I was recently asked what advice I would give to someone who wants start painting.
This may be a long time, so I have condensed my answer into five main tips here :
- Painting equipment
- The best paint to start
- Find the subject of your painting
- Forget the doubts
- And keep the motivation
1. Good painting equipment
First of all, the equipment. I still hear my art teachers saying, “Good tools make good workers”. They were not wrong that equipment is paramount.
Buying paint equipment can be expensive but it is better to invest in quality equipment than in mediocre paintbrushes or paint. When material is not correct it increases the difficulty. First, for example, you can having brush hairs that remain on your canvas, and secondly bad equipment gets damaged faster and you may have to buy more quickly. A bad operation that will waste time, energy and money.
That is why I make my equipment available to people who want in my painting classes here in Paris. So there are no unpleasant surprises and they can only focus on their painting. When they come from an athoer country it is difficult to travel with all the necessary painting equipment. They are delighted to find everything they need in my workshop: brushes, canvas, oil paint, acrylic, watercolour…
If you start painting I strongly advise you to visit specialized shops (such as Sennelier in Paris France). Once you know more about the necessary equipment, you’ll be able to buy it on the web, but at first go to the shops. You can touch the brushes, study the texture of the canvas and look at the colours of the paint tubes. Be careful moreover the color that is represented on the tube is not always faithful to the one that is inside. If you have the possibility do not hesitate to ask a seller if you can open the tube to check the tint.
2. Start with acrylic paint
There are different kind of paint: watercolour, oil paint, acrylic paint. Each of them requires a particular technique.
For people who want to start painting I advise to use acrylic paint. It can be used in several ways, it’s very interesting to work and also easier. Acrylic paint works with water such as watercolor, it can either be very diluted giving a wash effect (light shades) or on the contrary be mixed with little water (or no water) for a thicker effect, for the most daring painter. You may use a gloss gel medium instead of the water but it gives more transparency wich could be a drawback.
Finding the right color is not always easy, a little more red, blue, green… When you create a new shade add sparingly the second color to the first to control your mix. It is easier to add colour than to remove it.
Don’t hesitate to make a large quantity of your new color because the paint on the palette dries very quickly and you will soon run out of paint. And it’s difficult to redo exactly the same shade.
Last advice regarding color, to avoid unpleasant surprises keep in mind that colors darken or become more intense when drying.
3. What subject would you like to paint?
Once the equipment is ready, and the type of paint chosen, you will be able to start painting. Yes, but what? Because it’s not enough to have the motication, you also have to get a subject.
Everything can be pretext to paint: a flower bouquet, your cat, a sea view… For beginners I advise you to start working on photos or images instead of painting live subjects or live landscapes, you will thus limit the constraints of time, brightness and move.
We are fortunate to have access to a large amount of photos and images in books or on the web, so choose a topic from these sources. A simple subject that attracted you right away. But beware what seems easy is not necessarily easy!
4. Forget your doubts…
When people booking one of my painting courses, they often tell me “I’m novice”, “I’ve never painted” or “I don’t know how to paint”. And regardless of nationality this fear is international!
Don’t worry that it is perfectly normal to have some doubts at the beginning. Painting is an activity that can be learned as sport, music, sculpture. It’s necessary to show patience, perseverance and self-confidence. And above all not to be too demanding with oneself from the beginning. You have to take your time. And you must accept to make some mistakes, don’t worry they can be rectified.
When you start painting don’t be too ambitious in the choice of subject and in the type of painting. Prefer acrylic paint at the beginning because oil and especially watercolour require a little more experience. This will come with time.
5. … and keep your motivation
When my students are in front of their canvas, with their subject and their brush, they are always overwhelmed by the excitement of the beginning. I see it well, they have sparkling eyes, are joyful they do not always know what to start with, but have motivation to spare! This phase lasts only a while…
There is always a moment of discouragement or floating in the progress of the work. This is the critical moment when one begins to regret his choice of colors and even his subject (a bit like when you’re at the hairdresser and you look in the mirror in the middle of a haircut. You start to panic. Then when the haircut is done, the brushing done, everything comes back in order and you’re satisfied). This phase of creative doubt happens to every single artist, even to me who has 30 years of experience.
It is then necessary to take a step back, because by staying focused on your drawing, your judgment is distorted. It is essential to take a break for a few minutes or a few days. You need to move away from your work, let it rest. Often, a good cup of coffee or tea is enough. If you are in a group or a class, ask the teacher or even other students for help.
I often help people who come to my classes. I just put a little paint on a tree and their motivation comes back.
So don’t be discouraged. Be confident !