Pursuing a hobby like painting is more about overcoming inhibitions than creating a picture – It takes practice, experience and observation. Painting can stimulate your imagination, inspiring you to explore how you interpret the world. Practising visual artist and CAE staff member, Rhonda Hodge, shares some advice to help you pick up a paintbrush for the first time.
If you’re a complete newbie it’s best to start with acrylic paints. They are inexpensive and easy for beginners. Acrylic paints are also water soluble, easy to clean from your materials, quick-drying and quite forgiving!
To avoid a mental blank when you get in front of the canvas for the first time, think ahead and plan what you are going to paint. For inspiration, you can create a Pinterest Board or find photos that you absolutely love and recreate them. Collecting images you love will help stimulate ideas, boost your imagination and will encourage you to think visually.
Get into the habit of using a visual art journal, either A4 or A3 with thick paper is best. You can use this to organise your sketches, images you’d love to draw and practice different art techniques. Practicing in your visual journal will help you to conceptualise the style or form of painting you want to explore as you start to discover your style.
If you’re looking to create a series of paintings, research related images on Pinterest. Start sketching different variations of the images you have in mind until you can visualise the theme or series of images you are after. For example, if you want to paint a series of portraits, you can experiment with lighting effects and shadows to convey a mood or style that runs through all of your creations.
Preparing your Brushes & Materials
When you’re painting, you’re likely to make quite a mess. Stock up on rags, supermarket sponges and rummage through your closet for an old t-shirt. Acrylic paints often permanently stain clothes. A good tip is to have a uniform that you regularly wear for every painting session. Not only will you protect the clothes you are wearing underneath your uniform, but you get the added benefit of getting into the artist mindset every time you step in front of your canvas.
Invest in a few quality soft and hard-bristled paint brushes and palette knives of different sizes. Softer brushes are great for smoother brushstrokes such as watercolour painting, while hard-bristled paintbrushes are ideal for heavier paints such as oil and acrylic painting. If you need some help deciding on the right brushes, visit your local art supplies store for inspiration or advice.
Brushes are at the heart of every painter’s toolkit so you want to take very good care of them. How you clean and maintain your brushes will affect how long they last. Keep a large jar of water in your workspace to store your brushes in while you are painting, but remember to drain the water and clean your brushes once you’re done for the day. While it’s ideal to keep your brush wet while painting, leaving your brushes in water to soak for extended periods of time can damage and deform your paintbrushes.
While you are painting, try using different brushes for different colours of paint. This will help you avoid mixing colours while painting on a canvas. You don’t need an expensive paint palette to separate your colours. Instead, use a large plastic or smooth ceramic platter to give you plenty of room to mix colours. If you’re taking a break, simply gladwrap your platter so that the paints don’t dry up.
Expand and Explore
Before you put a drop of paint on your canvas, you’ve got to sketch first. Sometimes you have to sketch your idea several times before you can make a start with paints. Sketching helps you formulate your final design and locks in a clear vision of what you are going to paint. It will stimulate you to think of the different elements in your work, such as colours, lighting, expression and texture.
If you want to get familiar with colours and colour mixing, creating a colour wheel gives you an understanding of the different dimensions, mood and synergy of different colours and their relationship to each other. There are great YouTube and web tutorials to help you create your own colour wheel, just find what works best for you.
Practice your brush strokes, but you don’t need to splash out on a new canvas each time. Use your visual art journal to practise a range of painting techniques such as dry brush, stippling, splattering, dabbing and palette knife.
Knowing how to observe the seven elements of art helps. Next time you visit an art gallery, pay attention to how the artist uses line, colour, shape, form, value, space and texture in their work.
There are a host of benefits to learning how to paint. It can improve your concentration, develop your critical thinking skills, and enhance your fine motor skills. It can foster creative growth, build your confidence, promote a positive attitude and nurture emotional growth. Learning how to paint should be more pleasure than pressure. Just remember, the key to getting better is repetition. Practice, practice, practice!
Rhonda Hodge is a Melbourne-based visual artist who completed a Bachelor and Master of Creative Arts Degrees. She went on to build her home-based studio business where she has created unique installation pieces for exhibition, commission artworks and worked on various collaborative projects. She has had the opportunity to exhibit in Australia and Germany with her collections and she has sold commission pieces and installations to private and commercial collectors locally and internationally. You can check out Rhonda’s artwork on her Instagram page and website.