I am often asked “Can anyone learn to paint?”  My answer usually is, “Yes, if they really want to.”  The real question is can anyone become a GOOD artist.  The answer is the same-if they really want to, but the doing of THAT is more complex.  Many students will find it fairly easy to paint an acceptable picture, but will have a much harder time moving up to that good artist level.  Like anything else it takes PRACTICE, PRACTICE.  The real question is practice at what exactly.  I am going to use the next few blog posts to review the things that Lynda and I find are necessary for our painting to succeed and things that sometimes our students have to be reminded of.

LEARNING TO SEE–I tell beginning students that they will need two sets of muscles to paint well–the muscles in their fingers that allow them to hold and use the brush or pencil to actually do the work successfully, but also the muscles of t

Cherries, Oil, 11x14, $600

Cherries, Oil, 11×14, $600

he eyes—-to SEE.  If you have not seen it you can’t paint it.  When I am looking at a picture that I might want to paint I look for good color, not necessarily  bright color, but pleasing clear color.  I want my paintings to have two or three definite colors that I will work with.  Does the picture have that or can I do some substitutions to make it so?  Even more important that the color to me is the light and dark pattern.  I almost always want a strong light and dark pattern-this will give my painting drama.  I will also look for 2-3 interesting shapes.  Too many shapes will make a painting confusing.

Lastly is there a strong center of interest.  The center of interest is the place where I want my viewer to eventually land in his journey through my painting.  It is clear and it is in a good place.  The Rule of the Golden Mein helps us to find the optimal place for our center of interest.  If you place a # sign on your photo where the lines cross will be the best places for the center of interest.  That placement will keep it away from the center or the edges.

Once you start painting,  continue to watch it carefully to see if you are actually painting what you want to.  That seems like a silly statement, but many times we will get to painting on one section and sort of undo something we have already done.  Perhaps our colors don’t match the ones we did in an earlier painting session.  We may have a limb that goes into nowhere or a dog with just three legs (yes, I did).  You must step away from your painting, remove yourself from the role of painter and become the viewer.  The viewer will tell you a lot.  Another good idea is to leave the room, then come back and glance quickly at your work.  I used to set my work  up in the kitchen while I cooked, lots of errors were revealed.  If you are at all able to stand while you work, do so, you will step back a lot more.  The last thing I do is to take a picture with my phone.  This helps a lot, it won’t tell everything, but will help with many corrections.

Lastly–be willing to make those corrections.  I’ve been doing this 40 years and can show you all those phone pictures I’ve taken with accompanying corrections.  The goal is not to finish that darn thing, but to get it right.  Happy painting.