Painting with confidence

Painting with confidence – it’s just paint

I’ve had the great pleasure of tutoring many aspiring representational painters over the years, and one thing that is very common with new painters is a tentative attitude when it comes to applying paint – more specifically oil paint. A person wants to learn “how” to paint, but over time a student begins to understand that in terms of applying paint, the “what, when and where” of paint is more important. What color, what value, what thickness, what stroke, etc, where to place it, and at what time during the painting development.

There are lots of general visual “rules” based in science that help direct this application of paint, but adding experience to the science is a very powerful approach. To get that experience, a painter must paint. In that way, painting is not unlike learning a musical instrument. Everyone can play a note, but you need to learn what notes and when to put them together in order to perform a musical piece. Once the what and when becomes second nature, skill takes over and the act of applying paint (or playing a musical instrument) becomes subconscious. This is when the artistic side gets released. A virtuoso or master at this point will impart his own separate vision for emotion, drama, and other artistic aspects into the piece that would not be possible prior to having that skill.

A musician needs to play many sour notes while learning to play their instrument of choice. They must not be coy about attempting to hit the notes lest they not learn at all.   In this way, a painter must dig into their paint, and get it on the canvas. Once there, they can correct, improve, wipe off, modify, and otherwise move the painting toward their vision for the piece. Over time, a painter will need to modify their piece less and less and artistic quality improves. Real learning will have taken place as a person transforms into a skilled painter – confidently applying paint in just the right place, in the right color and tone, at the right time. She/he is now playing a song, hitting the notes in the right way – a work of art.

If you are a painter, dig in. Get it on the canvas and see what it does. Be mindful of the science of perspective, drafting, etc…, but paint with confidence. Over time it gets easier. Much easier.

It’s only paint.

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