Plein Air Oil Painting-How To Oil Paint More “Painterly”

terry ouimet plein air painting telluride co

Written ByTerry Ouimet

Plein Air Oil Painter, specializing in mountain landscapes

Blog | Uncategorized

September 9, 2021


Hey there PAINTERS!

If somebody asked you what your painting style was what would you say?

If you have ever wanted to paint more “Painterly” this quick read is for you.

I have 3 power packed tips on how to oil paint more painterly. I am a plein air landscape oil painter but this advice applies to any kind of painter.

First off, what does “Painterly” mean besides being so much fun to say?

Paul Cezanne painting

courtesy Paul


My definition is to paint with thick, bold, loose but confident brush strokes. The painting looks like a painter painted it rahter than a photograph or skillful drawing of a scene. Think of artists like Monet, Richard Schmidt, Cezanne, and Sargent.

Tip #1  Economy Of Brush Strokes

One of the best ways to paint more painterly is to paint less. To put less brush strokes down on canvas. Us painters have a tendency to want to knick knack our paintings to death. Over-model. Dump on the details.

Try to paint a painting with as few brush strokes as you can. One way to help with that is to use a huge brush. Or at least one larger than you are used to. This forces you to think in terms of large shapes instead of getting lost in the details sauce.

Another way to accomplish this is to put a time limit on your painting session. See what you can do in 20-30 min. Challenge yourself to get as far along in the painting as possible, but in less time. Again this forces you out of the details and into the big picture.

terry ouimet plein air painting telluride co

Terry Ouimet

It’s not that painterly paintings have less detail, they may or may not. It’s that they say more with less. They let the brush strokes do the talking and they talk thickly, boldly and proudly.

Tip#2  Paint Outside The Lines

Painterly painters strategically use brush stroke techniques to achieve a loose but confident appearance. One such technique is blending. Blending one “piece” or object in the scene into another. Blending cools into warms and lights into darks. As opposed to carefully drawing out everything in your painting and “staying within the lines”.

At the risk of mentioning Bob Ross and Paul Cezanne in the same sentence, Ross made the term “Happy accidents” very popular with his fans. Painterly painters are not afraid to get strategically messy with their brush strokes. In fact, they count on it to make an impression on their viewers and express emotion.

terry ouimet plein air painting telluride co

Terry Ouimet

Also, you can see where the artist made their brush stroke or mark on the canvas. The paint is thick and the strokes are deliberately loose. The lines of the brush stroke are visible to the viewer, on purpose.

Tip#3  Brushwork

For painterly painters, the object that they are painting does not determine the kind of brush stroke they will use. Said another way, they don’t paint grass with 236 up and down strokes until every blade has been acounted for. Trees and leaves are not painted by making a “dabbing” motion with the brush. Water is not painted by trying to paint the direction that the water is running and smoothed over until it looks like water.

They don’t paint objects by name, they paint the light and shadow on the objects.

Here is a link to a great video explaining more about how to see and paint en plein air:

This Painting Mistake Keeps You From Improving| BEGINNER PLEIN AIR

terry ouimet plein air painting telluride co


As mentioned, painterly painters say more with less brush strokes. But those brush strokes are loud and proud. They are thick, bold  and go in any and every direction necesary to convey the emotion and feeling of the scene. Painterly painters are not afraid to load up some paint on the brush and have some fun.

I hope these tips will help you create more beautiful landscape oil paintings.

If you would like to watch my YouTube videos plein air painting in the gorgeous mountains of Colorado, click here below.

Learning Plein Air YouTube channel

Learning Plein air YouTube Channel

Consider subscribing to the channel if you want to join our rapidly growing community of beginner plein air oil painters, we would love to have you!


I’ll see you up in the mountains.

Terry Ouimet


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