3 Simple Ways to Loosen Up While Painting

Posted on March 20, 2017 by Angelique Abare | 2 comments

A common question I get from you concerns a topic that I also struggle with regularly - loosening up. I have a tendency to get very tight, especially when I am drawing. I believe this echoes back to my first love, technical drawing. First and foremost I wanted to pursue medical illustration, until I fell in love with paint. I taught myself to draw tight, technical, and methodically - working over everything until it was perfectly representational.

Flash forward, and a bulk of my time in the studio is spent editing myself, walking away, and forcing myself to have restraint. Over the years I have discovered a few exercises and practices that have helped me loosen up, and I wanted to share a few with you here today.

Warming up with your Non-Dominant Hand

A tried and true method of retraining your body and your eye is using your non-dominant hand to translate some objects around you. These can be quick sketches, focusing on drawing exactly what you are seeing and pulling those shapes down onto the paper; focus on the relationship of negative space to object form. When you are finished warming up, take a moment to look at how even with rougher lines, you are still able to translate the objects into discernable forms on the paper. Remember this while you are working - trust the viewer to use the visual clues you provide.

Drawing Negative Space Only

Another great warm up is to focus only on the space surrounding your object, and exploring how you can represent an object without drawing it. Notice how to the objects around your subject intersect and build a space for the given object to exist. This exercise also helps you build more engaging compositions, and helps retrain your eye to focus on the object in the world, and translating that object, rather than drawing the idea of the the object you construct in your head.

Ditch the Small Brushes and Limit Your Palette

Attack a painting using two brushes and a limited palette. I challenge you to use only a large wash brush and a medium round brush, and a palette that consists of no more than 4 colors. This will help train you to focus on form and value to communicate volume, rather than line. I keep any brushes smaller than a 6 in my desk drawer, and I am now allowed to use them until final touches, to add a bit a line quality or patterning, and only after I am finished with form.

I encourage you to give each of these exercises a try, and share your results with me on Instagram using the hashtag #AKDUNI, a new project coming to you guys, full of Drawing and Painting advice and free classes. Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to hear when classes will launch!

Until then, I can’t wait to see your sketchbook updates and your results with my tricks on loosening up. XOX-

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August 07, 2020



August 07, 2020


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