Sunday, 28 November 2010

Where do I Find the Confidence to Begin Oil Painting?

The beginner in landscape painting may find it difficult to pick up a paintbrush and make a mark. A fear of failure fuelled by an inner art critic could cripple all creativity before it has a chance to express itself into a sky sketch or a seascape. How can the novice artist produce satisfactory landscape art for the first time?

Creative Blocks to Landscape Art

Experiments with Paint
Rachel Shirley
Worrying about getting the first mark perfect could cause the artist to continuously false-start the painting in an effort to capture a particular green colour mix or realism in clouds. Unchecked, this inner perfectionist could sap all confidence from the artist, creating a negative learning experience. But there are easier ways of overcoming the transition between a non-painter to a landscape artist.

Painting a First Landscape

Learning a new skill often entails being lenient and landscape painting is no different. This means learning to accept that mistakes will be made, some of which may turn out to be “happy accidents.” Unintended marks may add interest to the landscape painting and could be used to enhance future artworks. Alternatively, every mistake is a learning process.

Starting Out in Landscape Painting

Begin with mark making on a primed piece of card. Use each brush and try out each colour in turn. Aim to cover the painting surface with different marks. Use paint neat, dry, runny or thick. Mix two colours, then three. Try blending two colours into one another to create gradations. Lighten a colour by adding white, then try darkening it by adding the colour’s opposing colour (in the case of red, this will be green.)

Experiment with how colours look when placed against different backgrounds. The artist will discover that a dark colour will appear pale when painted on a darker colour, and a pale colour will appear dark when placed on a pale colour. This is good practice when gauging the tonal key of a landscape painting, such as painting clouds on a blue sky, or shadows over water.

Expressive Landscape Painting

Try out different brushes, palette knives, old combs, toothbrushes or sponges. View oil painting like a child learning a new skill. Above all, have fun and experiment.

When producing a first landscape painting, keep it simple with manageable goals. Experiment in private if need be and bear in mind that if the painting does not work out, it does not matter for this is all part of learning.

Begin by using a limited palette of three primary colours and white. Use a small painting surface of approximately A4 in size. Copy a photograph consisting of simple elements. This might be a sky, a tree, a river or a cottage. The aim is not perfection, but simply to complete a painting.

Tips for Beginners in Art

Resist the temptation to compare oneself with landscape art as seen in fine art books, such as those produced by the Impressionists or the Classists. Such comparisons will be unfair and could nurture an inner despair. Artists such as Constable and Monet could only reach the pinnacles they had by intensive practice fuelled by a passion for painting. Even they at some point would have produced an unsatisfactory landscape painting and made mistakes. Of course, fine art books continue to show only their best works.

Expressive Oil Painting Landscapes

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Try not to agonise over every aspect of the painting in an effort to get it right. Landscape oil painting often means letting go. Allow imperfections to remain, which might be brush marks, streaks of colour or irregular lines. Oil Painting is often about suggestion rather than illustrating every object in full. Cloud sketches and lake paintings for example, often contain broken glazes and thick impasto, which adds atmosphere and expression to the painting.

Improving an Oil Painting

Completing one’s first landscape painting is a big first step and may spark the inspiration to embark on a series of others. A painting that does not go to plan can be put to one side and another one begun. But learning to paint involves learning to accept mistakes will happen, and with the right view, provides the path to improvement, whether it is to capture reflections in water or snow caps on mountains.

Links on Painting Landscapes