Last week I talked about being a self taught artist and being an active learner. This week I would like to expand on this and talk a little about how you can teach yourself to paint.
When you are just beginning there is so much to learn that it can become overwhelming and hard to know where to start. Even an experienced painter always has something new they can learn.
I had a beginner painter ask me the other day in our art group what she should paint to start with as a fellow group member had told her she was being to ambitious with her subject matter to begin with. Now first off, not a good thing to tell a beginner, good way to put them off I thought. (Also, Wow great attitude, not being afraid to try anything, long may she keep that.)
I told her she should paint anything she wanted to and found inspiring because that way the passion for your subject will always come though. If when you are painting you discover you are having a lot of trouble with a particular area then that is what you should learn about. She was painting an old barn at the time and I said to her if you are finding, for example that maybe you are having trouble getting your shed to look right then that is what you should learn about next. Drawing buildings in two point perspective. So for this painting or for the next time you are doing a building you can use those skills.
For instance when I first started painting with acrylic on canvas after years of watercolour I had to learn a whole new way to paint clouds as the method was completely different. I mentioned this in my painting clouds blog. But how did I go about teaching myself to do this. First off I got out my paint and just started to have a go but was getting consistently disappointing results and wasn't sure how to fix the problem on my own. So where do you go with questions about how to paint? YouTube of course! I watched many videos and practised a few but it wasn't until I discovered one particular artist that things started to click. I purchased their online painting tutorials and sat down to work though those videos. So I had found a Mentor for this Particular problem.
Before I tell you who it was I just want to share some tips on choosing who to follow. In other words finding an online mentor. If you going to be spending your good money on this you want to make sure you are getting your moneys worth. Choose someone who's painting style you admire and you would like to paint like. Choose someone who's teaching method suits you and you can relate to. And last but not least someone you enjoy watching. And make sure you don't just watch but you actually do the painting exercises. Of cause if you are lucky enough to find a class in your area then that would be even better, but I live in the middle of nowhere and also like to work at my own pace in my own way. I don't do well being told what to do as I have discovered from other classes I have tried. But that's just a little insight about me. You may find it suits you better.
So I found Richard Robinson videos on YouTube and purchased his how to paint sunsets master class series. I love his paintings and his brush strokes and wished to paint more like him. Now he mostly works in oils but because he works wet into wet the methods he uses works for acrylic as well. Not every lesson was entirely useful but most were and I picked up a lot of tips and tricks. By the time I finished this course I was able to paint my own reference photo's and be pleased with the results I was getting. I continued to refine my techniques and improve, now that I had got the hang of those clouds. He wasn't the only artist I used for lessons but was the main one. I often use books as well and found Sea & Sky in acrylics by Dave White a good reference for drawing in your clouds in perspective and creating depth in your skies. I had tried Tim Gagnon lessons but although I enjoyed watching them and found them useful for other things. After I did the first cloud lesson I found a lot of the others didn't suit my particular paint style. His method was to detailed for me and using to smaller brushes. As I was trying to get away from my tendency to get to detailed and loosen up a lot more. So really what I'm saying is that mixing and matching your reference materials to help you learn is okay. Take the bits you find useful and leave the rest.
Which brings me to my other point. Painting the same subject over and over can be very beneficial for improving your painting because you can build on your knowledge and practice what you have learnt. Now as I'm typing this I have realised this blog is going to end up way to long and I need to break it up into two parts. So next weeks blog will be about how to improve your painting by painting in a series and I will walk you through step by step on how I do this.