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Friday, November 6, 2015

Pros and Cons of Control – when Enough is Enough

(A good example of "controlled" looseness)
We all like to feel in control of our lives, but some things are simply unpredictable. This year, travel and medical problems and procedures made it difficult to keep my blogs up to date on a regular basis. The interruption into my routine of writing and painting brought to mind the catch-all phrase emphasized in the movie Forrest Gump “Shit Happens.”

When this chaos affects. me and you, our projects and paintings may get messed up; and sometimes they turn into mud.  Almost every aspect of artwork must be supervised and controlled meaning that you should have some idea what you want to say, how you’re going to say it, and a visual image of how you want your composition to look.


(Yes, the artist knew what he or she wanted, but left room for creativity)
Even when you loosen up and release your tight grip on the brush, you are still in control. Taking a feathery fan brush and holding it loosely doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing. I watched Lynne Pittard expertly push her oil paint with the tip of a fan brush softly and lightly; lifting as she finished each stroke. Lynne left behind perfectly separated sea grass in her wake. When she wanted to indicate seed, she simply pushed slightly downward (See YouTube video below).

The brush dangled loosely in her fingers as she moved the creamy oils with gentle persuasion. Although her touch was light, she remained completely in control because she knew what she was doing.
(Expressive Control -- A vision and a plan without rigidity)
Clouds can be made in much the same way making them look wispy and fluffy. Control comes in when you understand the feeling you wish to create and exactly where the clouds are needed. Keeping the paint smooth and flowing assists in the process. But if you get too carried away, the clouds may take center stage rather than settle into the background. Let’s face it. There is fun and pleasure in applying paint to canvas. But if you get lost in the process, you lose your overall vision and focus.

Certain techniques such as glazing require a soft touch. Waves that rise and fall spilling frothy foam over translucent layers must be executed with a gentle hand; but in every case, the artist is still in control.

The secret to a successful painting is to make it look effortless, as if the paint has been laid down with a feather rather than labored over or overworked. In order to do this your vision must be clear. On the other hand, you don’t want to be so rigid that unexpected splashes of color or shape are withheld because they weren’t part of your original plan.



Style dictates how brush strokes are laid down. Bold colors and broad swashes of paint help tell a different story. I have a new painting in mind that will require this approach. I personally believe the diversity in our world is beautiful and the people in it have unique individual stories to tell. Cultural differences may also require a bolder brighter touch.

Somewhere I heard the expression: “Let it happen.” If that’s a bit too unstructured for you, then have at least a concept or a story that must be told. Sometimes simple is enough.


Lynne Pittard's "sea grass" tutorial: