Drawing: Loose vs. Tight; Both Can Work

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Drawing: Loose vs. Tight; Both Can Work

From Kirk Richards

Published before 2005

[ Having raised the question of whether tightly-rendered drawings lend themselves more easily to photographic comparisons, Miles Mathis goes on to explain his reasons for believing the "loose" or painterly artist has the best of both worlds ... ]

But, from a technical standpoint, I stand by my assertion that it much easier for a "loose" or painterly artist to tighten up, either in drawing or painting, than it is for a tight artist to successfully go loose. I say this from my own experience, having done both. Painterly artists have generally gone through a tight stage, somewhere in their formative years.


While there is logic to your assertion, let me quote a passage from the Introductory notes of Gammell's Boston Painters.

Sargent delighted in the transient aspects...the passing expression of a face, the revealing gesture which signalizes a personality ... matters which have baffled the most dextrous painters often elicited miracles from that nimble brush. But ... on his visits to Joseph DeCamp's studio he used to linger over the Bostonian's most highly finished heads, muttering, "I don't see how you carry them so far without losing them. When I try to push them I always lose them" (meaning "lose the overall effect").

Sargent was definitely able to render amazing effects in the form of a sketch or "loosely" painted images, in fact he might be said to be one of the standard bearers of the loosenes you are extolling. But apparently he was unable to push them to the finish he saw in a DeCamp. For some artists looseness might be a sign of maturity and experience. For many, it is a means to cover a mulitude of drawing problems. These artists could no more "push them" to a successful conclusion than could Sargent.

[ Miles also wrote ... ]
Whereas many tight artists have never loosened up and never will.

That is not a bad thing. Some of the greatest artists held visual unity and finish as a high goal to be accomplished and never relinquished that as a standard. Ingres, Leighton, and a multitude of others always held to this standard. I, for one, am glad to have both Sargent and DeCamp, Ingres and Delacroix.

-- Kirk