How does one define a “Loose watercolour”?

Today’s post takes on a more philosophical tone…..

The definition of a loose watercolour has been tossed around in many contexts – specifically in the Loose Group on Paint My Photo, but as I am in the process of trying to define what a “loose style” means to me personally, I thought it would be a good idea to blog about it here and see whether it generates any comments/discussion.

Let me start off by making some comments about what a “Loose painting” is NOT:

  1. It is NOT sloppy or messy
  2. It is NOT rushed or frantic or chaotic or undisciplined – this refers more to the process than the end result, I think!
  3. It does NOT violate the principles of painting – perspective, tonal value, light source, etc. …But it may use a little artistic license to bend the rules a little!
  4. It does NOT have to be abstract – although it can be!
  5. It does NOT have to be painted in bright and bold colours – although it can be!

So….what is this looseness all about then?

Here are some of the key aspects, in no particular order, of a loose painting – specifically a watercolour – that I would include in my definition. I am sure that the list is not complete and I think that not all of these elements have to apply to one painting in order for it to qualify as “loose”.

[By the way – this list is largely based on some of the thoughts that run around my head when I look at some of my favourite artists’ work.]

So here goes:

  1. It has a sense of mystery, an elusiveness, whimsical and dream-like, something that is hinted at and suggested, but is open to interpretation, it contains just enough to begin to tell a story, but allows the viewer to imagine the ending for themselves – it is MYSTERIOUS
  2. It plays with the viewer’s visual senses and offers intrigue  to invite further study, all is not as it first appears – it is PLAYFUL
  3. It does not conform to structure and clear definition – there are blurred edges and vague outlines and a variety of possible interpretations – it is UNRESERVED and UNRESTRICTED
  4. It can be wild and care-free, a sense of abandonment, bold and reckless, on or just over the edge – it is FEARLESS (thanks for this word, Roy!)
  5. It has a sense of life and life and freedom of movement – it is a DANCE of colour and paint  across the paper
  6. It has a blend of colours and lights and darks and detail and open spaces – it is a SYMPHONY of colour and light
  7. It takes time to plan and draw out the qualities of a subject so that it can be portrayed in a way that is unusual, but recognisable; subtle, but powerful, it is well-thought out – it is INTENTIONAL
  8. It stretches the viewer’s imagination and makes one want to look deeper and closer, techniques, colours, textures are all used to create interest and re-interpret the subject in new ways – It is CLEVER

You may agree, you may disagree – please add your thoughts and comments!

~ by Tomorrowslices on May 15, 2012.

2 Responses to “How does one define a “Loose watercolour”?”

  1. A brilliant appraisal of loose and I think one of the most relevant points you make is that it is intentional….. very few can actually make a piece work just by slapping the paint on, as you rightly say it needs thinking about, it takes lots more planning as you are composing but only using your reference as a clue.

    My husband plays he piano and he only uses the music as a clue, if you watch him carefully he doesn’t play what is written he plays an embellished version of what is written and that is his own interpretation. He is able to do that because he has studied music and compositon so knows which notes and chords marry well together. Am guessing the same is true for loose painting. Once we have a knowledge of tone colour, composition we can them move on to do our “own thing.”

    As you say all the principles still apply and unless we have the knowledge of them through some sort of painting osmosis we need to learn those before we can move on and apply them in a less orthodox way. What I am trying to learn from Jean is to take a subject then try and “see” different compositions for the subject…… I know how to paint my subject, I just need to learn how to interpret it in a looser way, to learn which edges are good to keep which are good to lose… still a stumbling block but the more I do the more I learn…. back to practice!!

    • Oh Judith – you are well on your way and you ARE further than you think, but I suppose the road ahead never stops, does it?
      This interpretation thing is exactly the same thing I have realised that I want to “conquer” – realistic is so boring!!:) I am trying to cross the great gap between what I can actually see in the subject and how to see it and do it differently. Your description of your husband and the piano is a perfect analogy of this elusive looseness!

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