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  • Writer's pictureJenny

Bathed in Light

Updated: Jun 26, 2022

16 X 20 X 1.5" OIL ON WOOD PANEL

Woman dressed in white laying back hand on forehead white background oil painting by artist Jenny Berry

I love working in thick, impasto paint. Focusing on the light hitting her white shirt and her brow and the way the edge of her thumb was completely lost in it. I love when edges are lost in light and shadow. Painters live for those moments. I do anyway. And we live for glowy moments like that thumb. You can build a painting around that thumb. This one was a lot of fun. Such good practice working in thick, juicy paint.

Sometimes people are under the impression that it's easier to paint loosely like this, that it's faster. Or that it's more difficult to make representational work that is more photographically accurate, or "tighter" as they say. For me, nothing could be further from the truth.

I can paint very fine, accurate representations of figures and portraits and generally find it very soothing, almost meditative work, I just work on them slowly, layer after layer. But when I am painting loosely like this I want a feeling of freshness to the work so I want to hit things right the first time with each brush stroke and that means... stress. There's not much blending allowed like when I'm working a slower paced piece. The less blending, the more stress I suppose. With these I'm usually covered in paint and everything seems more frantic. Lots can go wrong. One wrong move and it can get messed up pretty quickly and it may be hours wrestling the drawing back. But I guess that's why we practice.

John Singer Sargent plein air painting in the landscape

Artists read how John Singer Sargent would stand back from his easel studying his model for a long time before he'd take a few steps forward, make a single stroke, then take a few steps back. Over and over, carefully gauging every stroke until the painting was finished. And he was famous for his "loose" paintings. Loose may look easier but make no mistake, it is not. It is definitely a lot of fun once you start to get the hang of it though.

When I lived in Santa Fe I'd drive up to Taos as often as I could and spend hours in the Nicolai Fechin museum. Another master of loose painting. I've clocked countless hours in front of Sargent as well. It's really the light that I'm after. The light the light the light. We're really only ever trying to paint the light.

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