How to Loosen up your Acrylic Paintings – Impressionistic Apples Tutorial

Morning class, this week we’re going to look at how to paint fast and loose with your acrylics in this two-part apple study.

I get lots of emails from students who want to develop a more painterly impressionistic style but find when using a photo reference, they get too obsessed with the details, and the whole piece gets a bit overworked.

So in the first lesson of this two-part still life, I approach the drawing out of our apples in a bit more detail. The method I demonstrate is sometimes called ‘Envelope Drawing’ and is an approach that helps you to draw something more accurately.

In the second lesson, we approach the painting without pre-mixing the colours using our intuition and being a bit looser with our brush marks I’ve used a limited palette and simple painterly techniques with just two brushes and four colours.

Why are we drawing more accurately when we want to paint looser?

Well, it depends.

It depends on your skill level of drawing.

If you’re pretty good at drawing, then ideally you’d go straight in with your paintbrush and draw and paint at the same time, so you’re essentially drawing with your brush. That’s how you get the loosest, freshest paintings.

But if you’re a complete beginner, then spending the time getting the drawing accurate is a more failsafe way of creating a painting that looks loose but captures the subject. It gives you the confidence to paint more loosely knowing you’ve got a good structure underneath.

I paint this study with acrylics, but you could also use water-mixable oils.

So grab a brew, a couple of biscuits, and you can download a reference image below to follow along with the video.

How to paint loose with Acrylics – Part 1 – Drawing

How to paint loose with Acrylics – Part 2 – Painting

Downloading the reference photograph

The photo below can be downloaded, so you can use it as a reference image, print it out and follow along with the steps below.

You can download a larger 30 x 30 cm version of the image here.

Materials you will need:

  • 30 x 30cm canvas or board or you could work on a smaller square


I use Artist Quality acrylics but you follow along with any brand.

For the coloured ground:

  • Raw Umber (Golden Paints)
  • Ultramarine Blue (Golden Paints)
  • Titanium White (Golden Paints)

For the painting:

  • Titanium White (Golden Paints)
  • Cadmium Yellow Light (Golden Paints)
  • Ultramarine Blue (Golden Paints)
  • Burnt Umber (Winsor & Newton)


  • Isacryl Filbert, 6572, Size 6 (Isabey)
  • Small round synthetic (any brand is fine)
  • 1 1/2 inch XL Elite Monarch decorators brush (Purdy)

Extra tools

  • An HB Pencil – (I use a Kuru Toga Roulette Mechanical Pencil 0.5mm Uniball)
  • An Eraser – (I use a Putty Eraser by Faber Castell)
  • Burnt Umber chisel nib acrylic marker (Liquitex)
  • Delacroix Charcoal & Pencil fixative (Sennelier)
  • Acrylic Glazing Liquid Gloss (Golden Paints)
  • Palette Knife (I use a diamond shape size 45 by RGM)
  • Metal dipper or small pot for mediums
  • Jam Jar for water

I’m using a 30 x 30 cm cotton canvas and I toned my canvas by applying a diluted grey mix that matched the colour of the linen in the reference image.

A coloured ground helps to take away the glare of the white canvas and gives me a head start – if you want to learn more about the benefits of painting on a coloured ground see: How a prepared canvas can drastically improve your paintings

Line drawing

Here is the line reference image from the end of Part 1.

 You can download a larger 20 x 20cm image of the line drawing here:

Finished Painting

I really hope you enjoy the lesson, have a great festive week!




This Post Has 76 Comments

  1. Mary Christine Holt

    Dear Will and family,
    I wish you every Blessing and gratitude over this Christmas period for your unfailing enthusiasm in helping us to achieve or try to achieve success over the last year.!
    Hopefully, I will be able to complete the only purchase I’ve made and enjoy the process. My reason for procrastinating is a lack of confidence since the death of my husband.
    Please keep safe and well during this dreadful pandemic.
    Best wishes, Chrisxx

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks for your kind wishes Chris, very much appreciated. Keep well and sending you confidence for the course!

  2. Michelle Elliott

    Dear Will,
    Thank you, this is an awesome gift! Happy Christmss to you.
    All the best for the New Year too.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks so much Michelle, and to you.

  3. Catherine Genereux

    Dear Will,
    I wish you and yours holiday happiness. I searched the net for some painting tutorials and of all the videos I watched, yours were the clearest, most informative and professionally produced. They have a feeling of being ‘honest’, if that makes sense. 2021 is the year of my retirement so look forward to many happy hours of painting (along with your signature “morning class”).
    Catherine from Canada

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks so much for your kind comments Catherine, glad you’ve been enjoying them. Have a wonderful Christmas and here’s to a creative retirement!

  4. Karen

    Dear Will – What a lovely Christmas surprise – the painterly instruction is just what I need! As a beginning artist I have really enjoyed your lessons and have learned so much from your clear instructions. While 2020 has been such a difficult year, a silver lining has been discovering you! Many thanks and wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year. Best, Karen

    1. Will Kemp

      So pleased you’ve found the lessons helpful Karen, so kind of you. Have a lovely Christmas.

  5. Mary K

    Many thanks for your lessons and Christmas blessings to you and Vanessa from Texas!
    Looking forward to better times in 2021!
    Mary K

    1. Will Kemp

      And to you Mary, have a great Christmas in Texas.

  6. Teodora

    Thank you very, very much!!!!!
    Marry Christmas!!!!

  7. Helene Adamson

    Thank you Will — for this little tutorial, and all the inspiration you provide all year. I’ve enjoyed some of your courses, and am so pleased whenever your newsletter pops up in my inbox. Please have a Happy Christmas and stay safe as we all look forward to a more hopeful new year. Cheers!

    1. Will Kemp

      Glad you’ve been finding the courses helpful Helene, have a a fab time over Christmas.

  8. Ken Owen

    Hello Will,
    Thank you very much for this latest video, a much appreciated early Christmas present for us all. I really enjoy how you take us through your processes and your easy style of sharing and coaching. Your efforts to share and help us learn and grow have been especially good for us in this crazy year. You really help us stay grounded with good moments of peace and appreciation. I also join with so many others to thank you, and to wish that you and your family have a wonderful and meaningful Holiday season, and a truly great New Year.
    Very sincerely, Ken.

    1. Will Kemp

      That’s very kind of you to write Ken, really pleased the lessons helped through the year and thanks so much for your kind wishes, keep well and have a great Christmas.

  9. Graham Rogers

    Hi Will – Thanks for this. I look forward to grabbing a brew and some christmas cake and having a go. You are a Master and a legend making artists out of all of us!
    Stay safe and enjoy the New Year. All the best Graham

    1. Will Kemp

      Cheers Graham, yes Christmas cake is dangerously addictive!

  10. jan

    Dear Will,
    During this sorry saga of a year, you’ve helped so much to will away the hours – a big thank you.
    Best Wishes for 2021

    1. Will Kemp

      My pleasure Jan, pleased you enjoyed the lessons.

  11. Vicky

    Thank you for this lovely gift during a crazy holiday season. It is a much needed isle of calm and a reminder with the creative spirit we just need to stay calm and carry on. Life is good and art makes it better! Happiness is here, now. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    1. Will Kemp

      Cheers Vicky, hope you have a fantastic Christmas.

  12. Judy

    Thank you for all the help and encouragement……i wish you a safe holiday and 2021

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Judy, and to you, have a lovely time.

  13. Eileen

    I wish you and yours a happy and safe Christmas and thank you for sharing.

    1. Will Kemp

      And to youu Eileen, have a great time.

  14. Nonnie Stretch

    Thank you Will Kemp so much for sharing your skills in art
    I really appreciate it. Will definitely put your info too work over
    the Christmas season. “Merry Christmas and all the best in
    the New Year.

    1. Will Kemp

      Really hope you enjoy the tutorial Nonnie, have a brilliant Christmas.

  15. Veronica Haits

    Hello Will, what a generous gift to share with everyone at Christmas time, especially this year when the whole world seems confined at home. You brighten this world with colour and light!
    Thank you so much,

    1. Will Kemp

      My pleasure Veronica, thanks for your kind words. Have a lovely Christmas.

  16. Kenneth Mays

    Thanks, Will, for this unexpected and wonderful Christmas present.
    Peace and Joy,

  17. Sinead

    Thank you so much Will for your generosity – it is a lovely surprise to find this post on your website on Xmas morning. Best wishes from Australia for a very happy and safe Festive season.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thats great to hear Sinead, really hope you enjoy it.

  18. Cindi Corbett

    My paintings with your tutorials end up being my best work and favorites. I also enjoy the way you teach and your persona. You are very much appreciated! Thank you!

    1. Will Kemp

      That’s great to hear Cindi, so pleased you’ve been enjoying the lessons.

  19. Nick mccarty

    Relaxing yet challenging. Sneaked an early Christmas look at my Christmas present. Thank you Will. Nick

    1. Will Kemp

      My pleasure Nick, hope the painting turns out well.

  20. Lisa Christensen

    Happy Holidays Will and Fam! I love your lessons so much I may have purchased one twice. in last night’s episode of “Paint or Sleep, Christmas Edition” I made apples. I’m quite happy with the results even though it’s not as loose as I would like. My problem is I’m just not willing to practice. Every picture has to ‘turn out.’ Now that I’ve said that out loud I’m a’ work on that mindset. Thanks again Will.

    1. Will Kemp

      Glad you’ve been enjoying the lessons Lisa! yes, having a challenge to create a purposely ‘unfinished’ work can help to get into the mindset of painting for process rather than a specific end result. You can try setting a time limit, or specific number of brushstrokes to force yourself to make ‘mistakes’.

  21. Louise Jessop

    Thank you Will for this extra tutorial. Your courses have helped me get through this very difficult year. The time I spend painting with you just seems to make my days so much brighter. I wish you and your family a very happy festive season and good health for 2021.

    1. Will Kemp

      So pleased to hear it Louise, really hope you enjoy the painting. Thanks for the kind wishes, have a fab new year.

  22. Lisa Christensen

    P.S. Paint or Sleep is just what I call my night when stay up too late painting.

  23. Martha

    Thank you so much, Will! May you and your family be richly blessed in the year to come, in every possible way.

    1. Will Kemp

      Well thanks so much Martha, so kind of you.

  24. Morana

    Dear Will, as always, your lessons are by far the best out there – so well thought out and presented. Thank you for the fun&colour you bring to still life. Happy holidays!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks so much Morana, really pleased you found it helpful, have a fab new year!

  25. Sherry Morrison

    Thank you, Will, for another wonderful tutorial. Wishing you and yours a very happy and prosperous new year to come!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks so much Sherry, so pleased you enjoyed it.

  26. Katerina

    Happy new year Will. Your lesson was exactly what I needed. Great teacher as always

    1. Will Kemp

      And to you Katerina, so pleased you enjoyed the lesson.

  27. Sue

    Thank you Will, You have given me enough confidence to try painting and I have learned so much from you.
    The colours printed from my printer never seem to look right so I am trying to paint using my laptop, however judging values correctly seems to be impossible because of the light emitting from the screen. Is there anything I can do to help the situation other than buying a new printer?
    Many thanks.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Sue, so pleased you enjoyed it.One thing you can try is using more expensive printer paper. I use Epson glossy photo, this can often give more accurate colours with the same printer.

  28. karen

    Hi Will! As an oil painter, you are practically the only teacher who has ever helped me achieve results with acrylic. I think I’m getting the hang of glazing, but my brush is leaving streaks in the glaze even though it is soft and my touch is light. Do you have any advice for smoothing things out? I’m using Atelier glazing liquid, not Golden, and it dries very quickly.

    1. Will Kemp

      That’s great to hear Karen, pleased the lessons have been helpful. The smoothness is usually down to the viscosity of the glazing liquid and the softness of the bristle. I haven’t tried the Atelier glazing liquid but its a low viscosity medium and increases the working time of the paint so it should behave similarly.

  29. Anne

    Enjoyed this painting! Thanks for the very helpful

    1. Will Kemp

      So pleased you enjoyed it Anne.

  30. Kate

    Thanks Will, I really enjoyed doing this, and learned a lot as well.

    1. Will Kemp

      That’s great to hear Kate,

  31. Paula Jones

    Really enjoyed this tutorial, Will. Thanks so much for sharing it. I learned so much and know that I’ve a bit to go in loosening up my style!! I think part of my problem is using canvases and boards that are bigger than the ones you suggest and not joining the dots that bigger canvases means bigger brushes, lol! I look forward to continuing to follow your brilliant courses this year. Take care!

    1. Will Kemp

      So pleased you enjoyed it Paula.

  32. khalid

    beautiful work will I really enjoy and learn more thanx

  33. Mary

    Dear Will, I have finally had the time to listen to your painting tutorial after signing up months ago. I now just need to pick up the paints and get painting in preparation for my retirement. Thank you for your time and expertise. Best wishes, Mary

    1. Will Kemp

      My pleasure Mary, so pleased you’ve been enjoying the lessons.

  34. Helen

    Just want to say thank you for your super tutorials , i love your style and have had some lovely results . I am keep to start portraits but trying to build my drawing skills a little more first :)

    1. Will Kemp

      Really pleased you’ve been finding them helpful Helen and so pleased you’ve been achieving good results with the lessons.

  35. Deborah Eagan

    I so enjoyed the “how to loosen up…” I’ve had little art drawing or painting training. I started painting after retiring. I was happy with my results. Thank you!

    1. Will Kemp

      Good one Deborah, so pleased it turned out well.

  36. Christabel

    Hi Will – I just wanted to say THANK YOU for these great videos and instructional lessons. I have been systematically working my way through your free videos the last 3 months and also purchased a course. My painting has gotten better and more importantly – I just LOVE my painting sessions accompanied by a “warm brew and some biscuits” :-) and a serving of classical music in the background. I tried many different online resources but found myself veering back to you eventually. I love your classical style and muted taste and overall approach to painting. So thanks again for your contribution. It has certainly helped to add some improvement and happiness to my days :-)

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks so much Christabel, so pleased you’ve been finding the lessons and courses helpful and have found the teaching style suits.

  37. Jennifer Butler

    How to loosen up and not overwork a painting. Seems like a life question. So interesting, because it’s obvious when you do it yet it’s so hard to break out of. The alternative isn’t instinctive and thanks for your videos and website to remind me. Now I just have to fix yesterday’s work…

  38. Mary Jamieson

    Thx so much Will!!! It took me a long time to get this but I loved it and appreciate your gifts beyond measure. Blessings to you!

    1. Will Kemp

      My pleasure Mary, really hope you find the lesson helpful.

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