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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,


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