Painting is the art of applying pigment to a flat surface, usually paper or canvas. It has long been a popular medium for expression and communication, as demonstrated by the countless cave paintings discovered around the world. The basic ingredients of paint, including mineral and natural pigments, have changed little over time, but the tools and techniques used by painters have evolved to incorporate a wide variety of styles, genres and media.
The earliest paints were made from mineral, animal and vegetable sources such as earth minerals, plant extracts and insects, and have since been replaced by various organic and synthetic materials. Similarly, brushes and other tools have evolved from simple sticks to elaborately shaped and designed instruments capable of creating the subtlest strokes.
Paints can be created from many different materials, but oil, acrylic and watercolor are the most common. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, oils are expensive but provide the best control over the brushwork, while acrylics are easy to use but dry quickly. It is recommended that a painter choose one medium and focus on learning it rather than trying to master several at once.
It is important to have a solid understanding of composition, color theory and value before beginning a painting. It is also helpful to have a good supply of art supplies. A palette, brushes and paints are the most basic necessities, although a few other items may prove useful. For example, a paper towel or cloth is handy for wiping the brush between strokes. It is also a good idea to have a set of small cups for mixing colors, as well as a water bowl for dipping the brush and for pouring.
When painting from life, it is often difficult to capture the form of the subject as it relates to its environment. For this reason, it is advisable to start by drawing a contour outline of the subject on the surface. Then begin to add more detail using gestural lines and a soft blending technique. Finally, add more color, starting with the lightest tones and gradually establishing darker tones as the painting develops.
If you are painting from a photograph, the first thing to do is identify the light source and shadows. It is important to paint these in first, as they will guide the rest of the painting. Also, remember to use a lot of contrasting values. Adding small amounts of white or black to any colored paint will create tints and shades, giving you an endless range of possibilities.
Once you have a good understanding of the basics, try to experiment with painting different subjects. Don’t be too concerned about developing a style at this stage, as it will come with more experience. But be sure to continue to work on the fundamentals, such as color, value, composition and edges. It is these aspects of a painting that will make it stand out from the crowd.