One of the most frequent requests I get from my students is, ‘How can I loosen up my painting?’. Many painters have trouble getting rid of their perfectionism and want to simplify. Here are several tips for loosening up your gouache painting.
Set a timer.
When you begin your journey to loosening your paintings, the first step is to set a timer. You want to give yourself a specific time to work on your painting, whether 5 minutes or 20 minutes. This way, you can focus on the process rather than worrying about how long it will take to complete your work. Set a timer and let go of perfectionism!
The more you practice this time-boxed exercise, the more you can reduce the timer. Begin at 20 mn, and stop when it’s time, even if your painting still needs to be finished. When you can complete it in the set time, decrease it until you get to the loose style you’re looking for.
Think of your painting as a study.
If you’re having trouble loosening up, think about your painting as a study. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to paint a masterpiece! Forget about perfection. It’s all about practice. Keep your eyes open and concentrate on what you’re doing. The more you practice, the better your paintings will become! If you like, you can play music in the background to help focus on the painting.
You can use loose paper sheets to paint on that you can throw away later or paint in sketchbooks to keep track of your progress. Learning to paint is like learning any other skill: it takes time, practice, and patience. The more you do it, the better you will get!
Choose a subject you’re familiar with.
It’s much easier to paint something you can relate to because it’s easier to understand what the colors should look like, and it’s more fun! You don’t have to pick the most complicated subject, though: a simple still life can be just as fun. Try painting a bowl of fruit, flowers, or even your pet! The more you do it, the better you’ll get. You can find useful websites for copyright-free references here.
Prep your workspace ahead of time.
Before you start any loose painting quickly, prep your workspace.
- If you’re using loose paper, tape it on the desk or cardboard.
- Working in a sketchbook, add clips to secure the pages.
- Prepare your colors, and squeeze all you need on your palette.
As you’re painting fast, you don’t have the time to clean your brush between colors; it’s easier to have a brush per color. Believe me, I’ve made this mistake!
Use large brushes that move paint quickly.
If you’re trying to loosen up your painting, you’ll want to use a large brush that moves the paint quickly. To do this, use a flat brush bigger than the area you are working on. This allows for quick coverage with large strokes that can be blended easily later in the painting process, forcing you to simplify your shapes. Another tip is to use a round brush for details. The best way to paint with this technique is to start with a large brush and move quickly over the paper, then switch to smaller brushes for detail work. You can also use different-sized brushes on different parts of your painting.
Work with a limited color palette.
One of the things that makes gouache such an excellent medium is how easily it handles multiple layers of color, allowing you to build up a sense of depth. This can also make it challenging to loosen up, though: if you’re used to working with lots of colors in your palette, going down to just five or six can seem like a step backward.
When painting quickly, you don’t have time to bother about color harmony and mixing. Use triadic colors, so you’re sure they will create a lovely painting. If you’re painting several paintings simultaneously, like in the video below, using a limited color palette gives a cohesive look and feel.
Don’t get bogged down with the details; less is more!
It’s easy to get caught up in the details of your work, paying close attention to each brushstroke and trying not to make any mistakes. But when it comes to loose gouache painting, this can be counterproductive. Instead, focus on the big picture and let yourself be free. Don’t worry about making mistakes; they can add character to your work and help it stand out from more polished pieces.
When painting in a short time, your first goal is to cover all the paper with paint with a first layer of paint. This first layer can be watery, so it goes faster. Simplify the shapes with your large flat brush, let them dry, and define more on the second layer.
The best way to loosen up your gouache painting is to think of it as a study. You’re not trying to create a replica of the subject but rather to get the essence of it down on paper. The more you practice, the better your work will be, so try these techniques and see how they work!
You can watch this video where I paint four landscapes in 20 mn, stressful but so fun and instructive!
You can get the inspiration images I used in the video here: