Friday, February 4, 2011

Tight and Loose

If you're not an artist, the title of this post might make you think of such things as tightwads, loose women (or bowels), tighty whiteys... ack, get me away from Urban Dictionary before it's too late! 

Okay. Back to painting. The words tight and loose in painting have to do with a sense that the artist painted with ease, and not with difficulty. A tight painting can look overworked. "Loose" is generally a compliment.

Beginners tend to work "tight" as they struggle. They will work over a passage of the painting until it loses any vitality it ever had. Often this happens because the artist did not have a good grasp on one of the basics: drawing, color, form or brushwork.

But I've seen artists work too hard at being "loose" and their paintings wind up going all the way to "inaccurate." How successful is a "nice, loose" brush stroke that looks like a light spot where there should be shadow? 

As I work to bring my painting to a higher level of excellence, I need to make sure my viewers don't read it as "tight." I'm making sure the edges stay dynamic -- lost, soft and hard -- and I'm making sure the brushwork is expressive. Take a look at the finished leaf at the center, and the unfinished leaves in the upper left:

What is very important to me about these leaves is their tattered bulk. I emphasized that torn look in the leaf at the right. I also made sure the edge between that leaf and the vase was completely lost. I really want the leaf/vase shape to look like one large form with holes in it. The brushwork within the leaf shape serves the purpose of defining the veins in the leaf, but it still looks like brushwork.

My goal is to strengthen my original compositional idea (holes) and my further emotional theme (winter and summer). My goal is not to make the leaves look more real or more detailed. I think if I had lost my original ideas and gotten bogged down in realism or detail, I could have slid into the dreaded morass of "tight."

Oh... if you have been enjoying my blog, do go ahead and subscribe to it! I'd like to know you. -- gayle