Going from Realism to Expressionistic. How?

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on 9 Oct 2013 12:47 PM

I've always been so controlled with my painting, doing mostly portraits.  I've strained at getting the details right.  But sometimes I'd like to just paint for a release.  I'd like to let the control go and just explore.  Any suggestions on how to get started being more fluid and expressionistic when one has been so focused on realism before?  How does one move from painting by SEEING to painting by FEELING? And feel accomplished with it?

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R.Mckay wrote
on 24 Oct 2013 4:24 PM

Hi Kitty,

One approach would be to use a painting impliment that won't let you get too detailed.  The little exercise I use is to grab my pallet knife and only paint with it!  Use a good sized one and there is no way you can get detailed.  I just slap the paint on and try to achieve something that resembles my subject matter.  Have fun with it and don't be too critical of yourself...like finger painting as a child, just let yourself go and enjoy the process.  Good Luck!  ~Robin

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on 24 Oct 2013 4:30 PM

That's fantastic advice!  Or maybe a big paintbrush?  Thank you so much!  I'm going to try it!

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Eldridge2012 wrote
on 7 Dec 2013 11:24 AM

great question.

I sort of feel the same way. I am VERY new at painting but found my self SUPER CRITICAL and obsessing over details. Recently I started buying small cheep canvas just to mess around with and create thing just for the sake of painting. I found this very helpful and relaxing which translates in to the piece I paint for sale.I read the other comments and agree.

best of luck to you

"The Earth with our Art - is just EH"

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jayarkay wrote
on 17 Dec 2013 12:22 PM

Good advice so far, you are probably using brushes that are on the small side. If you have come from watercolour to acrylic you are probably working too close to the support. Sitting down maybe? Try to stand while you paint, that allows you to use your wrist and elbow more freely.




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Katsnature wrote
on 3 Jan 2014 4:45 PM

I always try to not think in too much detail to start off. I like to paint the canvas or board all black  first and then with white chalk (that can be removed after) I draw on the basic idea, such as a group of fruit in a bowl or a group of wildflowers. and I paint in loosely using the chalk drawing to guide me and let me be quick. when the first layer is dry I wash off the white chalk and now I have a great start . using a palette knife is wonderfully freeing too. you can use it to add lots of paint and also to scrape off paint quickly.

Kat Griffin

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on 8 Apr 2014 2:14 AM

All these are great ideas. I went through EXACTLY what you are talking about, from tight detailed figure work to a world of loose abstract shapes and full of color now. Finally deciding to not limit oneself to a certain style helps. They say you need to find a style to get known by collectors, but who says you can't just do something for yourself that's different, quicker, and actually fun?

This piece here was what did it for me. The game to play was to make a monochrome of one color to see what all different shades and tints I could come up with... and to do it with the palette knife, as mentioned. BF came home and was amazed and talked and talked about it. Ok, for only a few minutes! But that's a lot for him. It has now changed my whole style of liking the textures, and also life I enjoyed.

Buttery Sunshine


You could also try peels that give texture, or try poured paintings with fluid paint. Yupo paper also makes watery color float around on the surface. Choosing fun bright colors you want to see together can be very relaxing and escaping/therapeutic. Yes, probably try different tools, materials, or techniques that prevent you using it in a detailed manner.

Going bigger could also help too. Once you try, it's like there's a whole world out there. Allowing yourself fun, to let yourself go and not care if you make mistakes, or just experimenting with seeing what a medium can do.

You can switch up mediums. Oil bars are fat and only allow big use of oil paint to surface but in a crayon stick form. Also, not sketching something out first could help. Some people come to the canvas with no pre-conceived ideas. That does not work as well for me, but I did try it once and this pastel appeared:

Colors of the Subconscious

That was probably the only one I could do like that!

It's been a few months since you posted... have you found anything to work for you?

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CaptainRick wrote
on 17 Apr 2014 11:51 PM

I've tried this "larger brush" or "use a knife" technique too, but I end up with a painting that just looks like a third-grader did it.  My subject might be a racing motorcycle coming around a curve . . . I usually paint "photo realism" with the motorcycle 'technically correct" and perhaps painted a bit "outside the lines" with a blurred background for speed.  Looks good, I'm told, but I want a WILD & SPLASHY painting . . . something with a lot of HEART & SOUL . . . something with FEELING & EMOTION . . . something using unexpected colors that work together.  But using a bigger implement or speeding up the process or using unexpected colors, or even "priming the brain with a little alcohol"   :-)   doesn't result in "impressionistic ART" . . . rather, I get a messy, lousy, immature or "inexperienced painter" look.  I think it comes down to, "What exactly is the difference between a messy, disordered painting, . . . & some of the great impressionistic street scenes that I see from good impressionistic artists?"  Part of the answer seems to be the painting of LIGHT & SHADOWS, (as well as the "paint outside the lines with less detail" suggested in the "use a larger brush" technique), ....but that's not the full answer.  What key distinction am I missing?  Anyone??  

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on 18 Apr 2014 4:36 AM

CaptainRick, perhaps you are wanting a painting of more detail that a brush would give then. Or maybe you could do  both techniques. You can add palette knife strokes to larger less detailed areas, or in certain places you see fit?

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