which forms are created with patches of color, exploiting color and tonal relationships. (http://www.usblackart.com/glossary/glossary-P.asp)

It seems to me it was an old professor of mine that I recall once said that a "painterly" work gives you the sense of the artist's presence - one is aware of it as a painting, as opposed to a work that seeks to emulate reality or a photo.

Do you think the definition of loose (and even painterly) may vary with what one's natural style happens to be? We do all seem to be in agreement on one thing: that "painterly" doesn't necessarily need to refer to works done with a brush.

12-06-2007, 10:06 PM
Paula, as Annie suggests, I was trying to find some common ground to understand these terms to avoid willy-nilly use.

Annie, I think you're right that the definition of loose will be affected by our own style. From your various sources, it certainly seems that the term painterly is open to interpretation, and perhaps we need to find other ways to describe the qualities we mean. I've looked back at some of my usage of these terms and I don't use them consistently the way I defined them above myself!


Pat Isaac
12-07-2007, 08:21 AM
I guess I haven't been consistant either, though I thought I knew what I meant about these terms. The painting of Mr. Sketch_Pad is in my mind a loose painterly approach, and I do think these terms often relate to style. I am going to go look for examples. Be back later.


12-07-2007, 09:00 AM
Do any of you have suggestions for moving style into a looser and more painterly effect? Those of us who tend to do a more realistic approach would appreciate tips.

12-07-2007, 09:04 AM
Thanks for starting this thread Jane.
I came across this thread as I was looking up a definition of 'painterly'

Pat Isaac
12-07-2007, 09:53 AM
Thanks for the site, Chloe. Very interesting article.
annepropst, that question has always interested me. I always wonder why people feel they need to get looser...are you unhappy with the way your art looks? I feel that the more you work at your art a style emerges that is yours, whether it be a loose, abstract, or realistic style. The more you work at it, the more your style will evolve.


12-07-2007, 09:54 AM
Chloe, thanks so much for that link - it's a good description of what I think of as 'painterly'.

Anne, since I tend to work in a more precise fashion and usually blend on much of my subject matter, I can only say that for me it's applying lots of strokes of OPs and not blending them. With the winter tree painting that Annie posted in this thread, I actually applied some final strokes using a palette knife, so the painting has quite an impasto surface. Here are two of my animal paintings that reflect different surface treatments:

The tiger is blended and much more precise while the Malamute is much looser due to the strokes of OPs. This may not be as painterly as you would like to take your work, but it does demonstrate a difference in that direction I think:

12-07-2007, 11:19 AM
That is so helpful. After looking at your post, I think I just overblend. :thumbsup:

12-07-2007, 11:49 AM
Jane: In looking at those definitions I posted, it does seem to me that there's some consistency between them. All of them refer to shapes being distinguished (in painterly pieces) by blocks of color or value rather than line or contour. And I still think, in reading them, that "loose" is implied, so as I said, there's a lot of overlap between the two terms.

Chloe: That really was an interesting article. And the examples were good too. I think if one studies the first image (the detail of the rose) and the last one (the still life) that what is meant by "painterly" becomes quite obvious.

Pat: Looking forward to those examples. Your own work seems to be interesting in terms of this discussion, because it's very realistic, and the shapes are usually quite definite, but on the other hand, the thing that seems to make it special is the richness of the way you apply color, thus satisfying the "sensuous" part of the original definition by Heinrich Wvlfflin.

12-07-2007, 12:22 PM
Annie, in the definition from the American Heritage Dictionary the description seems to me to be distinguishing line from mass, emphasizes colour and says nothing about brushwork/application at all. That doesn't seem to relate much to our usage. Similarly, the emphasis on colour in several of the others isn't what I think we are talking about generally. So while the dictionaries and on-line references may have some consistency, I don't think that's how we are generally applying the term. I'm beginning to think I will avoid the term 'painterly' in the future. Jane

12-07-2007, 03:03 PM
I've attepted several times to do a realistic Oil Pastel piece, like my graphite drawings are. I learned that this is incredibly difficult to do. I might only do landscapes from now on out, I think op are best suited for landscapes.:)

Pat Isaac
12-07-2007, 04:35 PM
Thanks, Annie. Here is a painting I did which I think shows a painterly, but realistic approach.
The colors are a little washed out, but you get the idea.


12-07-2007, 04:54 PM
This has been an interesting thread. I think we're pretty clear on "loose vs tight." A painting or drawing can be loose and painterly. A painting or drawing can be tight and painterly. A painting or drawing can be tight and not painterly...that would be photorealistic, right? So if a drawing is loose and not painterly, what is that...sloppy? Is there just one word for "not painterly?"

My flower that was used as an example, I thought bore little resemblence to the reference. The very nice people who comment on WC would call it "loose." I, comparing it to the reference, having used a reference, would call it "sloppy," and I really didn't want to post it in the WDE or here. However when I take a step (or ten) back--which is something I need to to alot more often-- on its own, I do find the whole piece expressive and I don't hate it.

Art class finishes at the end of next week. In the first half of class, teacher ran us through alot of exercises to get us loose. I found at the midterm, where we went from 20 min drawings to a 6 hour drawing, simply allowing too much time to fiddle around, my drawing tightened up because I was stuck in front of my easel with nothing to do but fiddle for the next 5 hours. I could have turned in my drawing after 1 hour and it would have been well drawn with that painterly feel. Though it did improve, my drawing didn't change much from the 2nd hour to the 6th. I managed to resist overworking but not overthinking.

I think "painterly" is a subjective buzzword to say that you've made an illusion by suggesting its form. Alot of people admire this style because you've communicated your image without taking a photo or making it look like a photo. I think we'd all agree that we admire people who can draw/paint in a photorealistic style for the skill and patience it takes, but I think "painterly" is more interesting.

Pat Isaac
12-07-2007, 05:04 PM
Julie, I think there is a difference between a loose painting and a sketch, which is often done as an idea or an exercise or just warming up.

6 hours at once seems excessive to me for work on a drawing. Not that I couldn't work on a drawing for that long, but not at once. You were smart to not fiddle too much.


12-07-2007, 05:17 PM
Pat, you're right about a painting vs. a sketch and I did not consider that in reference to the flower.

The midterm drawing was two class sessions, three hour each. I felt like a bad student for sitting there at my easel and chatting, erasing & going over the same (unimportant spot) over and over again, LOL. But I wasn't alone :evil:

Pat Isaac
12-07-2007, 05:25 PM
I would have been with you, Julie.


12-07-2007, 05:37 PM
Pat I really like that painting. I think in particular the background and the can show strokes of colour that I would call painterly. Jane

12-07-2007, 06:01 PM
Wow, Pat that is a beautiful painting, I love the background.

12-08-2007, 12:16 PM
Beautiful painting Pat..The background is astounding;-)))

12-08-2007, 01:24 PM
Jane: Although the American Heritage definition doesn't refer specifically to brushwork, I think it may be implied when it says, "Having qualities unique to the art of painting." I think, as I mentioned my professor had said, that it's that sense of the artist's presence, where we're aware of the qualities of the application of the pigment to the surface (brushwork or OP strokes) that's the crucial thing.

Your two examples of the tiger and the Malamute do illustrate the difference between tight and loose quite well, with the Malamute heading in the painterly direction as you mention. They're both excellent paintings, but the Malamute, to me, has more appeal because of the looser approach.

I don't know about the emphasis on color part. I know I've read that Sennelier OPs offer the "most painterly" color range. Maybe there's something we're missing in our understanding of the definition. Could it be that "painterly" also refers to a little more abstract use of color? Or...?

Wildart: It is possible to do highly realistic works in OP. I think it's a matter of scale though (it's easier to do more realistic works at a larger scale), and which OPs one uses. The softer ones (like Senns) are more difficult to use to get smooth lines with (although it can be done).

Pat: Your painting is beautiful. It's interesting because it has both areas that might be called "tight" and others that are "loose." I'd call it painterly because of the wonderfully loose and rich background and the lost edges.

For those who aren't familiar with the term "lost edges," it's where the edges become indistinct, and blend into the adjacent areas, as happens in Pat's painting where the red flowers and some of the leaves blend into the background. Lost edges are used to enhance the focal point. I think it's a "painterly" technique.

Julie: Yes, it's the expressive qualities of your flower that make it appealing. Six hours for one painting in one sitting! Yikes, that must have been difficult. I'm curious: does your instructors own style tend toward realism? That might explain the assignement.

Hmmm...can a painting be loose and not painterly? It's hard to imagine. At first, when I read your comment that a painting could be "both tight and painterly" I wasn't certain that was so. But here's a painting of mine that might qualify:
This is one of those pieces that's difficult to photograph. The background isn't so dark and is roughly the same value as the apple on the far left. There's a lot more texture in the apples too, which were unripe and thus more mottled in texture, rather than shiny. IRL, the impasto texture of the apples shows up a lot more, but it's lost in the reduction we have to do to post here at WC. I hope there's enough left to illustrate the point. Do people agree with this? Is this painting "both tight and painterly?"

Pat Isaac
12-08-2007, 01:39 PM
I wouldn't call it tight, Annie, but definitely painterly....I think of a tight painting as be almost photographic, i.e. trompe l'oeuil.
Thanks for the comments about my painting.


12-08-2007, 02:59 PM
Pat, I have to disagree with you and think that Annie's apples could be considered tight and painterly, if by loose we mean indistinct edges. The apple edges are quite clear to me, while the background strokes and strokes within the apples lend a painterly aspect.

Annie, I have to disagree with you about the American Heritage Dictionary implying brushstrokes. After all, oil painting with glazes is painting and involves the use of a brush, but leaves a very smooth surface. A definition which applies the term painterly to anything that is painted isn't very helpful to my mind. Jane

Pat Isaac
12-08-2007, 03:41 PM
The semantics here is going to drive us all crazy and often I think it comes down to what you perceive. I see what you mean, Jane, but I still don't think Annie's apples are tight and :eek: I don't think they are loose either, just painterly. I'm in a quandary.....


12-08-2007, 04:01 PM
Jane: I do see what you mean now about the American Heritage definition, and agree that it's too ambiguous. Here's something from about.com's art history glossary, that shows we aren't the only ones to be struggling with the definition:

From Shelley Esaak,
Your Guide to Art History.


- Loosely now, painterly is a descriptive word meaning "this has the attributes of painting." What's that? Not clear enough? Try this, then: "Shapes in a painterly composition aren't sharply defined and the whole piece may be showing obvious brushwork."

The easiest way to get a bead on painterly is to visualize it as the opposite of linear. Think of any van Gogh you've seen. It's full of areas of color that blend into one another, and Vincent clearly didn't care if his brushwork was showing. It's up to your eye to fill in the blanks and define shapes. That's "painterly." A linear composition, on the other hand, does all of that work for you. Think here of a coloring book, which is about as linear as things can get.

Since this is an Art History site, we'll stick to painterly paintings - although it's worth noting that this adjective is used to preface other nouns such as "prose" and "effect." Additionally (I warn you) every single person who has painted, paints or will paint in the future has his or her own parameters for that which constitutes "painterly." Smile if you will, but more than one heated debate has arisen over personal opinions on the subject. http://arthistory.about.com/od/glossary/g/p_painterly.htm

So, according to that definition, my apple painting isn't painterly, because the shapes are distinct, but on the other hand, it is painterly, because the individual color/value areas have a loose application of the OP. Well, that's clear, isn't it. :lol:

And just in the nick of time, wikipedia to the rescue (sorta) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Painterly): (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Painterly%29:)


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Painterly is a translation of the German (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_language) term malerisch, one of the opposed categories popularized by Swiss art historian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_historian) Heinrich Wölfflin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinrich_W%C3%B6lfflin) (1864 - 1945) in order to help focus, enrich and standardize the terms being used by art historians of his time to characterize works of art (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Work_of_art). The opposite character is linear (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear), plastic or formal linear design.[1] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Painterly#_note-0)

An oil painting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_painting) is "painterly" when there are visible brush strokes, and/or a rough impasto (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impasto) surface. This appearance might occur in oils, acrylics, watercolors, gouache, or any medium where a brush is used. Painterly characterizes the work of Pierre Bonnard (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Bonnard), Francis Bacon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Bacon_%28painter%29), Paul Gauguin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Gauguin), Vincent Van Gogh (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_Van_Gogh), Rembrandt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rembrandt_Harmenszoon_van_Rijn) or Renoir (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre-Auguste_Renoir), John Singer Sargent (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Singer_Sargent) and many others. In watercolor it might be represented by John Marin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Marin). Linear characterizes the work of Botticelli (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandro_Botticelli), Michelangelo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelangelo) or Ingres (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Auguste_Dominique_Ingres) artists whose works conceal the brushstrokes and depend heavily on drawing, shading, contour and carefully measured proportions.

The Impressionists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impressionism) and the Abstract Expressionists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstract_Expressionism) tended strongly to be "painterly" movements. Pop Art (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pop_Art) and photo-realism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photo-realism) emphasize flatness (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flatness), illusion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusion), and smooth, sublimated brushstrokes. The Pop artist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pop_art) Roy Lichtenstein (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Lichtenstein) attempted to make a comment on Abstract Expressionist painterliness when he created images of brush strokes, rendered with comic book (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comic_book) style inks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ink) and colors, complete with Benday dots (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benday_dot) and other attempts at imitating commercial reproduction processes on the flat picture plane.

What Rembrandt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rembrandt_Harmenszoon_van_Rijn) is to light, Delacroix (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delacroix) is to color. Colorists tend to substitute relations of tonality for relations of value and render the form, shadow, light and surface through pure relations of color. "Painterly" art makes strong coloristic use of the many visual effects produced by paint on canvas such as chromatic progression, warm and cool tones, chiaroscuro (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiaroscuro), complementary and contrasting colors, broken tones, broad brushstrokes, impressionism, and impasto. Jackson Pollock (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackson_Pollock)'s action paintings (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_painting) of the 1940s and 1950s are more "painterly" than Frank Stella (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Stella)'s Hard-edge paintings (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard-edge_painting) of the 1960s.

Finally, "painterly" refers to paint, though some forms of sculpture (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sculpture) make such use of surface texture resembling brushstrokes that they could almost be called painterly (see Wood as a medium (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_as_a_medium)). The application of the term outside painting is a little self-conscious, and may not genuinely help the reader experience the character of Auguste Rodin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auguste_Rodin)'s surfaces or Richard Strauss (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Strauss)'s flow of chromatic harmonies. Photography (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photography) can also be described as painterly.
That second to last paragraph especially seems to be quite helpful.

Although it appears the wiki starts off by implying that OP works generally can't be considered "painterly," because the pigment isn't applied with a brush, the article does tend to qualify that a bit in the last paragraph. And since OPs are so relatively unknown, I suppose we can forgive the wiki editors the oversight in an otherwise very informative article.

Pat: I agree this all can get a little tricky. I wonder if we would do better by saying that a work like my apple piece had "painterly elements," rather than being painterly itself, as it only meets half of the definition.

Also, I have to admit to a fascination with words and concepts that I long ago realized not many others necessarily share. :o To me, musing about ideas like this is enjoyable - an exercise for the brain. Let me know if I'm overdoing it...

12-08-2007, 04:42 PM
We may all go around the bend before this is done - what did I start?!?!?

Pat, tight vs. loose is probably a continuum, so Annie's apples aren't as tight as a photorealist would paint them, but not as loose as some oil painters would paint them, merging them into the background, with lost and found edges.

Annie, re Wikipedia, I think that the second paragraph is the meaningful one: "is painterly when there are visible brush strokes and/or a rough impasto surface." To me, the second to last paragraph is commenting on Tonalism vs Colorist paintings which has nothing to do with brushwork at all. Emile Gruppe, who is a master of bravura brushwork, did both Tonalist and Colorist type paintings. I think this discussion is demonstrating that we sometimes use terms without being entirely clear what they mean to us, let alone to others. That's probably worth realizing. Maybe we should specifically refer to 'strokework' and 'lost and found' or indistinct edges when commenting on each other's paintings. That way we'd be communicating our thoughts more clearly. Jane

12-08-2007, 05:22 PM
Jane: I think I agree in your analysis of my apple painting, and that "tight" vs "loose" is something best thought of as existing on a continuum.

That second to last paragraph probably could have been better written, but I think it's useful in describing many of the techniques that one might find employed in a "painterly" work, such as "warm and cool tones, chiaroscuro, complementary and contrasting colors, broken tones, broad brushstrokes, impressionism, and impasto." Not all of these refer to color effects. All of them are, however, artistic techniques that don't aim to reproduce nature exactly, but give the artist a way to enhance the illusion of doing so.

12-08-2007, 06:39 PM
Annie, I still think that's too broad a definition. After all, with the exception of photorealists, we are not aiming to reproduce nature exactly, and are trying to varying degrees to enhance reality. There are only a few here who I would describe as attempting photorealism - my painting 'Lori's Truck' is my only attempt to do so. A few of my animal portraits may come close. Jane

12-08-2007, 08:01 PM
with the exception of photorealists, we are not aiming to reproduce nature exactly, and are trying to varying degrees to enhance reality. There are only a few here who I would describe as attempting photorealism - my painting 'Lori's Truck' is my only attempt to do so. A few of my animal portraits may come close.I agree with the points you made there, but don't you think, as you mentioned that "loose" does, maybe "painterly" also falls on a continuum. "Loose" is clearly a useful term and I think "painterly" is as well.

There's something so fascinating about the visible application of the pigment on the paper that it almost transcends the subject itself at times, and so I think I'll continue to use the term "painterly," if that's OK with you. I'll be using it in the "see the hand of the artist at work" sense, but if there's ever any confusion about what I mean when I use it, I hope the artist will simply ask.

This has been a great discussion, Jane. :thumbsup: I feel I've learned something. Thanks! :)

12-30-2012, 09:16 PM
Thanks, Annie. Here is a painting I did which I think shows a painterly, but realistic approach.
The colors are a little washed out, but you get the idea.

PatI love this! :thumbsup:

Pat Isaac
12-31-2012, 07:56 AM
Thanks, Renee. I used a lot of oil stick in this painting also.
I love you watercolors, especially the babies.