Painting by Learning the Basics

Are all artists born with this talent? The answer is no, some people can pick it up. I’ve seen wonderful artwork created by people who claimed that”they couldn’t draw a straight line”. This is interesting because unless you want to become an architect, you’ll hardly draw a straight line in a normal artwork. I’ve also seen terrible art, created by people who have all sorts of qualifications from art-schools! If you’ve never held a paintbrush in your life, you will probably better at painting than people “in the know”, so keep on reading.
All you need at this stage is a willingness and some determination.

First of all: if you are starting out, your choice should be acrylic paint. Buy the best quality you can afford, but not too many colors at this stage.(red, blue, green, black, white, yellow). Buy a couple of brushes from a large department-store, from the art-section. These can be really cheap because perhaps you forget to clean them, and then you can throw them away. Depending on what you want to paint, a couple of flat ones, but nice round ones is a must. I usually use 1 very large one for the backgrounds, 1 medium one for the main job and 1 smaller one for the finish. Acrylic paint can be applied on many surfaces: paper, cardboard and canvas, even stone. But for now, we stick to canvas. You don’t want to stretch your own canvas, it is time-consuming and I could write a long boring chapter on that alone. Ready-made is usually of a reasonable quality and cheap. Now I’m going to tell you another thing we’re not going to do: endless sketching. It’s a complete waste of time.

Now you have all the materials ready, but first, you need subjects to paint. So you put all the materials away and you lean back in your chair. Don’t doze off now, because The Work begins! Start looking around you: there are round, square, oblong objects around you. They all have shadows facing away from the light source. On earth, there is only one natural light source: the sun. Only in TV studio’s, they have more lights and it looks unnatural. So even if you want to paint indoors, without the sun, make sure it always comes from one direction, like a desk light! This is something you must understand above all because the quality of your painting will depend on it. So take an object, or several and try this out. The more realistic you want the painting to look, the sharper the shadow should be.

Most people, when they start painting, buy the smallest canvas they can find, and seem to go smaller as they go along… I would advise you to go big, 1 meter by 1 meter or so. Don’t worry, we’ll get rid of all that glaring white in no time, But it is a fear with most artists to start big. So now you have a notion of shadows, we move on to shape. Everything has a shape. In a painting, the main shape is important but not something to make an issue about. If you don’t like the shape on your canvas, you can change it later on. Colors are the least important in my book. You have the freedom to with colors whatever you like. A white vase can show up in orange on your painting, only because it matches your curtains, and the tulips in it blue, whether they actually exist or not. (they do by the way) The canvas is yours, you can do with it whatever you want.
Even if the vase looks a bit lopsided, it doesn’t matter.

I feel that I have not discussed the most important issue, for all budding artists: the “Critics”. This breed of well-meaning people usually discourages us from whatever we attempt in life. They also usually live in our own house. “You never painted anything, why start now?” and when we have barely started ” Shouldn’t you put a thin-gee here and change the color to that”. The best thing is to hide your artwork or cover it up until you have finished. Then these same critics will be standing next to you, admiring your art on the wall and telling everybody “I always knew he/she had it in him/her!” You’ll understand that you don’t need criticism now, well-meant or not.

So far you haven’t painted a thing, and perhaps you’re keen to go. First, you need to choose your object. Now, don’t offer to paint your grand-mother just yet please. Portraits are very popular, but only attempt this when you are very experienced and have all the basics firmly under your belt. Start with choosing a simple object, like a round ceramic vase. Choose a second simple object, smaller than the first one, like a round soup bowl. Put them on a table. Spend time to organize them, make them look attractive and don’t position them exactly next to each other. The bigger object a bit behind the smaller one. Take note of the shadows, how one object reacts to the other, shadow-wise. Take time to do this, and you’ll find the painting a lot easier, and quicker. Also, it is better to make a wonderful painting with easy objects in it, than try and attempt a Victorian vase with a difficult shape which will turn into a disaster! Also: it must stay enjoyable for you to do, and the last thing you need is that you get angry, frustrated and throw the whole thing away.

Now, get out the canvas and paint, we get to work.

Acrylic dries fast, so don’t mix too much. If you do, put the whole plate in plastic wrapping and it will stay workable for a couple of hours. But make it a habit to put brushes straight back in the water and when you’re finished clean them under the tap. Look carefully at your arrangement. Is this the way you want to paint it? Some people cut out a “viewfinder” from cardboard. This is square with a square cut out the middle. When you look through it you can see the position of the arrangement, and make changes. When you have one object, it can look somewhat “staged” and not natural. When there are two objects, they should be in the center, but the smaller one in front of the other, a bit off-center. Not too much to the bottom of your canvas, it shouldn’t “roll off”. But you should have a bit more space on the top of the canvas than the bottom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *