When I started and decided to make art my life, I did not know where to start. I literally started watching hours of videos on YouTube, reading articles, downloading every possible free or low cost course and trying to attend as many local art classes that became available that wouldn’t break my bank.
So I decided to list a couple of things to help new artists who are starting their own art journey.
Keep these as steps in mind to start your process:
- CHOOSING YOUR PAINTING SUBJECT
I would recommend, especially if you are wanting to build some confidence before venturing outside for plein air painting or choosing more difficult subjects, to start painting from photos and this is a neat tip:
LAMINATE YOUR PHOTO
This has two benefits:
Place your mixed colors next to the area you are wanting to paint until your color blends into the color on your photo. Then simply wipe it off with a wet cloth until you reach your desired color – squint your eyes to notice how they blend together. This eliminates the need for a color checker.
Laminating your photo also makes it possible to draw a pencil grid on the laminated photo for easier transfer or sketching onto your substrate/surface.
This way you can have your original photo undamaged as a reference and referral.
See the bottom of article for more info on creating your own view finder and color checker
- CHOOSING YOUR PAINTING MEDIUM (that is your paints)
To make it as simple as possible without too much confusing detail:
Easier to blend and easier to return to if you have to leave your palette for a couple of days.
Can be smelly and harmful in an enclosed or confined area.
Uses specific mediums and methods (such as fat over lean) especially when painting in layers
Use odorless solvent for cleanup and thinning of paint
Can be much harder to blend than with oils.
Uses water for cleanup as well as thinning of paint
Uses various painting mediums for different effects
Not as harmful as oils however can still be smelly in a confined space.
- SURFACES / SUBSTRATES AND THEIR PREPARATION
I recommend two things:
- When starting painting, buy canvas panels as they are less expensive and you can buy two or more in a packet saving you some money
- Another tip: Don’t throw your panels away if you decide it was not too your liking – just gesso over it or sand lightly and then gesso for re-use again (I use old canvas panels to try new techniques on before I paint it on my painting)
- Always gesso your canvas surfaces with two or three layers of gesso even if they are triple primed.
COMMENT ME FOR MORE INFO ON HOW I GESSO AND PREPARE MY CANVAS
- MEDIUMS (NOT THE SAME AS THE ACTUAL OIL OR ACRYLIC PAINTS)
Mediums are used to add to paints to create specific textures or techniques
Depending on the paint medium you choose (oil or acrylic paint), you will need to purchase some painting mediums. These are used to thin your paints, make it flow more, make it more impasto, etc.
The basic mediums I recommend you will need:
For oils – any odorless solvent used to thin your oil paint as a first layer and for cleaning up your brushes (There are expensive brands, but buy a cheaper brand if you are starting with oil paints, but make sure to buy an odorless brand to avoid harmful fumes), also wax medium OR linseed oil to add a tip to oil paints to make it more smooth and manageable.
For acrylics – flow mediums such as retarder OR matte medium (add a few drops of retarder into the water spray bottle to extend the drying time or mix your acrylic paint with some matte medium). If unsure start off with water sprayed onto your paint (very lightly).
COMMENT ME FOR MORE INFO ON MEDIUMS AND THEIR USES and SOME EXTRA TIPS ON THE RE-USE OF SOLVENT
Instead of buying a palette that you have to clean up afterwards:
Use a paper plate for both oil or acrylic painting:
TIP for oils – use aluminum foil instead of a paper plate. If the oil palette is placed in a SEALED container it can be stored for days in the fridge and remain workable. If only stored for a day or two, place a piece of cling film over the palette and it will remain workable.
TIP for acrylics – place a piece of cling film over the paints to avoid drying out too quickly OR use a square of baking paper over a wet kitchen towel instead of a paper plate and place it in a square container. The wet towel will keep the paints moist and workable for a little longer.
It is best practice to keep in mind that a painting should be created using at least three values to create depth and a three-dimensional appearance (of course for more layers you can use more values):
1st value – darker shade
2nd value – mid tone
3rd value – light value
Make a value scale before you start your painting by using the colors from your subject. For example if you are planning on painting a red rose, make a value scale similar to this one:
1st value – mix red with its complimentary color on the color wheel (or start with a tint of black mixed with your red)
2nd value – mix less of the complimentary color with red to make a lighter value than the dark
3rd value – mix red with some white to make the light value or a touch of yellow to make a warm orange (this can be used as highlights)
This is a basic method of creating values so you will learn how to blend your paints for necessary application as well as prepare how much paint you might need for specific areas of your painting.
COMMENT ME IF YOU NEED MORE INFO ON CREATING A VALUE SCALE
You may use both hog bristle and sable for oils and acrylics.
- There are four basic shapes to be aware of:
ROUNDS, FLATS, BRIGHTS and FILBERTS
Brights are the same as flats but have shorter hairs that leave more brush marks.
Script liners are also known as riggers and are used for finer detail.
I spent hours on reading to find out which brush should be used for which technique and wasted unnecessary time instead of plunging in and start painting. Don’t look at the numbers on brushes and think you need those specific brushes, but look at their head size for now to know if it is suitable for what you want to paint. Common sense prevails sometimes as you wouldn’t use a small round to paint a large background.
When starting out on your painting journey, buy a set of brushes that might have one of each of the shapes instead of investing in more expensive brushes and purchasing them individually. There is one brush that I love to use and that is especially so if you prefer like I do, not seeing harsh brush marks on your painting and need a blended look specifically for a smooth background. That is a mop brush. They can be expensive so my tip would be to use a make-up brush. They have soft hair and can blend beautifully. I even have a set of make-up brushes I use sometimes instead of my expensive mops.
- COLORS ON A COLOR WHEEL
I spent many hours searching for answers as to which colors in tube paints would make up the colors on the color wheel. There are numerous downloadable pictures of the color wheel and most artists would recommend that you get used to blending your own colors and I agree, but it can be a daunting task to most of us who do not yet know anything about colors. The basic colors to have is obviously your three primary colors – red, blue and yellow from which any color can be mixed. Then a white, a black and a brown.
However my tip is to get used to using a color wheel and below is a list of paint tube colors that I put together and give to students that would “make up” the colors on the color wheel:
YELLOW – CADMIUM YELLOW PALE (LIGHT)
YELLOW ORANGE – CADMIUM YELLOW (MEDIUM)
ORANGE – CADMIUM ORANGE
RED ORANGE – CADMIUM SCARLET
RED – CADMIUM RED (LIGHT)
RED VIOLET – QUINACRADONE VIOLET
VIOLET – DIOXAZINE PURPLE
BLUE-VIOLET – THALO BLUE
BLUE – FRENCH ULTRAMARINE BLUE
BLUE GREEN – THALO GREEN
GREEN – CADMIUM GREEN
YELLOW GREEN – CADMIUM GREEN PALE
WHITE – TITANIUM WHITE
GREY – MIX OF WHITE AND BLACK
BLACK – MARS BLACK OR IVORY BLACK
COMMENT ME IF YOU WOULD LIKE A DOWNLOADABLE FILE ON THE COLOR WHEEL PAINTS AND THEIR TRANSPARENCY and/or OPACITY
- FAT OVER LEAN PRINCIPLE
Keep in mind that the rule of fat over lean applies to painting in layers, and especially to oil paints. If this is not adhered to you run the risk of cracking.
I recommend when starting, use the basics of how to paint fat over lean if you want to paint in layers:
Step 1 – begin your painting with a wash (that is your paint is mixed with your solvent/turps to create a thin layer)
Step 2 – paint only with your paint (no thinned paint or medium added)
Step 3 – mix your paint with some linseed oil (this makes the paint as the thickest of the layers as it will have the most fat content). Think of linseed oil as fat/oil you use to cook or boil food in. This will make your paint fat and should be used as your last layer if doing 3 steps.
If you need to add more layers than step 3 then you need to add more linseed oil to the paint than what you did in step 3.
Remember acrylics should also be painted in layers by using thin over thick rule. Start with a watery base, add a layer of your shaded areas and then build your thicker paint as a final layer.
- COLOR CHECKER AND VIEW FINDER
Making a color checker: use a small square piece of cardboard (5cm square) and punch a small hole in one corner. Place the hole over the area you want to create the color from and place a dash of color on the white square next to the opening. Squint your eyes to see if the color matches. Continue to mix your color until it matches.
Making a view finder: use a piece of cardboard the size you want your view finder to be (e.g. 30cm x 20cm) and leave a 5 cm margin. Cut the inside of the square carefully out. This will be used as your view finder. You can place it in a plastic sleeve, cut the sleeve to the size and glue it onto the cardboard. Then draw a grid on the plastic if you need a grid for easier transfer/drawing of your image.
I HOPE THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN USEFUL TO SOME OF YOU ASPIRING ARTISTS!
REMEMBER TO COMMENT ME IF MORE INFO IS REQUIRED ON SOME OF THE SPECIFIC AREAS AS MENTIONED
CHECK OUT MY WEBSITE www.Minniekeart.com