We’ve all been there. You start a painting with a precise final result in mind, but something goes awry along the way. You already know where you want to go regarding your painting expertise, but how do you get there? Which tried-and-true methods can you use to improve your painting skills?
I’ve painted for most of my life, and after overcoming many challenging learning curves, I’ve distilled what I believe to be the top ten things that have helped me get better at painting. Even though I now have a job, I still use these strategies since learning never stops, and there are always new objectives to achieve.
The following ten suggestions will help you learn how to paint better:
1. Be thoroughly familiar with your materials
The idea that during the period of the old masters, when they would take on an apprentice or pupil, that person could end up spending an entire year grinding and mixing the master’s oil paint as well as preparing the painting surfaces is one thing I frequently bring out to students. He would move on to learning how to draw after approximately a year of doing this, and he may spend another year doing that. It might sound excruciatingly slow, but it gave them a thorough understanding of the various pigments, binders, and resulting paints and the how-tos of building a suitable painting surface. When they could finally start learning how to paint, they were already familiar with the properties of their paints and how they applied, interacted, and layered on the surface. Even if we have ready-made artist supplies now, we still lack that deep understanding, but it is still possible to learn. The benefits include increasing your general knowledge and the dependability of your output.
2. Use a New Tool
I believe that people are naturally drawn to new things. Nothing can stimulate your work like a new tool, blank canvas, or subject matter. A new device may inspire original ways to apply your paint, another advantage of trying one out. This benefit goes beyond just the sense of novelty. If you use watercolors but have never tried using a palette knife to apply the paint, you might find it opens up some exciting possibilities. Set aside some time to play around with the tool and experiment. Instead of aiming to make a painting, have fun with it. You might be surprised at how it could hasten a particular stage of the painting process. You might even consider a novel painting medium to be an unknown instrument. If you work with oil paints, for instance, a little experiment with acrylic painting may help you learn more about oils as you contrast the capabilities of the two mediums.
3. Create a painting plan
If you find that creating formal work frustrates you every time, a specific preparation step may be skipped. We commonly believe that historical master painters only needed their innate skill and proper painting method to swiftly and efficiently create artwork sent. The truth is that a lot of masters—even ones who paint extremely haphazardly—undertook extensive planning before doing so. While some completed formal drawings that they would later transfer to the painting surface, others included thorough color studies of the composition. Some creatives took their time and made a lot of initial sketches. I’ve found that my chances of success increase significantly if I thoroughly prepare a part of the painting where I’m unsure how I will approach it (and even practice the selected colors or strokes). If I ignore it, it nearly always develops into a problem area.
4. Exercise a Little Each Day (Even 10 minutes)
It has something to do with practice, but it’s a different idea. My spouse used always to beat me in Scrabble many years ago. I was very annoyed. After that, I started solving crossword puzzles with breakfast every morning. It only took me a few minutes, but I did it every morning. After several months, I began to see that my crossword skills had improved, and ultimately I started to outperform him at Scrabble. It was the ideal illustration of how training your brain, even for a short period each day, may provide unexpected improvements. If you apply this to painting, you must create a study or a small image daily or engage in some other activity that engages your creative brain. You’ll probably notice some form of improvement after a while.
5. Research the nature
The truth is that we can only mimic what nature has already created as artists. One of the most incredible things we can do as artists are study nature since even abstract art is just an abstraction of reality. Any subject matter can be related to this, and it could entail basic observation through a photo shoot, sketching real-world items or situations to study lines and values, or possibly doing color studies where we aim to match colors or take note of color combinations in nature. Take pictures of your inspiration as references without hesitation. Sometimes we run out of time and must finish the project in the studio. The lesson here is that painting from life constantly teaches us something new.
6. Make Forms Easier
Learning to deconstruct what you see into a series of shapes, values, and colors is one of the best things you can do to improve as an artist. You can more effectively depict an object in a painting if you can train yourself to imagine it as a collection of smaller shapes rather than what it truly is. Values and color are equivalent in this way. Take a simple object or scenario and describe it in terms of these three qualities as an excellent practice exercise. Sketch the form or composition using only shapes, such as circles, ovals, squares, triangles, etc. You can do a value sketch of the object or scene in black and white by considering its light, medium, and dark grey tones. Alternatively, you may use color blocks to construct a color study of the object or scene. These exercises sharpen your mind, not paintings that may be framed.
When working on a traditional painting, one thing I usually do is imagine my process. I close my eyes and visualize myself painting each step of the procedure I intend to utilize to create the piece. This visualization could be of the entire painting process or a specific part of the artwork that concerns you. It’s odd how beneficial this can be. I’ve discovered that if I’m unsure about a particular painting area and take the time to picture how I want to approach it when I paint, I can frequently tell whether the plan will work or whether I need to rethink the idea. Additionally, it gives your brain a practice run of what you’re about to accomplish. Additionally, if I have difficulties falling asleep at night, it aids me in doing so (no joke!).
8. Go to a gallery
Visit an art gallery and look at the master’ creations. Nothing inspires creativity in artists like a trip to an art gallery or museum. Don’t stop at the usual observations when you visit the museum. Get as near to a piece as you are permitted to when it captures your attention, and pay attention to how the artist used their brushstrokes to portray a form or another element of the painting. What combinations of colors did they use? What movements were made? Pay attention to the value patterns as well. How did they guide the viewer’s eye around the composition using lights and darks? You can come up with fresh ideas and new methods for dealing with areas of the painting that you find challenging by observing and writing down or drawing your observations. You might get excited about being an artist as a result.
9. Recognize your areas of weakness
Find your area of weakness and consider solutions. How do you identify those areas? Try painting a specific object and assessing it yourself, or have a trustworthy person look it over and point out the parts that seem strong and those that appear weak. Then, seek ways to improve it, possibly by taking a class, watching YouTube videos, or speaking with an artistic friend. For instance, you can learn drawing with a sketchbook and pencil if you have trouble with draughts man ship (the way your forms are removed). Is the use of unpleasant color combinations your weakness? Think to consider studying color theory. Perspective, perhaps? Investigate perspective or take a course on it.
Finally, exercise. It’s been said before by numerous artists, but it’s true. Practice is the best method to become a better painter, hands down. The repetition of producing strokes and the often tricky effort of pushing yourself to advance through hands-on painting is highly crucial for improvement, despite how obvious it may appear. Although it can be challenging, I advise attempting to keep a positive attitude and enjoying the process. Sometimes our inability to work is due to our fear of making mistakes, but if you allow yourself to make mistakes going into anything, it will appeal to you more. Additionally, you don’t need to share your work with anyone. You have complete power over that.