Some advanced thoughts on starting a painting. The examples are given using watercolor, but the principles apply to any medium.
Students often ask me, ďIs it alright to copy photographs?Ē By asking the question they are telling me that they feel some guilt about it. That guilt means that for them, at this time in their journey, itís not OK. They are ready to go on to genuine creativity. The problem is that they are not clear on how to begin.
My advice is not what they want to hear. They want to just paint. But now it gets challenging. Start with drawing. Put pencil to paper. Use an ordinary #2 pencil. Sometimes itís called an HB. Use any paper you like. I use a good copy paper. I draw a cross on the paper so as to divide into 4 equal parts. That way you have space for 4 drawings of about 1/4 page each.
Make the drawings much smaller than the space allowed. That will help if you need to extend one or more sides.
Draw anything you like. Here are a few suggestions
Make a doodle Ė a doodle can be enough.
Take the paper outside and sketch a landscape, or a corner of your porch.
Draw a still life
Sketch your hat, or your shoe.
Keep it very simple.
Sooner or later you will find something you want to make a painting from.
Take a little time.
Explore that theme, whatever it is.
Make a few more little drawings.
Move things around until you feel you have the arrangement right.
Keep it very simple.
You are still not ready to paint yet.
Using the same pencil, shade the sketch in until you feel you have that right too.
You are still keeping it very simple.
Now you are ready to paint.
Transfer the least amount of pencil lines that you think you will need, to the watercolor paper.
Refer only to your black and white drawings when
selecting your color scheme
Keep the colors very simple.
Paint with abandon.
Itís hard to know when to stop. Err on the side of sooner rather than later.
When the painting is done, do not judge it.
Put it away for at least 24 hours, preferably more.
Then take it out and do your personal critique.
You have just done a painting, which expresses you.
It will be your selection of subject.
Your artistry in composition.
Your sense of color.
Your own style.
You are likely to have just become an artist.
If it didnít work, do the same one again. You may have to make some changes, or maybe paint a little faster. You might have to paint a little slower, or not spill coffee on it this time. Donít try to fix it; get it right in the next attempt.
A few notes on size.
Keep the size of your paper small enough that you do not mind wasting it.
That is so important. If you are worried about the cost of your supplies, you will hold back. Caution and creativity do mix. So work as big as you want, but no bigger than you can be cheerful about throwing away.
Making a good painting is difficult. Do not make it any harder than you need to. Keep the elements in your drawing to just a few. Simplicity at this stage of your journey is tremendously important. You must not waste your time on complex work. That will come automatically as you progress. Simple paintings win prizes in art shows as often as complicated ones.
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