5 Tips to Loosen Up when Painting

Feb 02, 2021 at 10:36 am by Barbara Din

5 Tips to Loosen Up when Painting

I think the artist archetype is a myth. I think there are almost as many kinds of artists as there are artists. There’re the bohemian ones, the messy ones, the dreamers, the tidy ones… and as many types as there is people.

If you’re like me, you tend to be meticulous and perfectionist. As with everything, it has its pros, but also its cons. One of which is, you can’t seem to loosen up. This might sometimes render you works a bit too stiff, too contrived. These pieces seem to lack spontaneity, and the results suffer as a consequence.

I’ve struggled with this myself, so I’ll tell you some of the things I did in order to loosen up that worked for me. Maybe some of these tips will help you as well.

Try a messy technique

One of the things that got me started in this loosening up journey was fluid painting. I used to hate getting dirty. But this technique was so alluring to me that I had to give it a go. And I loved it. So much so, that I forgot all about the mess, and learned to deal with it.

This gave me the freedom to try all kinds of things that depend a lot on randomness rather than absolute control, and found interesting ways to use these results in all kinds of works. 

Work on rougher surfaces

I like working on silky smooth surfaces, like paper, or MDF. I don’t use canvas, ever. But, one time I had to paint a pair of canvas shoes for a present. I struggled a lot at first, but had to get used to it stroke by stroke. Then I found the courage to try and paint T-shirts. I’m getting used to it still, but this forces me to be less detailed (I’m talking teeny tiny details here) and think “big picture” instead.

Use bigger brushes

This is a great trick if you tend to go to details right away, way before its needed. You love them, I know (I do too) and you tend to pick the smallest brushes almost instinctively. But starting, and sticking for as long as you can possibly take it, with bigger brushes will help you make decisions in a different way, forcing you to focus more on the general and less on the particular.

This principle also applies to digital painting, by the way!

Find unusual mark-making tools

Who said you can only paint with brushes? There are infinite ways of leaving paint on your surface of choice. Try a rag, a sponge, a comb… whatever you can dip in paint, you can use to get out of the brush stroke mentality, even if only for a while. This will open many creative doors for you and will help you be more spontaneous.

Zoom Out

If you could attach a paintbrush to a pole and paint from 3 feet away (or more!) I would recommend you do so. It will be incredibly uncomfortable for a minute, but you’ll get used to it after a while. The thing is, the strokes will be nothing like the ones you make when you’re close to the canvas.

But I was thinking digital painting, initially. Start your painting by zooming way out and stay there for as long as you can. You’ll see the difference when you try the same thing the way you usually do it.

I hope these tips will help you be a bit more spontaneous and looser when painting. Remember you can go back to your tidy self whenever you want. This will only broaden your creative spectrum, so you can incorporate new ways of expressing yourself.



Barbara Din is a visual artist, graphic designer, painter, interior designer, crafter, musician and writer living in Argentina. Learn more about Barbara and her work at the following links:
Barbara Din YouTube Channel
Barbara Din Instagram

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