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Getting Loose: The Search for Expressive Brushwork

It isn’t my nature to paint in a loose style.

Some would say that’s because I have perfectionist tendencies (my Maui friends would say it’s because I have three planets in Virgo) but whatever the reason, historically I have gravitated toward a tight, precise style.

I’m working to change that, although it isn’t an easy task. Luckily, developing a looser style is an ambition that many artists have, and there’s a lot of online discussion on the subject to prove it.

There are a couple of artists in particular who are rocking my world these days and have inspired my journey into this foreign way of working. For example, here is a painting by Qiang Huang:


This guy’s brushwork is amazing. In spite of the fact that Huang wields his brush in what seems to be, an extremely free manner, his work conveys a remarkable realism.

One thing that I think might be helpful for artists who are trying to free up their style is to quit thinking in terms of making their paintings more loose, and instead to think in terms of making their brushwork more expressive.

When I watch talented painters working in a very expressive style, I notice that even though their brushwork may be very free, it is also very intentional. . . not tight, but not accidental either. Each “loose” brushstroke is placed with a purpose.

Another artist who is making a big impression on me lately is Carol Marine. Her painting, Alley Shadows, shown here, demonstrates the fact that expressive brushwork can really bring a painting to life.


I especially love the abstract quality where the shadow on the building meets the light. Carol took an ordinary alley scene and, through her brushwork, transformed it into something dynamic and vibrantly alive.

Both of these artists are known for their still life paintings, and ironically, up until now I have never been all that drawn to still lifes, mainly because they all seemed so. . . still.

But all that changed when I discovered Carol Marine and Qiang Huang. The mastery they show in their knowledge of value, composition, color and especially brushwork altered my view of still lifes forever.

You can see additional paintings by these artists at www.dailypaintworks.com.

For more from Barry, visit barryhowardstudio.blogspot.com.

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

We artists can be a pretty shy bunch, especially when it comes to evaluating our own work. Sometimes we'd rather hide our art away in a cupboard than put it on display for people to judge. We constantly feel the need to tell people what's wrong with our work. And networking? Don't even get me started—it makes me break out in hives.

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