A Beginner’s Guide to Painting


Painting is one of the most versatile and popular forms of artistic expression. It involves the use of shapes, colors, line, tones and textures on a flat surface to convey emotions, movements, light and space. It is believed to be one of the oldest forms of visual art and has been a part of all cultures since time immemorial. It is easy to dismiss painting as a superficial pursuit but great artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh prove how it can go far beyond the mere mimetic function and express higher, more complex emotional, psychological and even spiritual levels of human life.

The first step to painting is to determine the composition of your subject. You can do this by locating the major shapes in your subject and drawing them in. This can be done with a simple sketch, or you can go straight in with the paint. If you go the sketch route, try to make your sketches loose and gestural so that you are not too attached to the details when it comes to painting. This will allow you to develop the painting as a whole and leave the detail to last when you are ready.

Another important consideration when painting is the quality of your supplies. You will need a good quality brush, paper towel and paints. There are many types of paints available, but oil is the traditional choice for professionals and offers a wide range of mixing options and layers. However, it can be expensive and can take a while to dry, so it may not be the best choice for beginners. Water-based or acrylic paints are a cheaper alternative and will still produce great results.

Once you have the canvas and your basic tools a great way to explore the possibilities of painting is by using splattering. This involves loading a brush with paint and then flicking it onto the canvas. This allows you to create explosions, natural-looking splashes, movement and can be used for texture such as sand or starry skies. You can also try dripping paint and sponging on the canvas to create more controlled effects.

A common mistake that new painters make is over-painting their subjects. Using too much paint will obscure the details of your subject and make it look unnatural. Be sure to check the color of your paint often and re-check it if you are in doubt.

Another technique that you can experiment with is stippling. This is when you paint tiny dots in different shades or colors to create a textured effect that your eye reads as a solid shape from a distance. This is often seen in abstract paintings and can be a fun way to add a little more depth to your work.

Whether you choose to use a traditional painting palette or a piece of cardboard or Tupperware lid, it is essential to keep your paints organized and easily accessible when working on location. You will also need a way to carry your wet panel or easel back to your car without ruining it. Pochade boxes and wet panel carriers are a great option for this.