18. How to Paint: Part Deux

You’ve collected your supplies and are now ready for Part Two: Painting!

Step 1: Choose a limited palette. At least avoid using all three primary colors (red, blue, yellow). This can result in what I like to call “the war of the primaries” and can be very unpleasant to behold. If this is your first foray, stick with two or three colors in the same family. Dozens of new colors will be created as you go (even if you only start with two).

Blue and white make many shades of blue.

Blue and white make many shades of blue.

Step 2: This is optional. Choose a subject.

Mary Magdalene (I did this awhile ago: around 2004)

Mary Magdalene (I did this awhile ago: around 2004)

This painting did not start off as Mary Magdalene. It started off as a self-portrait. As I painted, it didn’t really look like me. And I was having trouble with the hair. FYI that is supposed to be a cloak thing NOT hair. So a “cloak thing”?  I’m going to get a bit off track here but I was wondering what to call the scarf/hair covering “cloak thing” and I tried to look it up and found this interesting:

Aside from the himation, there are other headcoverings in the ancient pictures also. A woman might wear a scarf tied closely around her hair, a small shawl draped over her head (called a kaluptra, resembling the modern mantilla), or a kind of snood, called a sakkos. Sometimes snoods and scarves are seen on women who are depicted nude, and here obviously the coverings were merely ornamental, and not worn because of any ideas about proper dress. Still less do they symbolize modesty, or marriage, or anything of the sort. None of these pictures or artifacts prove (or disprove) what Greek women were expected to wear in public. (source)

Veil, scarf, shawl, mantilla, snood, himation, kaluptra. Whatever you want to call it, it’s not hair. Lots of artists of yore chose to sculpt or paint fabric instead of hair. Because hair is hard to paint. In computer animation they have entire teams for hair and fur simulation. So anyways just keep all this hair stuff in mind when choosing a subject. For example, do not choose something like this:

Violet de Provence artichoke seed "fluffies"

Violet de Provence artichoke seed “fluffies”

"Seed fluffies" is a technical term

“Seed fluffies” is a technical term

If this is your first foray choose something more like this:

Super easy: basically just colorful circles

Super easy: basically just colorful circles

Or get a little more advanced and get soem dynamic perspective going: diagonal lines do the trick!

Or get a little more advanced and get some dynamic perspective going: diagonal lines do the trick!

Are those tiny onions just adorable?! I thought I had harvested all the onions but found these today: they are Jaune Paille des Vertus. I think I am going to replant most of them in a few weeks to see if they will grow larger. But I digress…back to choosing a subject. How about just one object:

A pineapple painting

A pineapple painting

I did this pineapple painting when I designed the logo for this property in Louisiana several years ago. If you watch the little slide show on the property link you can see a print of this pineapple painting (I have the original). But I am getting off track again, and besides, like I said, choosing a subject is an optional step. Let’s move on to:

Step 2: Paint. Don’t over-think it. Just put the paint on the surface.

Painting

Painting

While you are painting, or if coaxing kids along in painting, encourage them (or yourself!) to fill up all the white spots (or “blank” spots if not painting on a white surface). Sometimes kids (and everyone really) get stuck on a certain area and then that area starts to become monotone and you loose all those different shades. When you start to get stuck like that, change your focus to the “blank” areas of the canvas (or point to the blank spots and tell your kid to paint in that area). Sometimes turning the canvas on its side or upside-down helps.

When you start to feel distracted, frustrated, annoyed or lost it is time for:

Step 3: Take a Break. Taking a break is probably the most important step in painting. If you don’t take a break you risk swirling all the colors together in one monotone (usually a hideous mauve if you are using any reds) mess.

While you are taking the break: step back and look at your painting. What are you trying to communicate? It doesn’t have to be profound.

"Blue is my favorite color"

“Blue is my favorite color”

While you are taking a break from your painting you can paint on the card stock (Sheets of 8.5″ x 11″ card stock paper that you just fold in half):

A Simple Landscape

A Simple Landscape

Blue Circles

Blue Circles

A collaborative design (I did the background, baby did the darker blue strokes)

A collaborative design (I did the background, baby did the darker blue strokes)

This will provide you with lovely homemade cards to send for birthdays, thank-you notes, letters (if people actually send letters anymore) and will save you $2.99 every time you need to buy a greeting card.

This may look like painting, but is actually the "Taking a Break" step

This may look like painting, but is actually the “Taking a Break” step

Taking a Break

Taking a Break: Another Variation

Step 4: Once the painting is dry (and acrylic dries fast, one reason I prefer it over oil),  add more details or colors to your painting. This is where you can introduce new colors that you didn’t use in Step 1. Paint over things you don’t like, add things to the parts you do like.

A few final touches

A few final touches

And…

Fini! A masterpiece!

Fini! A masterpiece!

Plus bonus material

Plus bonus material

Even though my two-year old is demonstrating these steps, they work for ANY PERSON at ANY AGE. Every single painting I’ve done has been completed in this manner. The “Taking a Break” step can sometimes last for days, weeks, months or years. I’m actually taking a break from several canvases at this very moment. BAHAHahahaha. If you end up with a monotone mess of color or something you don’t like DON’T throw it away. Just let it dry and then paint over it. Happy painting!

8 thoughts on “18. How to Paint: Part Deux

  1. shelly

    One of my favorite posts ever! I laughed out loud at the times I have not done step 3 and ended up with exactly what you said. Actually, I guess I’ve been in an extended step 3 and your post has inspired me to drag out the paints. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Pingback: 67. A Mermaid Painting | Spy Garden

  3. Pingback: 20. Progress Report II | Spy Garden

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