My Painting Techniques

I should have a technique. I should have a style. I suppose I do have a style, but technique has never really been something that I worried too much about.

What I do have when I paint is a very clear intention. I have a clear idea of what I want the painting to basically look like when it’s complete.

That’s not to say that the paintings always come out the way that I intend. Actually, much of the painting is an experiment in abstraction, moving paint around until it makes a cool pattern that satisfies me. That’s for the background anyway. I find that a detailed background distracts from the subject, so I keep it a little ambiguous, blurry and abstract.

As for the subject, I used to struggle with translating the subject to the canvas/masonite. The thing that has been so transitional for me, THE reason why I no longer have any problem getting the subject onto the surface with relative accuracy, is because I stopped caring so much about the outcome.

I just started painting, pretty much constantly. I first heard about the daily painting movement in 2007 and decided that I needed to be a part of it. The interesting thing is, at that time I had never painted (seriously) before.

I had always drawn and was pretty good at it, but I wanted to go further, and that required color. My father bought me a set of oil paints to experiment with, and I just got started.

I didn’t try to learn anything first; I didn’t prepare in any way. I picked up a paint brush, dipped it in paint and painted, picture after picture. I haven’t stopped.

My first attempts were sad and frustrating. However, just about every technique I use now has come about as a result of experimentation. You simple can’t learn art from a book. It’s like driving, you have to do it.

Having said all of this, here are some things that I have learned about painting in the last 8 years that are very helpful:

  1. Always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS paint the largest shapes first. There is nothing more annoying than painting the details and then attempting to paint in the larger shapes around it. The biggest shape is painted first, then the second biggest over that one, then the third biggest, until you get to the teeniest details. The teeny details are always the very last thing to be painted.
  2. Use the paint. A lot of times, when people make the transition from drawing to painting, they forget that the two are VERY different. Drawing is a one step process, painting is a three step process. Painting requires that you first load the paint brush with paint, then apply paint to the surface and move it around to get the effect you’re after. Most pencil artists forget this when they start painting and they miss step one. Make sure that you’re using enough paint.
  3.  Avoid “muddy” colors by only mixing two or three colors that are the same temperature (warm or cool) and not opposites on the color wheel.
  4. Tone down a color by mixing it with it’s opposite. Unintentional muddy colors can ruin a painting, but intentionally dulling a color that is too bright is a smart move. You want to reserve super bright colors for the focal point (if your painting has one).
  5. Learn about composition. This is probably the most important things that you can do as an artist in any medium. If the composition in a painting/drawing isn’t right, then you may as well not continue on with the painting. No matter what you do to it, a painting with a poor composition is a poor painting.
  6. The biggest thing I’ve learned is to always grow as much as I can. It’s important that I learn as much as I can from other artists who are better than me, from books and videos and most of all, from experience. There will always be something to learn.

2 replies

    • I couldn’t find the pictures I took of prepping my surfaces, so I didn’t blog about it. I use masonite, or hardboard (since they don’t make masonite anymore). You can go to just about any hardware store and they will have 1/4″ or 1/8″ hardboard sheets that are 4X8′. Most places can cut them into any size you want. They may charge by the cut. I use hardboard because it’s MUCH cheaper than any other surface AND, amazingly, it’s the nicest surface I’ve found to paint on. Those cheap canvases you can buy at the store are horrid. This is definitely a better option for a beginner.
      There are two drawbacks to using masonite/hardboard: #1. you, or whomever owns the work, will need to frame it before they hang it and #2. it will need to be prepared before it can be painted on.
      The preparation isn’t difficult. I found a great blog post about it: http://kimcpell.ipower.com/artblog/?p=164
      Good luck!

      Like

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