How can I learn to paint?
August 24, 2010 7:01 PM   Subscribe

I want to learn to paint. My job doesn't leave me any time to attend art classes on any kind of schedule. What should I do?

- What are the best web-based resources for this?

- Any books you might recommend?

- Also, where does one buy the necessary supplies (canvas, paints, brushes, easel etc.) in Sydney, Australia?

PS: I have seen this, and I am keen on oil paints.
posted by vidur to Education (11 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Seriously, start painting. Buy some paints and splash around a bit. Then take a class, so you learn more things in a group setting.

But yeah, just start painting. It doesn't matter if you do it "wrong" because you're going to do it wrong anyway, so you might as well just jump in and start handling the media, get used to working with it and see how you want to manipulate it.

Do you have any idea what you'd like to paint?
posted by nomadicink at 7:06 PM on August 24, 2010

Seconding "start painting".
I've heard it said that everyone has anywhere from several dozen to several hundred "bad" paintings in them that they have to get out before they get down deep enough to find the "good" paintings. Get those paintings out!!
posted by The otter lady at 7:20 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: THE online resource for traditional media. So much material there that you could self-teach from it and it alone.

Beg, borrow or steal to get your hands on a copy of Rockwell on Rockwell. Norman Rockwell explains it all for you.

Start with a limited color palette and do monochromatic or dichromatic studies. A combination of ultramarine and burnt umber (plus black and white, as a given) will give you a nice-but-structured range of warmish to coolish tones.

The so-called Zorn palette can come next - it's yellow ochre, vermillion (or cadmium red, more likely), white and black.

Speaking as broadly as possible, there are two main families of approach to oil painting. One of them can be called direct painting or alla prima, which means "all at once." This is the more modern approach - you lay down paint on canvas pretty much in one step.

The Old Masters, on the other hand, used a variety of progressive, meticulous layering techniques, generally called glazing. A tonal underpainting (black and white, only with burnt umber instead of black to avoid deadening the color) would be colored on top with thin washes or glazes of pigment. Each layer could take weeks to dry, but the resulting artwork could be realistic like no other artwork had yet been.

There are many intermediate approaches with varying degrees of planning/underpainting versus spontaneity, but it's good to understand how much the preparatory work can determine how much detail you can represent.

The most important rule, in my experience, is that Value>Color. Learn how to create depth etc. using only black & white, and your color work will survive. If you don't master tonal range, no amount of fancy color will fix it.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 7:33 PM on August 24, 2010 [8 favorites]

I recommend a book called "The Artist's Manual" by Angela Gair, $25, available on Amazon, she's a UK writer. Great one page pictures of media and lots of different styles.

I recommend progressing like this on learning painting: Get a good pan water color set, some basic brushes. Learn about pigments and how to apply washes and detail. Start from two dimensional works to learn technique, progress to three dimensional when you are ready for something more challenging.

Now that you know pigments and glazing, you can segue to oil. The pigments will have roughly the same properties, and you will know how to glaze. Direct painting will be clear to you if you understand transparent versus opaque.

You could also lobby for a painter's group on Metafilter. :) I would be willing to participate in a discussion group.

Happy painting!
posted by effluvia at 8:50 PM on August 24, 2010

Best answer: vidur, I agree about is a great place to get information, (however, the oil painting forum does not have a lot of traffic.... if you ask a question there it may only get one or two answers). Just the same, if you are patient, you WILL get answers, it just seems to take awhile.

One of the best (and motivating) aspects of wetcanvas is that you can upload your work and people will give you kudos and/or advice (you can expressly tell them if you do or do not want comments and critique). I found this to be very fun and helpful when I first took up painting. There are many forums aside from the oil painting forum at wetcanvas. It is always recommended that you spend time learning to draw...because drawing is the foundation of painting (even if you become an abstract painter). Check out the drawing and figure forums as well as the oil painting forum.

For as great as books and online forums are, the ideal thing is to get a painter to show you some things. Nothing beats someone showing you what is what! A workshop would get you started right and you can often find some of them that are on a weekend. Make sure the instructor is a good one though--check out his credentials...(by looking at his work ahead of time). Barring this, the next best thing is getting instruction via DVD. You'll be able to see the instruction clearly and it is a very similar experience to the workshop (except, of course, it's very obviously one-sided).
One of the best ways to get instruction via DVD is to rent them. The best place to do this is Smartflix

There is one book that is great because it is a series of lessons that build upon was written by a very good direct painter named Charles Sovek. He was a very colorful painter (he died a couple of years ago)..but even if your taste runs more toward neutrals you would still benefit from his lessons. Charles Sovek, Develop your Natural Ability to Paint

I don't know how you should get your supplies in AU..I imagine any of the catalogs would be good (Utrecht, Dick Blick?).

Finally, consider joining the "painting-a-day" movement (which simply means you will vow to paint something small every day). It is amazing how painting every day will help you to get familiar with materials and make you feel relaxed about painting. Leave your paints out in a permanent place. When they are out all the time you will be more inclined to paint often. Consider the paintings "starts". They don't even have to be finished to count. Do 100 "starts" ---you'll be well on your way to becoming a painter.
posted by naplesyellow at 11:56 PM on August 24, 2010

Another vote for Wetcanvas.

Most importantly buy the paints ASAP, get them out, and start making marks.
posted by fire&wings at 5:15 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: youtube has tons of painting tutorials, just search for oil painting.
posted by Melsky at 5:50 AM on August 25, 2010

You may want to do some research on some artists in your area. A guy in my neighborhood retired from teaching art at a college, and now holds classes twice a week in the studio in his backyard. They are both drop-in classes, pay as you go. You might be able to find a similar situation where you are.
posted by frecklefaerie at 8:04 AM on August 25, 2010

Nthing just get started!
I started painting again after a multi-year lapse, and I'm working through the exercises in Betty Edwards's Color as a kickstart. She also give pointers on materials in the book.
I am excited to check out Wetcanvas myself.
posted by natasha_k at 11:20 AM on August 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the "just start painting" support, the book recos, Wetcanvas, and the YouTube idea!

I think I am ready to get started. Now, to buy the essentials..

I have googled for art supply stores in Sydney, but there don't seem to be any in my area. I am hoping that a Sydneysider would chime in before I trek to another neighbourhood to check out a store, only to find it disappointing or too expensive.
posted by vidur at 4:09 PM on August 25, 2010

Response by poster: Update: I met (IRL) an art student from UNSW who pointed me to this store. Just thought I'll put this here for future reference, especially for other users.

Once again, thanks everyone for their advice and encouragement. I am going to mark this as resolved now.
posted by vidur at 4:24 PM on September 1, 2010

« Older I'm going to Memphis, where the beat is tough.   |   How do I organise a veggie swap? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.