Tag Archives: Get a painting started

How to get a painting started (Part Three) 3 great ways to be more effective in the studio

3 Great ways to get a painting started.

(A three part posting)

Part 3 – Make critical choices.

You may think this is so obvious but most people never start this way. They just start.

The keys to getting an image going is simply to make choices about the work, to name what you are doing, pick a viewpoint to express it, and set up for success by getting all the choices made in all critical areas before starting.

Once you begin, most of the heavy lifting has been done and you are committed and confident.  Getting organized, applying decisions and taking risks may sound so simplistic, but they are the most important tasks in getting a painting or image started.  Just getting the choices made and acted on is over half the battle.

Start like this; Choose a style to portray your concept.  Loose or tight, traditional or experimental, expressive or photorealistic, modern or old or fantastical. Choose materials and mediums that best represent this particular piece. Dark, light, bright or subdued, opaque or transparent, brushed or transparent, etc.  Surround the work area with accumulated information and research that supports the concept you are rendering.  Sketches and value studies, too!

Decide the right size of the finished piece that best allows full expression of all elements; don’t go big just to be big or small to conserve resources.

Choose and locate the center of interest; don’t let accidental placement of any element ruin your work.  Every element is a choice that belongs.

Keep the idea clean and simple.

Choose only elements that support the overall concept you are working on to include in the image.  Don’t place favorite things in just to include them.

If you are painting horses, don’t put in locomotives unless it is a robbery. Add  what belongs and only choose elements that contribute.  Leave out things  that might be there in your research if they don’t contribute to the ideas or to picture balance.  Like roads or trees in a photo if they clutter up a picture.  If something is not fun to paint, consider choosing not to paint it.

Choose a direction for the light to be coming from and stick with it. The more defined this is, the better the image will be.

Choose a color pallet, and resist adding colors after you have started.  In my opinion, 5 To 9 colors is optimum.

Decide what goes where and why in a sketch; change the sketch if needed, work and rework it as necessary.  Do a value study if you are not sure of your composition – a color study if you want more confidence that it will work.  Stick with it once you start rendering.

Never think you have to follow any of the colors or shapes in your photo research, but pay attention to the shadow and values, looking for the consistency of patterns in the research, then alter it to suit yourself.

Choose to start!

Go render your world.



(Part two) How to get a painting started – 3 great ways to be more effective in the studio

3 Great ways to get a painting started.

(A three part posting)

Part 2 – Establish a viewpoint.

A viewpoint is two things.  One: how the viewer sees the image; and Two: how the image portrays your concept.

How do people understand how to view your idea?  You can also have a point of view embedded into the image such as perspective, but that is not the viewpoint of this discussion.

Are you painting to show how well you paint, or to say something, or to respond to your life experiences and your accumulated opinions?  Or maybe you just like to paint stuff.  Some folks paint flowers, some dogs, some events of the world and some paint the fantasies of all our dreams.  Whatever you paint it has a viewpoint, even an abstraction has to be abstracted from something.

Every piece of artwork needs to establish a definite point of view, both visually and emotionally.  Ask yourself:  how will this image tell the story, is it close up, far away, from the side or below?  Where is the horizon, where is the vanishing point, the perspective, or is there one?  Will you use color or texture or special effects to tell the story? Are we in the picture with the subject or outside looking in?  What is the object of the painting?

Will the viewer gain or see a specific opinion, an anticipation, or disgust, or sympathy for the subject?  Does your subject need to push the viewer in a direction, as in taking a different look at something?  Or they may have overlooked something; perhaps your painting is just to show beauty.

How is the art piece going to set in the world?  Is it emotional, or shocking, or nostalgic?  Is it a visual perspective or an environmental foggy wet, or desert dry viewpoint?  A bug’s eye view or a bird’s eye view, or a leader or a follower?  Is it everybody’s view or a special peek?

There are so many variations on this, and you can use many viewpoints in one picture, but the core idea needs one main viewpoint to focus on.

By establishing a conceptual and/or visual viewpoint you can get control of, and use of so many variables.

Start by thinking how someone will first see the image, and then how the image is rendered both in style and in choice of media, and then how the elements in the image are portrayed.  That can include perspective or graphic, or abstract or brush stroke style, etc., etc.

Here are 3 elements to establish:

1 – Establish what is being communicated;

2 – Establish what is being seen;

3 – Establish how it is being portrayed.

These 3 points may seem very simple but they are most often overlooked.

Now you have established a viewpoint:  we are seeing this idea in this way, and you are ready to put a view point into perspective.