Is “loose” Overrated?

Aerial Gyrations, 1953, Charles Sheeler

I was just at SFMOMA this weekend and saw this beautiful painting by Charles Sheeler. I was struck initially by the composition of shapes. Though it is representational, it is not realistic. There is no light source, or shadows. There is not a consistent perspective. It seems to be several silhouette photographs overlapping each other in a way that really makes no sense but is glorious. I love the combination of these large shapes with the thin linear elements of ropes and railings, cables.

Getting closer, I noticed the color. Muted, strange, colors that have such sophistication as they are combined here. And then the painting: tight and exact. As artists we are always told to work looser, it seems. But that is only one side of the spectrum. I don’t think I personally would ever have the patience to paint all these tight corners, but I sure appreciate that Charles Sheeler did!

And he was working before photoshop, so this composition was very involved to create, then to paint. I appreciate all this intentionality and the skilled eye it took to create it. So I am going to give that never-heard advice for this week: work tight and controlled!! ha ha. Or at least consider its merits.

TO a great week in the studio,


4 thoughts on “Is “loose” Overrated?

  1. Very nice commentary! Looking at this work, it is interesting to think about how Photoshop and digital art has changed our perception of his work. This piece does look like so many Photoshop layers and filters.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. He is one of my favorite artists. But before I knew he painted, I admired his photography of industrial scenes, factories, bridges, etc. Ironically, that is where one encounters the shadows you refer to. So interesting. I am always thrilled when I encounter his work.

    Liked by 1 person

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