"Late light on Cosmos Peaks, Dart Valley, Glenorchy." 1260mm x 430mm
( Repainted when I was not happy with the first version)
It’s a question I've been asked many times. “How can I paint in a confident style?” What people are really asking is how to be “painterly.” It's is a difficult one to answer.
I discovered early in my painting career that when looking around a gallery, it was the bold, confident work that really caught and held my interest. I think this was because it spoke about the joy of painting in an expansive, expressive way, rather than the more careful, studied styles, that to me, can tend to convey considerable patience, caution, and control.
I’m generalising of course. There are many painters who use a controlled approach and produce outstanding work, just as there are others who are painterly - even flamboyant and yet their paintings are not necessarily good. A good painting depends on so many things – the choice of subject, drawing, design, tones, colour, mood, lighting, originality, etc, as well as confidence. Confidence on its own is not enough.
So……. to get back to the question of how to establish a painterly style.
Firstly, you need good equipment.. Good quality LARGE brushes, artists quality paints with a good medium (I use Winsor and Newton Liquin Original medium), and a really nice surface to work on – Fredrix superfine synthetic canvas is good. A panel of MDF coated with one generous coat of gesso primer is also very good and much cheaper.
Then you need to gather every ounce of determination to not fiddle with the painting – apply the paint with large simple strokes and after each brushstroke is applied, don’t touch it again! I think it was the famous American painter, Emile Gruppe who said that every brushstroke in a painting should have a reason for being there. Obviously, you can’t go with that statement and continue to fiddle!
By nature I am very careful, perfectionist, almost the opposite of painterly - but also determined! Because of this, in my early years, I often decided to scrape off reasonably successful passages in a painting and do them a second or third time if I felt that they were not as free as I wished to be.
Now 45 years later, I still feel caution creeping up on me at times. I'm not sure I will ever be completely satisfied that I’ve achieved this carefree and yet controlled style that I’m chasing - but as they say, "Don’t worry about the destination – enjoy the journey."
By the way, two other things come to mind. The 45 years I mentioned is probably the biggest key. It’s all about
“ brush miles.” The more you paint, the more confident you will become. Also, when I decided to paint outdoors,
I discovered that there was simply not enough time in the day to fiddle. Time, lighting, the weather, and even just becoming tired called for a style that was appropriate to the situation.
So …this is your moment to pluck up courage, buy some no.12 long bristle brushes and get started.