Thursday, March 20, 2014

Starting Art

Many people want to start art, but don't know how or where to begin.
Let me tell you about how I started producing my own watercolour paintings, as my experiences can be applied to other forms of art too.
I have always loved colour and shape, and I had a home - so I began with home decorating; choosing and mixing colours and trying out different paint techniques that were currently in vogue. I have rag-rolled, stenciled and used colour-blocks along with the best of them. This drew on my admittedly already strong imagination and my ability to visualize the results.
It is impossible not to be influenced by the work of others - whose style do you most admire? An important skill is to be able to identify why you like something, so you can begin to build a proper understanding of what works. However, I don't advocate going too far down that route, as over analyzing anything can tie you up in minute details that prevent you getting anything done.
An ability to be self-critical is essential. I mean critical in the true sense; not looking only for faults, but taking a step back so you look at what you have produced as if it belonged to someone else. What works, and what could be done better? You gradually refine your ideas and your skill to produce more satisfying results every time. So perhaps reflective would be a better word than self-critical.
I had drawn and painted as a child - who doesn't? I had also joined in when my own children were small and we got the paints and pencils out. However it's difficult to produce good results when you use cheap materials.
Cheap brushes don't hold paint or make a good line, and cheap paint can give a pale and unsatisfactory result, so I made little progress at that stage. It is also true that my motivation for painting was completely wrong for my own personal development. I was simply occupying my children's time and allowing them to experiment.
Things changed when I trained to become a primary school teacher. I needed to teach drawing, painting and three-dimensional art and so I had to properly focus on how children - people - with vastly different starting points of skill and interest can create something worthwhile. In my experience, children learn best by example, so I had to demonstrate the techniques I wanted them to use. I wanted them to succeed, so I had motivation. I had to find something that would work for me and for them so I developed focus and commitment. The projects I set them were things that would give good results even when executed at a simple level, but which could be embellished by those who were ready.
On leaving teaching I shelved my painting until my husband and I reviewed our lives, and downsized to a life style which enabled us to work part-time. We wanted to spend more time doing the things we enjoyed. This step brought with it lots more motivation, as we needed to start to bring in some extra income to be able to live as we wished to. As Alec began to buy paintings to frame and sell on, I began to look at the art he was buying and to assess my ability to produce something of a similar standard and quality. I had the time and energy to start painting with a vision of the type of work I wanted to produce. These would be simple paintings, drawing on my love of colour and shape, which you recall is where I started my story.
I bought the best brushes, paints and paper I could afford. I also bought a book that I could refer to for advice. I have looked at the book, but I have learned most by having a go. Mixing paint, exploring ideas, practicing brush control.
My advice is to spend a little time every day until you find your direction. You may be drawn to landscapes, or detailed work, or like me you may find satisfaction in bold, simple pictures. Find out what feeds your passion for art.

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