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How do I start an original painting from nothing?

Stefan Baumann

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October 7th, 2019 - 12:24 PM

How do I start an original painting from nothing?

Our last campfire of the year was the best! The temperature warmed up and we had no snow this year. Lucky for us, because our horses are now in temporary barns waiting for spring when we start construction on the main barn. The evening started with a great cheese fondue warmed over the hot coals and enjoyed by many artists who were visiting us. After dinner, we all sat arind the fire and declared what we wanted to achieve as artists in the New Year and set some verbal goals. We all agreed to support each other in achieving these goals in 2018. Some of the artists wanted to know “How do I start an original painting from nothing.“

Many of the decisions come from the internal reactions or personal taste.
I know artists who paint from photos and start from at the upper left corner of the canvas and work to the bottom right corner till the painting is done. Every inch is finished before the next inch is started and every inch is rendered just like the photo in perfect detail. Other artists start from pure artistic expression, flinging paint with little worry about the subject at all. They place an idea down, step back and wait till inspiration comes to them. Every brush stroke is a reaction to the previous one. The painting may go under many transformations till the final painting is identified and/or completed. Many of the decisions come from the internal reactions or personal taste. This method could be called self-expression, meaning that you are creating the painting moment by moment and reacting to the art piece itself. If we start a painting and just render a photo without self-expression, does a painting have worth as an art piece or is it just a remaking of an image that already exists?

Here are 12 insights that you might want to use to break through your limits when creating art.
1 - Begin with an idea.
2 - Always purchase and paint on the best canvas available since you never know if a masterpiece could be created each time you begin a new painting. Every new piece may be the next Mona Lisa. You must trust that every path you embark on will have value; without this self-confidence, no great artwork can be created.
3 - Next, assemble several ideas with a similar theme on your canvas. Ideas can be found in photos, plein aire sketches, drawings, and doodles from your sketchbook.
4 - Start making marks on your canvas with no rhyme or reason, keeping your ideas at the forefront. Have faith that your sub-conscious will fill in the blanks.
5 - Establish your horizon. This is important since creating something from an idea has to have a sense of place indicating where are you in the relationship to your image. For instance, are you looking up or down? Are things above you like tree branches or are you looking down at rocks at your feet?
6 - As you are placing ideas on your canvas, allow your sub-conscious go to work and react to the abstract ideas that are taking place on your canvas. Remember that anything that you are doing is not permanent and that it can be scraped off and then reapplied. Sometimes, using a palette knife makes interesting marks and the patterns of scraping can produce interesting effects that can be used in your painting.
7 - If you are not getting anything interesting down on your canvas, don't stop! Ask yourself “But, what If?” You will never get anywhere if you just paint something the way you think you want it. Self-expression is going beyond what you know. So what if the canvas is reworked over and over. It may be the only way to break through to a higher level.
8 - Have a focal point that is an effect, such as the effect of light.
9 - Create “eye magnets” and ways to bring the viewer around your canvas to view your composition.
10 - Pay attention to linear and aerial perspective. There should be no boundaries to self-expression but remember that the viewer always wants to make sense of what they are experiencing.
11 - Paint without an agenda. Place several ideas down and move them all over the canvas. Constantly challenge yourself to be uncomfortable. Use lots of paint and move it with your fingers, a palette knife, and brushes. Paint it completely different than you have ever painted before. Change your brush sizes with every stroke. You should feel a bit out of control and love that you have no power in the outcome, just in the process! When painting without an agenda, you must have curiosity. No one ever grows by doing something they know.
12 - Get Over it…Painting is just the act of putting some colored mud on a canvas. Paint is cheap and your practice time is endless. Have fun! I repeat, HAVE FUN!! Paint with passion, freely, with no worry or fear about the outcome. Paint like no one is watching. Experiment with colors and mediums and break some of your own rules and concepts of what you know or don’t know. Watch the paint being applied and see if you can make a different pattern or a different brushstroke every time. An artist must have curiosity and wonder about his subject or process. Drag, pull, and push the paint around like a child would, without fear, and enjoying the play. Smile till your cheeks hurt, giggle till everyone in the house thinks you’re crazy, sing so loud that neighbors complain. You are an artist, act like one!

Practicing your way to the top
When one practices music, the time spent is not recorded. It is just that “time spent.” Then, when the practice is done, the piano lid is closed. This method of practicing can also be adopted as you practice your art. Painting is nothing but application of splashes and dashes of colored mud. It is not real. It is organized chaos. Through our manipulation of color and drawing, we make sense of it and we make meaning of it!

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Lisa Smith

8 Days Ago

Pepper Pike, OH

These are great tips to get one started and as inspiration to keep going. Art is a process, its not about perfection. :)