A few weeks back I had the pleasure of teaching a group of enthusiastic high school students. One of the group leaders also participated in the workshop and sent the most encouraging email afterwards, thanking me and asking how she could 'move forward with paint since I've never had the opportunity to paint before.' Best. Email. Ever.
This wasn't the first time I've been asked 'how do I start?' and as I was crafting my response, I realized it might be worth sharing. Please enjoy.
Hello! Ho-ly smokes I'm so sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. I was SO thrilled to get your email & hugely encouraged that the workshop was a good experience for you.
As for what I'd suggest you do to move forward, here's what I'd do -
- I'd start here - https://www.artsupplywarehouse.com/ If you live even within 30 minutes of this Beach Blvd haven of affordable art supplies, it is worth the trek.
- Paint - while I adore working with oil, it can be cost prohibitive and ho-ly smokes it dries slow. Acrylic dries so fast that you can make mistakes & paint right over it in a few minutes. It's great.
- Brand - I'm pretty OK with student grade stuff. The Blick Studio Acrylics or Liquidex BASIC stuff is tempting, but the texture is funky. If you're desperate to paint go for it, but I'd stay in the Winsor & Newton or Grumbacher brands (student grade is fine. I hope none of my old professors are reading this).
Starter Colors -
- Titanium White
- Two kinds of yellow (one that is warmer & what that is cooler...they'll probably say something like, 'Cadmium Yellow Light' and 'Cadmium Yellow Medium')
- Two kinds of red (my favs - Alizarin Crimson as the cooler option & I'm digging the Grumbacher Red for the warm option)
- Two kinds of blue (again, one that is warm & one that is cool. Ultramarine Blue for the warm & Phalo//Thalo Blue for the cool wont steer you wrong)
- Play with with a Phalo//Thalo green as well.
- Don't use black. Mix Phalo Green, Alizarine Crimson and Phalo Blue instead. It will blow your mind.
What to paint on -
- Paper - try working on paper to try things out. Paper is less intimidating and you won't feel sad if it doesn't turn out well. I'd always suggest doing a solid wash of a color first to seal the paper so the paint doesn't soak right in (fun fact - you can use house paint to seal the paper. I buy the Home Depot 'Ooops' paint that is discounted to experiment w/colors). A hearty water color paper with a coat of paint or gesso often does the trick for me.
- Canvas - check out what is on sale & make sure they're not warped. Go for the thicker stretcher bars, staples on the back and if you paint the sides a solid color (*cough* house paint *cough*) they look great to just hang on the wall instead of having to frame (cause really, who has time for that?!).
Last thoughts on supplies -
- Experiment with color mixing.
- No black. Avoiding painting on straight white.
- Cheap brushes are fine so long as the bristles don't go falling off everywhere.
Now. What do you want to paint?????
I started with plants for the workshop because organic shapes are forgiving & exploration friendly, but you don't have to start there. What I would do is start noticing the things in your life you gravitate towards (hence the suggestion to start a Pinterest board - here is mine). See what catches your (plants, buildings, light & dark contrasts, people, faces, hands, shoes, clothes, textures, fashion, patterns, umbrellas, cats, lips, brickwork, Italy, yada yada yada).
The more you add on Pinterest, the easier it will be to start seeing your sense of style and personal preference emerge. You're making a mood board for your artistic ventures. It is so much friggin fun.
From there, start with copying things that you admire to learn from them. Try working 1/2 from photos or artwork you admire and 1/2 from real life things you gravitate toward.
Just start making stuff & when your internal voice starts to tell you it is a waste of time, it isn't turning out well or that you don't have what it takes, let me know & I've got some choice words for that internal voice. You may have to wrangle it some, but know that it is worth the effort. Once that internal voice is quieted, you can start making things for the joy & experience of making them.
Hopefully this is not overwhelming. I was mostly writing this to myself toward the end there, but perhaps it can be of use to you as well.