How Three Artists Help Themselves Stay Loose

March 22, 2018 3 min read

Painting and drawing can be both really fun and also a little intimidating at times. How as artists do we build a process that allows us to stay loose and take risks? Three artists each approach this problem in a different way.


Learn to paint watercolor with Carl Dalio



Watercolorist Carl Dalio is known for his luminous color and vibrant street scenes. There is a lot going on in his work and yet there is a sense of play.

But for Dalio, this play becomes he is disciplined with his drawing.

He builds in intentional steps in order to make sure he is able to play. For him it’s all about the drawing. He makes sure his drawing is based on reality and he spends the times getting the lines in the right place. That means later he can play with his paint.

“Sort of like learning anatomy,” he says in his workshop Color Power: The Path to Visualizing Energetic Color. “You know what all the bones are doing, what all the muscles are doing, and then you can exaggerate...I’d rather know what the true form is and then change that, then start out so loosely that I’m kind of floundering not knowing the reality in the shape.”

It also means he can be bolder with his colors. If the viewer can look at the underlying structure of his drawing and say, “Yes that is a wall,” then Dalio doesn’t have to convince the viewer by using only local wall colors. He can be more experimental because the framework is already set.


Learn mixed media painting with Anne Bagby



Anne Bagby’s paintings are filled with bold and intricate patterns. She learned early that for her to stay loose and creative, it was about quantity more than quality.

“I make a lot of paper, so I can take a chance,” says Bagby in her workshops Pattern & Form: Advanced Collage Techniques. “If you’re doing one piece of paper at a time, you really can’t take a chance. It might be ugly. But it doesn’t matter if it’s ugly if you’re doing 100 sheets of paper in a day. Then you can really take chances and really have a learning experience.”

And then as we all know, with quantity comes quality. The results are Anne’s stunning portraits.


Learn to paint in gouache with Carla O'Connor



Carla O’Connor’s paintings are rich with color and texture. She stays loose by focusing on process and working in a way that allows her the freedom to change her mind and go back to the painting again and again. This is why she works with gouache. Gouache is a water-based media and she paints it on top of gessoed watercolor paper. This means she can lift the paint all the way back to the paper.

“I find one of the biggest obstacle in all the workshops is the fear factor,” says Carla in Figure Design in Gouache: The Process. “With this surface, you’re totally free. You can change it umpteenth thousand times. And that helps to liberate the artist to go back to the painting process and not worry so much about the final painting.”

How do you help yourself stay loose?

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