Getting Loose

Following on from is it time to move on, where I questioned whether I needed to leave oil pastels behind, I've been trying different media - and found that I'm really missing my oil pastels. I truly love them; the smell, the texture, how they feel as I apply them to the paper, how they blend, just everything about them. So I realised that I now need to find a way to make the kind of art I want to make with the materials I love.

It's a difficult process. I feel like I need to 'unlearn' a lot of things I've learned over my life. I spent the first 30 years of my life learning to draw and paint neatly and realistically. In my own work I don't yet understand the difference between loose/unfussy and unfinished, although I can gauge that in others' work. A lot of the advice for 'getting looser' doesn't apply to or isn't practical for oil pastels.

One thing I know I like in art is loose application and I started to look at other things I like on a technical level. I like broken colour, lost and found edges, unfinished areas. Kind of co-ordinated mess, I guess. I like thick, juicy colour application. I like texture.

I know that, even with every intention of painting loosely, I constantly get tighter and neater as a painting progresses - something I must stop myself doing. No more fiddling; once colour is down, it's done. I need to stop over blending; oil pastel easily will blend perfectly smooth, obliterating texture and broken colour.

Below is a twenty minute oil pastel sketch, of the same pose I used for The Zorn Palette in Wax Crayons. I rarely use reference photos (as I prefer to paint from my imagination) and I never paint the same thing twice, but this pose just captured me and, as I'm playing around with style and materials, I'm using this reference so I don't need to worry about designing and composing a painting from my imagination at the same time as experimenting:

This took about 20 minutes. I worked very quickly in the Zorn palette with no drawing, just scribbling Sennelier yellow ochre oil pastel in the rough form of the figure. I then added red, then black, then white, finally roughly blending it. I refined the image with thick strokes of oil pastel and somehow resisted the urge to fuss. As the close-ups below show, the sketch ended up with some lovely textures, beautifully broken colours, thick strokes, and bleeding edges, and I'm actually pleased with the result:

I spent an hour and a bit on the next painting in my quest to Get Loose and I felt like finally I might just be getting somewhere...

I'm actually really excited about this one. It just came together with seemingly no effort on my part. The strokes of oil pastels are juicy, loose and painterly, the colours spot on, the form pretty much on point.

I've named it "The Naughty Corner". I had to decide whether or not to leave this as it is, simple and uncluttered, or keep going. Then I remembered that I was supposed to be being brave and not precious. I decided to make "The Naughty Corner" part of the On Display series and added a couple of paintings to the walls, and now I'm calling it done.

I feel I'm making real progress in my quest to Get Loose now! I feel invigorated and inspired, which has been sadly lacking over the last few months.

I felt ready to try something a bit more complicated, again for the On Display series. Again, there was no drawing, just diving straight in with oil pastel, and no fussing.

This one doesn't look as loose as the previous from a distance, but the close ups show the textures and broken colours for which I'm aiming:

I really love this painting.

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