Loosening up

Take a look at this:

Stanley Bielin redranunculus625 blog

Stanley Bielen, Yellow Red Ranunculus (Oil on prepared panel, 2014) 9 5/8 x 6 5/8″

It takes a great deal of confidence, I imagine, to paint as loosely as this, giving just as much detail as is needed without overworking it. Everything is there: the texture of the flowers, the light from the left, the sense of water in the glass – yet nothing is overstated.

Likewise this little beauty from my good friend, John Button:

John Button Never a Dull Moment blog

John Button, Never a Dull Moment (acrylic on board) 40cms x 40cms

Again, John can lay down a background, play with perspective, and draw a coffee cup just as he wants it to look, not as it would be in a photograph. The results are lively, vibrant and profoundly lovely.

I’ve decided that 2016 will be my year of loosening up, when things will look as I want them to look and not simply as they are. Last week I found myself in an Oxfam bookshop in London, leafing through a book on an artist who has painted several hundred almost identical, hyper-realist pictures of a glass of water, over and over and over again*. It’s not for me to tell someone else what to paint, but after looking at about ten images of a similar glass looking rather similar with many more similar paintings to go, it felt as if the air was being sucked from the room. How different, how alive are these paintings by Stanley Bielen and John Button.

My own first tentative steps, with a long way to go:

Loose Quinces blog

Yes, more quinces (A5, ink and acrylic on Indian paper, 2016)

Here the background was painted in, keeping the final composition in mind, and the quinces drawn over the top.

Loose Pomegranate blog

Pomegranate (A5, acrylic on Indian paper, 2016)

With the pomegranate there was no pre-drawing, just acrylic onto a small sheet of Tate Gallery Indian paper.

*After seeing those, I don’t feel quite so guilty about quinces now…


55 thoughts on “Loosening up

  1. Michael, these hit the spot! I’m with you on the futility of reproducing a photograph-quality image. I imagine it’s a good skill to have, but only so that you can rebel against it. A painting is supposed to convey so much more than a photo, isn’t it? Just as you’ve done in these two free, fruity pictures. Great stuff. (p.s. that paper looks gorgeous too.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey! I’m also learning about loosening up and simplifying in the course I’m taking! There is definitely something to do. I think most of us trying to do art get too caught up in the minutiae. I think you’ve made an awesome start with loosening up. Your painting looks as good as Bielin and Button’s!

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  3. What a wonderful goal for the year-I like both, but the pomegranate is so bold and lovely-I found myself studying the strokes and shadings closely. I think I will search out some quince and pomegranates for still life studies-Beautifully done Michael!

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  4. I never thought I’d cheer on seeing a quince, Michael, but that’s the effect you’ve had! Great goal – it’s something I’ve been trying to do on-and-off for years, but it never seems to quite come off (I fear I’ve now spent too long at the other end of the spectrum). Yours, however, are wonderful – such blazing colour, so full of thwack! Tasty stuff! Looking forward to more.

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  5. I love the works of Stanley Bielen and had been collecting them on my board in Pinterest. And your quinces proved your point about painting loosely – there’s more of yourself in it them just copying what what you seen. Thanks for sharing an insightful approach to paint.

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  6. Fabulous work all around! I am also striving to loosen up in my painting. My illustrations are all about attention to detail and I want my paintings to be more impressionistic. Keep up with the quinces. I have yet to tire of beautiful food and flowers!

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  7. I love art like this, minimal strokes and colours, but it tells the whole stories. I’m both a painter and a writer, and this is how I like to write. People seem to think you need to show all the details or explain everything, but some of the most beautiful pieces of art, you fill in yourself.


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  9. I’d like to hear more about the artist who did the water in the glass, that sounds like my shaving gear still life’s. And wow, some marvelous paintings in this post. The loosening of detail is a very rewarding and challenging path!

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  11. I do agree with you, hyperrealism does nothing for me—might as well take a photo. I’m also always trying to loosen up. Something that works well is to paint using a stick, it’s fun and produces some very lively results.


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