When children are given the opportunity for creative, open-ended play, the imagination is stimulated and they learn to think in new ways. New ideas form because in creative play they are free to see things in different ways. They begin to rearrange things and think outside of the box they normally live in. They fantasize and dream about things, and do whatever feels fun or interesting. They exercise their curiosity as well as their visual muscles.For as long as I’ve been teaching the visual arts of drawing, painting, and animating, I’ve seen children and adults develop faith in themselves, through self expression, because each one is seeing himself or herself as unique. (Read my full article here.)
Adults are like children in their need to express their inherent creativity. Creating art makes people of all ages feel good, and happy people have more self-esteem. I’ve had many students, children and adults, whose self-esteem grew as they became more proficient in drawing and painting.
Painting the “color” of light brings beauty into a painting. For an area where the sun or light touches an object, many artists use white. But white is the absence of color, whereas light is the essence of color. Because light is warm, warm colors are used to express light. One of the ways I mix colors of light is to combine Cadmium Yellow Medium + Cadmium Orange + Titanium White. Combining these three creates colors that seem to emanate light. One of my favorite artists, Joaquín Sorolla, was a master at painting light and you can see that his Children on the Beach in this post truly glows!
When a painting glows with the color of light, this can create an emotional response in the viewer. Traditionally, light is beautiful, light is good, light represents the divine presence, etc. Feel free to exaggerate light in your painting to create beauty and warmth. Try using the colors of light on areas in white clouds, on flowers, buildings and skin. Notice how Sorolla even used the colors of light on the blue blouse in the example!
Who doesn’t enjoy traveling through worlds beyond our imagination? Fantasy is the opportunity to travel forward and backward in time and even to new universes. Wonderful imaginary creatures and humanesque beings can be the answer for subject matter if you have become bored with your art. Why not bring the fantastic into your work and give your imagination a chance to play in new realms? Experimentation is the key. In other words, be open to anything. You can combine animal types to create a new animal, combine human with animal, or combine several or even many creatures into one new one. To bring fantasy into your artistic bag of tools, it’s important to begin with the spirit of play, to be willing to be playful about coming up with ideas. One’s “style” of art created does not have to remain static; it can be changed continuously or periodically. Keep the excitement for your work by experimenting all the time! Keep your doors of perception open and have fun with it. Here is a website with examples of art by excellent fantasy artists for your enjoyment.
Creativity and artistic ability are two different subjects. Creativity is a natural gift that every living person is born with. Babies engage in creative play, children pretend they are princesses and super heroes, adults create meals in the kitchen and decide what clothes to put together for the day, etc. So being creative is a basic human quality.
When someone says something like, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body,” what they are really saying is that they don’t believe they have artistic talent. Some people are born with the artistic ability to make art without much thinking, some people stress out if they’re asked to make art, some people learn the how-tos and then their artistic skills improve.
The important thing to remember is that creativity is in you, no matter what you think. Creativity is in you no matter what degree of artistic ability you have. If you’re interested in learning how to draw or paint, make jewelry or do arts and crafts or write poetry, just know that you have already achieved the first step just by virtue of being a human – you have creativity.
To develop artistic ability, first is choosing what you’re interested in creating, and then finding someone who can teach you the basic steps. Developing artistic ability is like learning how to ride a bike, as cliche as that sounds, because at first it may seem difficult… but with practice it gets easy and natural. In truth, the creative challenge is really to surrender to the learning curve so your inborn creativity can find it’s expression.
It’s never too late to become skilled at something new. Adults are often intimidated by the thought of learning new things. For example, when I was 50 I began to learn how to line dance. After a couple of years it became easy. I have had many students in their sixties and seventies who wanted to learn how to draw, even if they’ve never thought they had any natural talent. Learning to draw doesn’t mean you have to be a skilled “traditional” artist. The significant thing for someone embarking on a new educational journey is to move toward it with patience and allow yourself to surrender to the progression of learning. In art, as with academics, there is a learning curve; a process.
I have many new students whose goal is to learn how to paint, however, I’ve learned over the years that the more understanding of drawing basics, and the more practice in drawing that a person has, the easier and faster it will be to learn to paint well. For painting is really drawing with a brush. As a beginner, when you study how to draw, have patience with the sequence, with the process of gaining agility. Understand that it’s perfectly fine to be a beginner (at anything!) and enjoy every little step; from learning new ways to hold a pencil, to learning how to see the basic shapes of something you want to draw, to refining and shading.
One great way to learn to draw, and my most fabulous teacher made me do this over and over, is to copy drawings out of books or from Google searches. I drew many eyes, ears, noses, feet, hands. I copied many figures and horses (my favorite). There are many wonderful how-to videos on YouTube and some great ones on this website. Have fun looking for resources.
So you are never too old to learn to draw. All you need is the desire, paper and pencil, an attitude of gentleness with yourself and some free time. Remember that it takes time and don’t be in a hurry. Give yourself the gift of learning how to draw and enjoy!
We humans are magnificent, creative beings that have a fundamental human urge to do something well – for its own sake – as part of our natural makeup. Doing something well includes increasing skillfulness and keeping our attention on what we’re doing rather than on ourselves. Whether a graphics artist, a physician, a musician, or even parents or politicians – each one immerses himself or herself in a “craftsman’s” effort. When we’re in the process of creating something or doing our best to accomplish something good in life, not only are we aware of the physical/material elements of what we’re doing, but we apply our individual ethics and values as we challenge ourselves with personal ideas about what good work really means.
Being skillful at something holds many dimensions, such as the mechanical technicalities we employ and the passionate energy that we require to do good quality work, be it creative arts, professional activities, or what involves our interest in daily living. To an unexpected extent, our personal craftsmanship leads us to a place where we can discover things about ourselves through our effort and intention for making things, creating accomplishments.
For people who enjoy creating art, we lose ourselves in the process; and that is the craftsmanship that becomes time-transcending and blissful and the outcome is not as important as the process, the doingness itself. Making the most of what we are doing, developing our skill for the love of it, is a natural energy and inherent in creativity.
To make prints of your painting, begin by scanning your small 8×10 inch canvas painting at 600 dpi. This will enable you to have enlarged sizes printed, like 11×14 inches or 16×20 inches. If your printer can manage larger paper up to 19 inches wide, you could scan a larger original. An 8×10 painting that has been scanned at 600 dpi can be converted into a 16×20 print at 300 dpi, the quality standard for printing for producing a clean, sharp reproduction.
After you have scanned your artwork, save the original scan as your “master copy.” Then use Photoshop, if needed, to fine-tune the levels a bit. For example, acrylic paints may reflect the scanner’s light, turning black into grey, so you can adjust the colors a bit darker to compensate for the fade. Once you have your adjusted 300 dpi version in PhotoShop, save it as a jpeg and a pdf (you never know which one a printer will require).
Some printers print with a laser printer so as to be of better quality, however, printing has come a long way. For example, for gallery quality reproductions I found this site online as one example that uses watercolor paper and a new type of inkjet printer for fine art. Some printers print on canvas paper as well. To sell or give your fine art as gifts, you can offer framed, matted or unmatted.
Horses have naturally been depicted in art all through history, recurrently portrayed as the horse in battle until modern times. The Renaissance horse paintings during the 4th century included some exceptional portrayals of horses. In 1482 Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to sculpt the largest equestrian statue in the world (which,by the way, was never completed until it was replicated in the late 20th century). Because the beloved horse is no longer important either as a type of transportation or as a war tool, horses are not seen as frequently in modern times. In recent history they are primarily associated with fox hunting, racing, the old west (cowboys and native Americans), and pulling carts, etc. Presently, the field of equine art has gotten very expressive and creative and can be very colorful. Beautiful works of art are seen of horses with wings and unicorn horns, sometimes together. Fantasy equine art is very popular and quite gorgeous.
I find doodling to be a creative outlet. When I doodle, I am drawing in an unfocused way with my attention occupied on other things. My doodles can be uncomplicated drawings with some meaning, they may be brainstorming, quickie designs for jewelry or paintings, or they may just be abstract or curly shapes. People like to doodle silly cartoons of people they know, famous comic book characters, made-up imaginary beings, geometric shapes, landscapes and flowers, textures and wandering patterns.
Growing up, I was called a daydreamer by my teachers; I used to doodle in my school notebooks and even the margins of my textbooks, mostly because I was not interested in class. To this day I doodle when I’m on long telephone conversations and when I’m in seminars.
I also keep journals and doodle in them. Then I go back in with acrylics or watercolors and paint them, which is a fun way to get myself to re-read my notes. Doodles can be a source of ideas for later drawings and paintings, so I keep a chunky file of doodles I’ve done that I liked, torn out of old notebooks or from other pages of notes and doodles.
Whenever I go away, I like to pack up a small variety of art supplies for travel so I will have choices for my creativity. I enjoy both drawing and painting but since oil paints stay wet, they’re not an alternative. Acrylics dry fast but they’re heavy; also not a easy to carry. So here are the art supplies for travel that I always include:
Watercolors are light and don’t take up much room. There are travel-sized cases of watercolor paint sets that include a tiny brush available, although I also use inexpensive plastic sets of Prang or Crayola watercolors since they don’t weight much and have tubs in the lid for mixing washes of colors. The brushes that come with these cheap sets are not good so I either take one good watercolor brush, a number 12 with a fine tip for detail work, or several smaller brushes designed for watercolors.
Derwent has nice watercolor pencils and Prismacolor makes a set of 8 premier illustration markers. and a six-well plastic palette for mixing colors. Wherever I go, I use paper coffee cups (easy to find) or mugs to put water in for rinsing brushes color mixing. For paper I like to have a small, moleskin watercolor notebook because it’s great for watercolors and for drawing. They come in a nice variety of sizes. Sometimes I take a large one in my suitcase as well, or a sketch pad with heavy paper.
I also pack up a variety of pencils, an eraser and some drawing pens, as well as a few paper towels. I often throw the entire batch of art supplies into a large Ziploc freezer bag so I can grab it and throw it into my backpack or tote at a moment’s notice
Sketching with paint is a wonderful skill to learn for starting a painting or as an actual technique for painting an entire picture. Sketching with paint is a form of painting loosely, just as sketching with pencils and charcoal is a loose form of drawing, only you’re sketching with a brush.
The beauty of sketching with paint is that it is a quick way to lay in a painting without being concerned about any details. For example, if you are painting a figure from a model or reference photo, you would sketch the motion (gesture) of the body and not attempt to do any details such as fingers and toes, or faces. Instead you would just be hinting at them. When sketching with a brush, you are recording visual information swiftly. The sketching with a brush may be done with a variety of stiff brushes (not watercolor brushes).
You can use one color of paint, such as burnt sienna, that has been thinned down to begin a painting and get your basic shapes down first, and then come in sketching with thicker paint to start laying in thicker colors. You can also establish where the light is coming from, sketching in your light and shadow areas with your brush. You can also do small sketches with paint before beginning a larger painting, such as the great sketch above in oils by artist Greg Dechow for a commission he’s working on.
Acrylics are very versatile paints. They are fast-drying do not have the toxicity that oils have. They are used straight out of the tube and also can be thinned with water or a medium. Artists paint on paper, canvas and board with acrylics. Here are four simple tips to help you get nice results painting with acrylics.
Tip 1: Keep Your Colors Wet and Workable
Acrylics dry quite fast so squeeze out only small amounts of paint from the tubes onto your palette, adding small amounts more as needed. To keep the colors workable, be sure they stay wet. Use a recycled spray bottle to continually spray a fine mist over the paint on the palette to keep it moist. Otherwise, it will dry out and will not be usable.
Tip 2: Palette Paper
The best palettes are the paper, wax-coated sheets that come in a pad. Avoid the ones with the thumb holes as these are awkward to hold. Best to keep the palette on the on a table where you are working. If you cannot find this kind of palette paper in your local art supply store, you can also use kitchen waxed paper.
Tip 3: Clean the Brushes while Painting
It’s important to keep you brushes clean while working with acrylics. Keep two pieces of paper towel handy – one beside your water jar and another in the hand not holding the brush. Two good habits to develop are 1) with the first towel, squeeze extra paint off your brush before you rinse it – every time you rinse; and 2) whenever you rinse a brush, blot it on the second towel that is next to the water jar. These habits keep the water cleaner and the brushes cleaner so your colors won’t get muddy and gray on the palette from the brushes;
Tip 4: Glazing with Acrylics
Glazing is the term for applying a transparent and very thin layer of paint in oil painting and acrylics. Glazed layers are painted on top each another and each layer must be absolutely dry before the next is applied over it, preventing colors from mixing. This also allows the colors beneath to show through. While painting a glaze, spread the paint out thinly with the brush. The glazing technique is used build create depth as well as to modify colors in your painting
When I recently visited the Prado Museum in Madrid, I was utterly entranced by the paintings of Peter Paul Rubens, which I’d only seen in books before. Rubens, who I love more than even Rembrandt, is known for how he captured the feeling of light on skin with more brilliance than anyone else in the history of fine art. I could just feel the life in the people he painted with his gorgeous, flowing style.
In his day, Rubens’ palette of colors and the way he mixed them were unlike what the other artists of his time used. For example, he painted with brighter red and yellow and portrayed more reflected light (highlights) than the other painters. He also concocted an original, quick drying medium which he used for mixing his colors in order to make his paint dry quickly.
Rubens was not only one of the most prolific painters in history, he was also one the fastest painters ever known. Many of Rubens’ panels were completed in one day, most often painting wet into wet rather than in the conventional oil painting method of his day of building a painting in semi-transparent layers of paint called glazes. This was more time consuming as each layer must be dry before applying the next. Rubens, however, painted rapidly as if sketching with the brush, creating a luscious realism in a loose style.
Impressionism was a painting movement that began in France in the 1860’s. Its unique style was defined by an artistic concern for and delight in representing visual impressions, with the focus on the changing effects that light has on color. The idea was to catch the spirit of the subject, as in the above pastel painting by Mary Cassatt, “At the Theatre.”
Impressionist techniques included painting brush strokes that were small and thin, though visible, and heavy with paint that was applied wet into wet. The subject matter was ordinary. Impressionist paintings often portrayed the passing of time and included movement and atypical visual angles.
Another interesting technique used by the Impressionists was that they avoided using black paint and instead mixed blacks with complimentary colors. Although impressionist painters were ostracized at the time, their emphasis on the play of natural light and vibrant colors has made Impressionism very popular ever since. Some paintings from that period have sold for tens of millions of dollars – artists such as Monet, Picasso, Cezanne, van Gogh and others.
In present time, “impressionism” is also a term used to describe an artistic (or literary) style that strives to portray a feeling or an experience – instead of trying to accomplish a perfect representation.
If your paintings seem rigid and constrained, you may want to try a looser style such as in this painting, “Seated Model” by Henry Yan. Painting loosely, sometimes called “painterly,” means that brush strokes are visible and meaningful. Loose brush strokes can bring softness and excitement to colors and the outcome can be surprising. The presence of brushstrokes in the finished work is not by chance, but something very important to the work of art. With diligence and practice, in time you will loosen up the way you paint. Loose brush strokes are easy to learn and here are some things you can try which will help you loosen up:
- Use lots of different kinds of brush strokes (repetitive strokes are boring for the viewer).
- Vary the size and direction of your brush strokes.
- To hold the integrity of the painting, don’t blend the brush strokes with each other.
- Keep the strokes of your brush loose-looking and unrefined (produces a feeling of motion and freedom).
- Once you lay the paint on, leave it (don’t scrub it onto the canvas).
- Paint with large brushes as much as possible.
- Do not add details or do lots of refining (makes the painting unexciting and leaves nothing to delight your audience).
- Use lots of thick paint, which creates lovely, light-reflecting texture. So what if some gets wasted!
- Using a brush with a long handle, stand back from your painting and make quick, free strokes on the canvas.
- Paint the whole painting at the same time, cycling around it, and do not focus on any one area (the total painting is significant).
- Don’t fix every inaccuracy or error (every good painting has fantastic mistakes that the painter chose not to fix).
- Keep your intellect out of the process of painting (paint with your feelings, not your intellect).
Everyone knows that yellow and blue can always be mixed together to make green. However, endless and exciting varieties of green can be blended by using any color you can think of and adding it to green. Examples are: try every blue you have with every yellow. Then add red or orange or brown. Try adding raw umber to yellow for an olive green. You can mix yellow ochre with blues. You can mix any brown with your greens. Add white to make pastel greens, more yellow to make lighter greens. Add dark blue or a touch of black to make darker greens. Do you see how the possibilities are endless? Just play with all your colors and don’t hold back. Experiment!
The most important thing to remember about how to paint a landscape is that landscape painting is not just browns and greens. As you can see in the great landscape above by Dix Baines, landscape painting gives the artist an infinite variety of color mixing to accomplish the beauty of light and color. Here are some steps for how to paint a landscape:
1) PAINT A SKY by blending multiple colors together with a big brush: Examples:
- Blue sky – Ultramarine or Cerulean Blue mixed with white and a bit of Alizarin Crimson and Pthalo Green. Paint with or without clouds.
- Sunset sky – Orange, red, pink, purple, magenta.
- Night sky – Purple and dark blues such as Prussian blue.
2) SKETCH MOUNTAINS – Use any slightly watered down color that shows up on your sky to paint a mountain range or just 1-2 mountains.
3) IF SKY IS DARK/NIGHTTIME – Paint the mountains a dark color and soften the bottom edge. They must be dry before doing Step 6.
4) LIGHT SOURCE – Decide where the light is coming from.
5) MIX MOUNTAIN COLOR
- With a palette knife, mix a lot of light color and then wipe the paint off the knife on the palette paper.
- Drag the painting knife horizontally through the paint to get a roll of paint on the bottom edge.
6) PAINT MOUNTAINS – Paint the light side of the mountains:
- Place the edge of the knife with the paint onto the edge of one of the mountains – on the side where the sun is shining (the light side).
- Drag the paint away from the edge of the mountain. IMPORTANT: Do not press the knife onto the canvas. Be SURE to let the dark color of the mountain show through to create texture and the illusion of dimension on the mountains. (We call this “holding the darks.”)
- Next, lightly move the knife around to create a rocky texture on the light.
7) PAINT THE GROUND – With a large brush, paint your colors on the ground and blend them so there are no hard edges anywhere:
- If your sky is nighttime, paint the ground with very dark colors. Example: Mix Alizarin Crimson with greens to make dark greens.
- If your sky is daytime sky, mix blues and yellows with greens and a little white to make lighter greens.
- For a desert or fall colors ground, use browns, reds and burnt sienna with yellow and white and a bit of blue for a desert feel
8) PAINT THE TREE TRUNKS – Begin with roots and paint up the trunk and out the branches. We call this “growing the tree.”
- Place trees that are farther away higher up and make them smaller.
- Paint the bark texture – lighter on the side where the light is coming from.
9) PAINT THE TREE TOPS
- With very dark green (i.e., mix Alizarin Crimson and Viridian Green together for a blackish green) dab bunches of leafy areas onto your trees.
- With “middle” tone green (not dark, not light) dab leafy bunches on the light side of the trees, on top of the dark green from previous step. IMPORTANT: Use a LIGHT TOUCH! Let a lot of the dark green color show through!
- Use very light green mix to dab in the areas where the sun is touching the leaves. IMPORTANT: Allow dark and middle toned greens to show through.
10) FINAL TOUCHES
- For a bank of trees (or forest) at the base of the mountains, no details should be visible; only paint some texture to represent a tree area.
- Paint shadows for mountains and trees. Be sure to soften the edges of the shadows.
- Paint texture on the ground for grass, flowers, bushes, etc. Example: Use a fan brush to paint grass, using smaller and smaller strokes the farther back in the distance they are.