Facing a blank canvas or panel and not sure how to start? Or you hate to mess up the perfectly prepped support with a misguided paint stroke? Or you fiddle around doing everything BUT paint? Here are some easy ways to get over the hump and get that first bit of paint on the support. Once you start, you will be off and running.
1. Set a time in your schedule to paint. At the appointed time, face your easel and pick up your brush. 99% of the inspiration is simply showing up.
2. Set a routine of habits to get started. When the scheduled time to paint arrives, have a routine in place where you set up your palette, prepare the work space and materials, get some tea or coffee or a snack next to your work station, turn on some music, and then get started. Have a routine that leads to the inevitable outcome of starting to paint.
3. Work in a series. If you work in a series, you don’t need to decide every day what you are going to paint. You already know. Set a goal to paint ten flower still lifes or five boat paintings or six 12″ x 12″ summer paintings. Paint a series of plein air flowers or a series of animal portraits. Pick a theme to explore or a certain place to paint on successive days. Paint a dozen still lifes of eggs with different lighting. Or still lifes that are all white. Find what excites you and explore it in depth.
4. Tint your support. Experiment with different ground colors to see what you like best. Try to select a middle value so that if you put down a dark mark, it is dark against the tinted ground and if you put down a light mark, it will read as a light value against the middle tone. I like to tint my panels with a magenta color that works well for me. Starting with a pre-tinted canvas gets you over that “white canvas” hump.
5. If you know what you want to paint, try tinting the support with the complementary colors of the end painting. Where you want a blue sky, tint your support orange. Where you will have green grass in the final painting, use a red tint. Complementary colors vibrate optically so small bits of the complement will create visual excitement in the final painting.
6. Sketch out the basic layout of the painting using either pencils or a brush loaded with oil and some transparent pigment like alizarin crimson or primary red – magenta. This gets something on the canvas, breaking that mentality of a “perfect surface”, and gets the juices flowing.
7. Start painting using the darkest of the dark values. Whenever I feel intimidated about starting a new painting, I tell myself to just start with the dark values, working to the lighter values, and then the painting will take over. This always gets me over the hump. A dark value can always be lightened as the painting progresses but it is nearly impossible to darken a light value. While you can scrape it off, it will never be as dark as the first marks you put down.
8. Start with some quick, small, warm up paintings. I like to paint some fast, small paintings to get back into painting if I have been out of town at a series of shows or tending to other tasks related to my art business that are not necessarily painting. Small, warm up paintings get you back in the habit of painting without a big, emotional commitment or financial investment. You can even use throw away, canvas pad paper for these.
9. I find if I have been out of the studio for a few days, gessoing and tinting panels helps get me back into the painting groove. Just the action of slinging paint back and forth trains my hand and eye to get back into the habit of painting again in an easy, routine way.
10. Sketch out your ideas on paper first and work out where you want the major color and value blocks to go. Once you have a map, it is easier to start the journey.
Let me know if you have your own tips for getting past a “block”.
Thanks for following along.