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Learning Point

Creating Your Painting


1). Choose a subject - The most important decision of your painting is deciding on a subject to focus on. For most beginner painters, it is easiest to choose an image (which is already flat) and painting a copy of that rather than choosing a 3-D object. To start, find something with basic lines and shapes, without too many colors, that would be easy to test your painting skills on. Common beginning painting subjects include:

  • A bowl of fruit
  • A vase of flowers
  • A stack of books

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2). Create a sketch - Although it is not a requirement, many painters find it helpful to draw a rough outline of their figure on their canvas prior to painting it. Use a light graphite pencil to gently sketch the outline of shapes and figures on your canvas. You will be painting over this, but having a light outline will help you to keep your paint in the right areas.


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3). Find the light source - The colors your mix and the placement of paint on your canvas both rely on one major thing, its light source. Look at your subject, and determine where the lightest areas and the darkest parts are. Mix your paints with these in mind, creating several shades or tints of a single color to effectively blend colors together if necessary.


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4). Start painting the background - When painting, it is best to work from the back to the front. This will help you to accurately layer objects and create the perception of distance. Paint with a single color at a time, going back and adding other layers of color as your work. Your background should be painted first, and you can add objects closest to the foreground later.


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5). Add in your subject - When you are happy with the background, you can add in objects and shapes. Work with layers of paint, similarly to the way you added the background in. Your subject is the center of attention for your painting, so it is important that you spend plenty of time paying attention to incorporating all the elements of art into it. Analyze it from all perspectives, and focus on recreating shapes rather than the entire figure.


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  • If you are having a difficult time painting your subject accurately, flip your painting upside down. Painting it from a different angle will force your eye to look at the shapes that make up the figure accurately, rather than the symbol of the shapes your mind creates.
  • Start with the lightest colors, and then work with darker colors. It is difficult to layer dark colors over light ones, so start with whites and pastels before moving onto hues and tones.

6). Add in details - As you begin to finish your painting, add in the details you want for your background and figures. Many times this includes adding texture with your brush, a wash or glaze, and small or intricate figures as an overlay. This is the time for you to really get minute and focused on finishing touches.


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7). Clean Up - With the completion of final details, your painting is done! Touch up any mistakes on your painting, sign the corner, and clean up your work materials. It is very important to thoroughly clean your paint brushes so that they stay in good condition and will work well for future projects. Save any paint that you have left in containers, and store away your art supplies.


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