Attempting Looseness (Part 2)

It’s go time.  Time to apply paint over the painting and come out with a bolder, more expressive result. Hopefully.

Luckily, today I saw that Richard ( has come out with a preview of the Workshop 7 painting that is a still life involving an orange.  It’s a great reference to what I’m trying to accomplish here.  I noted two thing immediately in looking at this painting:1) the background has a LOT to do with the overall “loose” look and 2) the farther from the focus object, the looser he is (note the leaves blend into the background).

Approach: Start outside with a loose background, darkening the part farthest from the light and keep it with a brushy, almost unfinished look. Let part of the background color merge into the objects more as they get farther away from the main focus.  Use a large brush.

Paint in the background
Use large brush

The top of the salt shaker and the grapes need to merge into the dark background and lose their edge.

darken back grapes and shaker lid

Paint over the orange with a 1/2″ brush and try to keep it simple strokes without loosing the color look.  Need to be more careful on not overlapping brush strokes too much. It loses the bold, loose look very fast. I want to add stem to grapes, but will it stand out too much?  Loose means loosing some of the definition in object out of focus.  We’ll see. Yep, stands out.  Will re-do later. In trying to use a few bold strokes for the shaker lid highlights, this was very hard.  BE VERY ACCURATE WITH HIGHLIGHTS! Smooth & slow.  Gotta redo this. Lots to learn.

paint over orange

Painted over the grapes with 1/4″ brush.  The 1/2″ brush was too big to form a grape. I really like the loose look of the grapes. It still looks real with using bigger strokes. Nice.

painting over grapes

Ran over the edge of the shaker when correcting stem and needed to repaint the entire right background to cover up the repair strokes over stem.  Now I’m seeing why painting “loose” actually means being more aware of exactly what/where the strokes are going.  Painted a red-gray dull highlight over grapes. I think it’s harder to stay loose on small objects.

paint over shaker lid, highlight grapes

Ok, attempt #2 at shaker lid. Using a smaller brush to match width of highlight I could each one with a single stroke.  This is a nice look.  Painted white dots for highlights on grapes and also the orange.  I  over, highlighted the orange and had to redo the right side.  “Loose” highlighting is hard!

highlight orange

What can I do to make the cloth underneath have edges that lead the viewer to the object? Twisted the plate some to get fold underneath.  Nice effect.  Added to orange reflection to the grape (single, careful stroke when I could). Grapes are too dark. Added some red-purple with touch of white to add the effect of light illuminating through the foreground grapes. Much better. Added plate  highlight with 1/2″ brush with off-white color in single stroke. Went back with some pinks and tans randomly to loosen up the single color.  Added white highlight with a dab and hold, then pull stroke that had a nice bold end and blended end. Gotta remember that stroke.

Filled in plate highlight and cloth

Overall, this is an excellent way to learn to loosen up!! And fun! This ended up a bit darker than I was expecting and somehow it seems just as tight. But when I look closer, I can see bold strokes!  Nice!  I think on the next painting I’ll go for an even looser effect.  Hopefully others at the complete artist had luck and will have more tips. I’ll update this if I find some!

Update: Here’s the pic with the ruler to give some idea of the size of the object (sorry for the delay!)

Here's the size of objects



7 thoughts on “Attempting Looseness (Part 2)”

  1. Outstanding! I can see the dimple in the orange…..the reflection of it in the shaker……but the shine on the shaker is amazing!!! It really shines through your choices of colors!! Wow! Again, the grapes look good enough to reach out, take one and pop it into the mouth! Love the soft background. It really emphasizes the focus of your painting.

  2. Hi Stephen, I’m thrilled by this! it’s exactly where I’m focused in my own learning too, and I love your running commentary. It enlightens me on your process and what I could take from it and it also lets me see where I might usefully comment back on your work. To that end I wonder what size this painting is…you said a 1/2″ brush was too big for grapes, but I’m not so sure about that, in fact that might be exactly where to go for an even looser look…forcing the use of even bigger brushes and risk losing it altogether!
    Best wishes

    1. Hi Dee! It’s a 9×12″, so to give you an idea of what your seeing, I’ll post a pic with a ruler on top. I was wondering the same about forcing myself to use the larger brush. On parts, I did lose it and had to do a lot of repairs (especially highlights). It FELT like trying to floss teeth with a rope, very uncomfortable! But, I can see how a good controlled stroke with the right color applied once is so important!
      Have you found it gets easier using a big brush even with small details?
      So glad to know your struggling alongside me. I bet we can crack the code sharing what we find!

  3. i agree guys – it’s always so tempting to go back into something – rework, lose the freshness…it’s like that old saying…”it’s never done til it’s overdone!”…a really good thing to try is using a big brush for everything – a flat probably would be the best because you can use the edge for thin lines – and FORCE yourself to finish a painting with just that one brush. – maybe a one inch?…the result wil have to be looser..but that’s the point of the exercise!

    1. Looks like there will be a Part 3: the 1″ brush painting! Time to take the plunge again! Any suggestions on subjects? Keep it simple?
      I’ve posted the pic with the ruler to give an idea of the size of objects.

  4. I finally made it.It took me a while. Wow… really like what your doing here Stephen. I liked how you created the folds,something im getting ready to tackle in Workshop 7. You haven’t done part 3 yet or did i miss out? Oh! wait a minute i found part 3 on the bottom here. Ok.. going to go check it out.

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