Affecting a Painterly Attitude
Today I want to get us in the painting mode or mood. You are at home, practicing your arrival at a group course in acrylics. Maybe it’s a wine and shine, deal, or maybe it’s a month-long course. You’re feeling nervous. Yes, you are a newbie, you know you’re a newbie, but you don’t want to look like a newbie. You’d rather look more–well, French.
So put on your beret, slide your easel up to the edge. Put your canvas board on the easel and pick up the longest brush you have. Don’t get right at it, walk around the room several times first, hand under chin, pondering. Then slowly approach your easel, hand extended with long brush. Pick up some paint, put your non-brush hand behind your back, and pause, then flick in a stroke of paint. It can be approximately where you want it to be or it can be exactly where you want it. You’ve already drawn your picture on there, much like I described in my eBook, Pencil Portrait Drawing Techniques Easy(ier), (link) so you have no doubts about where.
Don’t say, but my hand shakes, held out that far (even if it does). Today is about attitude. We want to strike a pose. Do it several times more, until you forget the crowds surrounding you, staring at you. Oh, that actually felt good, you think, and two of those five strokes weren’t bad. I might be able to really do this. Well, I’m gonna tell you now, that that’s how a lot of professional painters paint even their fine details. What? you scream, freezing up into a tight sculpture, losing all that loose poise. You’ll grow to it, if you want to. Nobody’s saying you have to. We just want you to look and feel like an artist, now.
Is it beginning to feel natural? So for your first day at the course, you may take off your beret and not affect the long-distance stance. Maybe you’ll work on a table beside your friends, and you’ll laugh and cut up to take the edge off your nervousness at trying something entirely new. Soon, though, you’ll be used to the look and feel of the paint, how much or how little water to add to the mix.Your teacher will be telling you, maybe step by step, how to paint the rusty red tin on the top of the barn, how to paint the blue sky, how to swirl in the white with each stroke to make fluffy clouds. You find out how to make the separate slats, how to make one side lighter than the other because the sun can’t possibly light two sides of a barn equally. That, of course, is what will add to your look of three-dimensions that will mark you as a bit further along than a rank beginner. Even in the drawing I’m sure she showed you how to turn the corner from front to side so you don’t have one straight line to fit both front and side on, like the naive artists.
You’ll learn how to paint the grass in, in random sweeps, perhaps using a triple-loaded brush of green, neon green, olive green in a fake handwriting style, for a little added flair to your realism. When it dries, you can add some dandelion puffs, sticks, a mud puddle, anything to bring the painting forward into more pronounced detail, while leaving the sky and clouds more wispy and hinted at, suggested, rather than stiffly over painted.
Your stems can be done all of a stroke, slightly curved, never stick straight, with the end of a long brush. While we want to be realists, that doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t have style, flair, or that we can’t let our strokes show. There’s time enough to decide about all that and going with Old Master’s stroke-less looks or thick paint. If you don’t hang on to your attitude, you will become beat down, submissive, tedious little dot painters with one-hair brushes, and that’s not a fate I would wish on any of my students.
That’s not to say it isn’t hard work. I think it is probably the hardest work I have ever done in my life. I describe the process this way, “Well, think about it. You are dragging a brush with limp bristles, laden with a clump of heavy, thick paint, over a bumpy canvas, trying to make perfect lines or what-have-you. What’s not hard about that? Then you are hearing, at least later on down the line, the voices of a hundred different teachers saying this, pointing out that, all to the good of your craft, but just how much can you actively absorb at once?
So I want to thank you for reading my eBook, (link) Acrylic Painting Techniques Easy(ier) which I keep deliberately and deceptively easy so as not to put off any beginners, and to lure you into the craft, struggle, and hard work of creation, birthing what did not exist before, with some attitude, some fun, a thirst for increased knowledge about the medium and the art. Here’s to you and your painting. I would love to see some of your products and welcome your questions.Learn more »