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6 Steps to Create Your Own Painting

From Paint Nights to Original Pieces

Artists studio with easels

Have you ever found yourself at a paint night, dutifully following the instructor's every brush stroke, only to feel lost when faced with a blank canvas at home? Creating your own painting can be a daunting task, especially if you're used to relying on templates and step-by-step instructions.

But fear not! Here I can give you 6 Steps to create your own painting, by focusing on essential art elements. You'll be on your way to creating your own original masterpiece in no time. So grab your paintbrushes and let's get started!

Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist - Pablo Picasso

Before you start

Man and woman arm stretching

Loosen up! Warm up your upper body before you start with some light stretches; roll your shoulders forward & back, rotate your wrists, do some twists from the hips, stretch out your neck. Approaching a painting with a tense body is rarely helpful, unless you want to convey that in your work.

Still Life Painting work in progress

When it comes to picking something to paint, it's easier said than done, right? But before you dive in, consider whether this piece is going to be a practice piece or if it will require more attention than that. Are you aiming to create a finished product or simply sharpening your skills? Taking the pressure off yourself to produce something "perfect" can make a huge difference. Adopting the "this is for practice" mindset can be beneficial as it allows you to approach a new piece with less concern about the outcome. It's essential to not care too much about wrecking a canvas or "wasting" paint, as these anxieties can be debilitating. It's just a canvas and it’s just paint, and you can always get more if things go wrong.

As you become less anxious or tense about painting, your creativity will flourish.

1. Composition

Rule of Thirds composition

This is the layout of your work. You’ll need to make a few decision, and sketch out ideas before committing to the canvas.

First of all, what will be the main focal point of this art piece?

Will it be in the foreground, mid ground or background?

How much of the canvas will it take up? Will there be space around it?

Roughly sketch out your idea in multiple ways. Sketch it on a large sheet of paper, and use other pieces of paper to ‘crop’ it in different ways. You’ll be able to see the focal point the centre, or off to the side.

To create a composition for art, start by deciding on the focal point of the artwork and its placement in the foreground, mid-ground, or background. Sketch out your ideas on paper, experimenting with different compositions and crop them in different ways to find the perfect balance. Consider the overall layout and balance of the artwork, including negative space and the relationships between shapes and lines.

Cropped sketches

2. Colour

Monet colour palette

Colour is an essential element in painting that can convey emotions and moods, create a sense of depth and space, and add interest and vibrancy to a piece. Before starting to paint, consider what kind of colour palette you want to use and the emotions and mood you want to convey. For example, warm colours such as reds and oranges can evoke energy and excitement, while cool colours such as blues and greens can create a sense of calm and serenity. As you paint, experiment with different colour combinations, values, and intensities to create the desired effect.

What colour palette will you use? Bright or pastels? Do you want this piece to feel cool or warm? Limit your colour palette to create a cohesive feel across the painting.

3. Light

Directional Light Examples

Using light in a painting involves considering the type of light, its direction, and its temperature. The type of light can be ambient, directional, harsh, cold, warm, or glowing, and the direction of light will affect the placement and intensity of shadows. Temperature can also affect the colour of the light and the shadows.

What type of light is it? Ambient/directional/harsh/cold/warm/glowing?

Where is it coming from?

Where will the shadows go?

Will the highlights be cool or warm?

Highlights don't have to be plain white. If you want to give your painting a warm feeling, add a little pale yellow to your highlights, if it's a chilly winters day, you might want to try some pale blue. Play with it and find out what works for you!

It's important to decide on these factors before starting the painting to guide the creative process and create a cohesive look. Experimenting with different light sources and their effects can help add depth and emotion to the painting.

4. Line & Shape

The Wave

Line and shape are fundamental elements of visual art. Here are some general tips on how to use them in a painting.

Line: Line is a powerful tool that can be used to convey movement, texture, and emotion in a painting. Different types of lines can have different effects. For example, a thick, bold line can create a sense of strength and stability, while a thin, delicate line can suggest fragility and vulnerability. Curved lines can create a sense of movement and flow, while angular lines can create a sense of tension or excitement. Experiment with different types of lines to see how they affect the overall mood and composition of your painting.

Shape: Shapes are the building blocks of a painting, and can be used to create depth, dimension, and balance. The shapes you choose can convey different emotions or ideas. For example, organic, irregular shapes can suggest nature or chaos, while geometric shapes can suggest order and structure. Consider the overall composition of your painting when choosing shapes, and use them to create contrast and balance.

5. Texture

Paint brush strokes

Are you looking for expressive brush strokes or a smooth finish?

One way to create texture is by using impasto techniques, which involve applying thick layers of paint to create a 3-dimensional effect. Another way is to use a dry brush technique, where the brush strokes are visible on the surface of the painting. You can also use different tools to create texture, such as palette knives, sponges, or even any interesting utensils lying around. The use of texture can add richness and interest to a painting, and can be used to emphasize certain elements or create a particular mood.

6. Get Painting!

For beginner acrylic paint nights, the steps generally follow the same format and you can do this when you’re starting to create your own work and express your own ideas.

Artist painting by a lake

Apply your base layer: Start by applying a base layer of paint to your canvas or paper. This could be a wash of color, or a rough sketch of your subject.

Then paint the mid ground and ‘block in’ the feature/focal point of this artwork.

Build up the layers: Layer on more paint to create depth and texture. Use thicker paint for impasto effects or thinner layers for a more delicate effect.

Refine your painting: As you work, step back from your painting and assess what needs to be adjusted. Make changes as necessary until you're happy with the final result.

If you make a mistake, don't panic, let the paint dry then paint over the top of it. Overworking a 'mistake' can make it worse!

Remember, there's no one right way to start a painting, and the process can be different for each artist. The key is to find what works for you and have fun with the process.


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