Paint like Mary Heilmann – A lazy painter joyful painting modern geometric art

Paint like Mary Heilmann – A lazy painter joyful painting modern geometric art


Luckily for me there are exceptions on the idea that real art is a serious business. In this Paint like Mary Heilmann I will show you her way of joyful painting. She considers herself a lazy painter and plays mainly with shapes and colors … … making modern geometric art. Just after this. Hi there, my name is Albert van der Zwart, welcome to Imperfect Paintings … … where it is all about improving your painting skills by looking at art, yourself and the world around you. Recently I saw some Mary Heilmann art and I loved it instantly. Let’s take this checkerboard image of a kitchen floor as our starting point. Depending on how you would walk through this kitchen you cross it like this, this or this. Little kids playing on the floor would see it from yet another angle, a lower one. From every angle you could turn it into a painting like I painted this checkerboard motif from above. How can this sterile looking pattern be changed in an interesting way? With a painters eye you can start exploring possibilities. For instance like this with a 10 mm brush. What you see is that the paint isn’t opaque enough to cover it completely … … but the result, grey planes around the black are a nice bonus or discovery. With a 40 mm brush, an older one with hears spreading out, it looks like this: a bit sloppy. With an old membership card or squeegee it looks more neat. Mary Heilmann is an American artist, born in 1940. Over to some Mary Heilmann artwork. The checkerboard pattern is made in multiple colors and every other row of blocks has disappeared. This is another way to go. Look at details like this, they make it way more interesting. This one is just a variation you can think of when thinking along the line of blocks on a light background. Next step: circles on a less subtle colored background. Here you see a number of stages while painting my checkerboard pattern. I find these way more interesting than the final painting. You can also try to find your right number of blocks to get to an interesting composition. When seeing images like this, people will probably see a checkerboard pattern on its way to completion … … although none of them are finished. Mary Heilmann also painted with her fingers. In this one it is interesting to follow the lines and where and how they meet. Finger-painting can be a wonderful thing. For instance when you have some leftover paint on your palette. Just keep a bunch of 10×15 cm pieces of paper at hand to quickly create some doodles like this. But in line with her paintings, it is also interesting to play like this. Just going round and round and you get this rose idea or tunnel effect. Even sloppy will do. The canvas was first painted Lemon yellow. After applying Prussian blue I started playing with my fingers. Do you see that almost every moment it is interesting to look at. I really love this color combination. The yellow shines a bit through. But my camera can’t handle it so I turned the lights off and this looks better. When dry it looks like this. The overlapping stripes look interesting and perhaps just enough Mary Heilmann style. From finger painting I come to these colored lines on a black background. Apart from each other or not. Neat lines or messy ones. And here the background is suddenly participating. These lines remind me of the art of Josef Albers … … who advised to use paper strips to check which colors work well or are interesting together. Mary Heilmann plays around on her computer to find interesting combinations. From the squares and lines you can step over to different shapes and patterns. It all looks so simple… … but when changing the colors you get a totally different experience. Maybe there is something more happening here, then just picking random colors. I still have this mosaic I played with as a kid. Different patterns can be made. Now I like to play with it in a different way. When you literally start thinking out of the box it can be fun also. Over to Mary Heilmann again. When she starts to combine two ways of painting you get interesting images like this one. Suddenly there is this unexpected highway scene. The blue at the top of the upper painting becomes the sky and the other layers of it turn into a landscape. The black with yellow one at the bottom turns into a road with markings. When she starts combining the different patterns you really enter a private Mary Heilmann art world. The dots on the wall are ceramic objects she also made. The geometric shapes, patterns, lines, and also the messy stains like these … … all merge into her personal painting style. She describes herself as a lazy painter. Personally I love her for painting like this, as if she gives permission to stop painting perfect … … and just play with paint and create images you love. Have your own paint party and turn ‘just painting’ into ‘joyful painting’ and having fun. Find your personal balance between sloppy and precise … … bend the rules a little and start changing your belief or opinion about how art should look like. When you want to finish this painting Mary Heilmann style do it in a playful way. First I want a circle without the use of a compass and look for the perfect sized object. To be able to paint rough shaped color planes I painted the black squares partly white. When dry I added color. When looking around on the internet you can find many of her artworks. When looking longer you can discover more relations between them or repeated techniques. But you can also learn how to vary on a subject. Just have fun painting and explore options. I learned that no matter what I will do next … … I can only get to my next idea when I keep moving forward. Painting lighter colors or darker colors, every next brush stroke … … can trigger a new image or idea in my head. So keep painting! Besides just having fun painting you can also paint to portray your ideas or beliefs. How would you for instance paint a longing for world peace? Or aspects of your personal spiritual ideas? Click on the link and I will see you over there in the next video.

1 Comment

  • Konstantinos Papaioannou says:

    I found the piece you created much more interesting and more visually arresting than her work. Let's admit it: fine art MUST have a specific degree of sophistication and ALWAYS some kind of vision. Otherwise, it is just playing around with paints.

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