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Basic Information: Just Getting Started?

June 16, 2011

Learning how to paint artistically is a slow process; it has a long learning curve over the course of years to gain skills.  You should learn from your earliest paintings but not judge them too harshly.  Don’t shut yourself down with discouragement when you are new to working with paint.  Adults tend to drive themselves crazy because their fledgling paintings looks like a child made them.  That is going to be the case if you have no prior painting experience.  Being an adult doesn’t translate into inherent paint handling ability.  Sometimes an art-curious person will get some paints and think their superior adult intellect will produce a superior adult-looking painting, then get angry they do not get the results they wanted and feel it is because they lack talent.  Just because you are an adult does not mean you know how to build a jet engine, either. 

Painting is not some magical or innate talent; although some people pick up skills faster than others, painting is ultimately a learned skill.  If you make a painting you like or have an “Oh, wow!” experience when you are starting out, use this as a happy instance of encouragement to continue painting and do better!  Paint is hard to handle because it is liquid.  In rare instances, a person will pull off a painting they are very excited about when they start out.  My friend Holly Perkins had this happen and is very happy with her tree shown above.  This was her first time painting, so I am very excited she did so well and enjoyed the process and the results a great deal!

There were a few things that made this tree painting come out well.  The size seemed just right.  I recommended a small square canvas [10” x 10”].  Working smaller is hard.  If you are learning, you may want to avoid 8” x 10” and smaller surfaces.  It is hard to move paint around a tiny surface.  Often I will try to push people toward 12” x 16”, 14” x 18”, 16” x 20” or any of the larger standard sizes.  Holly liked the square shape and felt okay with the size.   She also liked using small brushes for the high degree of control over the paint.

Secondly, Holly went in for a painterly Impressionistic style.  Doing a very realistic style is very demanding; it is easy to see any flaws in the realism.  Working loosely is fun and less pressure.  The dots of color and variations in shades give the painting instant visual appeal.   

Lastly, the work was done in layers.  Holly drew the tree roots, trunk and branches with a liner brush and pale gray acrylic paint on the canvas, then let it dry.  I recommend people paint the background first and move to the foreground later, placing the foreground over the background [working “back to front”.]  Holly did a layer in acrylics, which are helpful because they dry fast and are water soluble.  She went to town with the acrylics and covered the whole surface of the canvas with lively colors before she left for the day. 

Returning on another day, I suggested she over-paint the tree and sky she already had with water soluble oil paints.  [Oils go over acrylics very well.]  These particular paints do not require solvents, can be mixed and cleaned with water, but have the smoother consistency of traditional oil paints and a much slower drying time.  The oils have translucence, so the underpainting layer shows to a degree.  Holly revamped the first layer and made the oil painting layer busier and with stronger contrast from the sunlit to shadowed areas.  Overall, she is thrilled with the results and looks forward to picking up some paints at the art supply store in the near future!         

Categories: Painting, Uncategorized
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