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What should I paint? How do I go from an idea to an actual painting?

Art Blog how to paint painting advice personal art journey

What do I paint? Where do you get your Ideas from?  Once you have an idea, where do you go from there? Going from concept to an actual painting is not as easy as those who have never painted think. 


                                         Confetti Blaze                         Negative blaze 

 Two of my Urban Autumn series and the photo that sparked the idea. 

Here I used simple photo edits to help me come up with colour ideas. You  can read more on this in another of my blog posts.

First how to find inspiration. In my experience the more you paint the more ideas you will have and one idea will spark a whole lot of others, especially if you are thinking about painting a series of related paintings. As you paint more you will also start to see the world differently. You will notice things you never did before and start thinking, that would look good as a painting or part of a painting. But sometimes the mind goes on a blank and what do you do then. When you do have lots of ideas write them down with whatever details you need to be able to recall what that idea was even six months later. This could be all you need to get you going. Look at what ever resources spark your imagination. Books, galleries, look online. For me YouTube  is my first port of call when I need painting inspiration, even if it's just inspiration to paint not necessary what to paint. After watching a few people painting I nearly always want to get back into painting again.

Sometimes it's a case of having so many ideas and not knowing where to start.  Again I say write them down. Think about how you can put that idea into practice. Write down any details you think of. Maybe you know just how you would like to do the background, write that down. This way you can organise your thoughts and see which ideas excite you most and you have the clearest vision for.

Sometimes you will get your ideas from the strangest places. This painting Escape to Freedom came to me when I was watching the Great British Bake Off. They randomly showed a shot of a snail in the grass. It immediately sparked an idea for this painting. My idea being that the snail was escaping it's humdrum everyday life to something more exciting. In this case I had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted.

But what if you have an idea but don't really know how to take it any further. This was the case when I took my eldest daughter shopping for her ball dress. When we got home I was thinking a Galaxy ball dress would look cool. I had been painting galaxies so I kind of had them on my mind. But I really didn't have much of a concept of anything else for the painting. You can use what ever resource you find most useful to you. For me I go to Pinterest when researching painting ideas first. Now I'm just looking for a jumping off point here, not looking to copy. If you are looking to sell or show you have to be careful about copyright here. 

I typed in "girls in dresses" What came up gave me a starting point for how I wanted my girl to look.  I liked Katie Rodgers Free flowing style and no faces. So now having a jumping off point I started with some Sketching then painted some watercolour girls with Galaxy dresses. I quite liked the way they turned out.

 But to me they reminded me a bit to much of  Katie's work and didn't feel original enough. I also wanted to go bigger on canvas with acrylic paint. So The way I did these faces would have to change for that.

Back to Pinterest and I found Jimmy Lawor's amazing girls. Full of movement and all about the dress. Which was just the concept I was looking for. I took note of how he did his figures arms and faces. I didn't want to copy anything I just wanted the general idea. Also I'm useless at figures so was definitely going to play down the girls features. I wanted it all about the dress anyway.

By this time it was to late to start anything new so I let the idea rest with me overnight. In the morning I had a much clearer vision. I wanted my girl to be creating the galaxy with her dress. The background had to be very plain and her dress needed to stand out from the galaxy she was creating but still look like it came from  there.

Here's what I came up with.

Now I'm thinking a longer canvas would show the idea of her creating the galaxy better. I'm also thinking this could be painted in different colours for a nice set. My concept of the girl creating with her dress could be used in different ways. Like a garden in the dessert maybe. Or I could have one large girl in the sky making the dark and the stars and lots of little ones doing the different colours. Or maybe rainbows. See what I mean about one idea sparking off a whole lot of others. The bonus will be that if I paint all these ideas I will be getting some great practice with my figure painting as well. 

So next time you have an idea for a painting but don't know where to go from there, do a little research, do some sketching and jot down notes with your thoughts. Don't plan on the first thing you paint being the finial piece. Expect to play around with the concept a few times until you get  a really clear idea where you are going. If your mind starts going off on a tangent write those ideas down for later. You will be amazed at how easy it is to forget a concept when you are in the middle of creating. Soon you will have a good collection of ideas to choose from next time you get stuck. 

Painting is about planning. It's not often you will get an idea and just be able to paint it right away. Don't skip this planning stage as it will really help you get a clear vision and so your painting will then have a clear message for your viewer as well. You never know just what ideas will come up in this planning, sketching stage so be open and let your mind take you on a wonderful creative journey. To be able to create your own original work is so fulfilling and I encourage you all to give it a go if you are not already.


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