6 Ways to Loosen Up!

You may have heard the phrase ‘loosen up’ from an art teacher, I have and I never quite understood how or what they really meant.  We all have certain styles in the way we draw, some of us will naturally make bold, large strokes and others will enjoy small accurate strokes perhaps focussing on detail. Is there a need to loosen up and if so how can it be done?

Get Comfortable With Your Style

Now after many years of art classes I got the impression that you had to be ‘gutsy’ with your drawing and painting otherwise it was somehow lesser work.  Of course  this is not true, there is nothing wrong with a more ‘technical’ style and for those of us who like detail.  If you are someone who likes small paintbrushes and detail that is ok but there is some merit in trying out a looser style which you can use when needed.

Looser, more energetic strokes tend to have more movement and can look at bit fresher.  Sometimes we can overwork a piece and this is a trap that many beginners fall into because they are less confident with strokes and lines so they tend to go over areas time and time again.

Use a Bigger Brush 

It is important to have a range of brushes large and small, if your work is looking a bit static and overworked you may need to go large.  Remember you don’t have to paint with just one brush, you can do backgrounds with big brushes and still create detail with smaller brushes.

The same idea can apply to drawing, try a softer pencil that has thicker softer lines or a charcoal or graphite stick.  Just changing the type of pencil or paintbrush can loosen up your strokes.

Try using a bigger brush
Try using a bigger brush

Work Faster 

Working on lots of short, fast ‘warm up’ type activities can really loosen you up for drawing and painting.  It frees the muscles from tension in the hand, wrist and shoulder if you do a quick warm up type activity before a main piece.

Try ‘speed drawing’ for 10 minutes, this is an exercise where you see if you can draw as many things as you can in your sketchpad.  It really helps the speeding up process and forces a more immediate response and therefore a less overworked, careful line.  Accuracy may not be great, but that isn’t the main objective with this activity.

Short exercises are great for loosening up because they feel like experiments we don’t overwork them.  Try some simple studies, fruit, jars and vases are great for simple, quick pieces where you can try out different strokes and techniques.

Beginner Painting exercise - Acrylics
Try simple exercises for 10 – 30 minutes

Mark-Making 

Have fun with mark-making and finding out new ways of making marks.  Fill your sketchpads with all the types of stroke and line you can think of, use the brush in different ways.  You don’t just have to mark-make with a brush you can use other tools, sponges, sticks… the list is endless.

Mark-making is a good way of loosening up
Mark-making is a good way of loosening up

Work Standing Up 

Using an easel can really loosen your work up because you have more movement in the arm, shoulder and wrist while standing.  You also work faster when you are standing.  Give it a try!

Try working on an easel standing up
Try working on an easel standing up

Go Large 

Try using big sheets of paper and you will naturally want to fill the space.  A2 and A1 are really fun to work with,  they give you space to be expressive.  At first this may feel quite daunting but just try it for fun and you could be surprised how your style can be transformed when you work larger.

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