You can start out as an amateur, become intermediate then develop into
a Professional Artist …. How???
You can go to art school to learn painting, go to college to earn a degree.
You can apprentice under a master painter or you can be self educated (self or home schooled).
Many artists are self taught, but if they have not learned the principles of fine art painting, they are called primitive or folk artists.
A School may consist of any group of artist committed to learn and teach each other according to the principles of fine art painting.
On average it takes four to six hours of painting and studying a week for two years to reach a professional level.
The Seven Principles of Fine Art Painting
The word “Fine” does not so much denote the quality
of the artwork in question, but the purity of the discipline.
There are 7 fundamental principles of representational fine art. They are:
1. Motivation – the idea or the decision of what you want to paint.
2. Composition – the arrangement of elements within a space
3. Drawing – the accurate representation of form, proportions and perspective
4. Value – the relative degree of light or dark make up the values
5. Color – the relative degree of hue, temperature and saturation; color theory and usage
6. Edges – where two forms or brushstrokes meet, they are a soft or a hard edge
7. Paint Application – how the paint is applied to a surface
Within each of these principles there are properties or elements for instance;
The elements of Composition include the Focal Area, Balance, Unity, Leading Lines and Overlapping.
The Properties of Color include: Hue, Temperature, and Intensity/Saturation.
The five tone Values make objects in the painting appear three dimensional.
Note: Abstract/Expressionist art has only 6 principles. Drawing is of little to no concern, but the other principles still apply.
Even the best planned painting needs constant adjustments (fixing)!
Be Honest … critique your own paintings by asking how all of these principles are executed.
Be Brave … ask other artists to help you critique (NOT CRITICIZE) your work according to these principles.
Be Easy … on yourself, don’t expect too much too soon.
The Secret … is not talent … it is knowledge. Knowing these principles is only gained
by study and practice. It is learned, be it in a school, a painting group or on your own,
Talent … is simply the passion or desire to learn.
Style … your own personal style will only emerge as a result of learning to execute these principles.
Just as your own handwriting style developed after learning how to construct
each letter of the alphabet first.
Your paintings will always have $ value if these principles are applied!
Motivation can be one of the most difficult principles to apply.
We often don’t know what we want to paint. We either are just starting out or haven’t settled into a favorite subject matter. We flip through books, magazines, calendars and search the internet looking for something that moves us to paint. The weather outside may not be too delightful to take our own photos, or we don’t have any interesting objects to set up a still life arrangement.
A word about copyright laws.
You can copy another artists painting once it has become public domain, which is fifty years after the artist has deceased. When you sign a copied painting you must write “after Van Gouge” or whatever the original artists name is. Many people think any photo in a newspaper is copyright free, but this is not true, news companies purchase their photos from photographers.
So, be respectful of this law and use your own photos, public domain photos and paintings (public domain photos and purchased stock photos do not need to have “after the artist’s name” written below your signature.
Deciding what to paint is usually emotional …
Something moved you enough to say “That’s what I want to Paint”!
It can be a story or statement you want to make.
History, memories, or interpretations of people, places and things,
You are not going to be very motivated to paint something you have little or no interest in.
Compositions work if they have a strong Focal Point – only one!
This is the area or subject that inspired or motivated you.
This area should never be in the center of the canvas, nor should it be too close to the edges.
The goal of the painting is to lead the eye to the focal point.
Now all the other elements of composition must support the focal point.
Balance, unity and variety make up the supporting composition, because it is more pleasing. Something doesn’t feel right if it is unbalanced, disconnected or repetitious.
There are many types of compositions i.e. triangle, L-shaped, center-type, etc.
The important thing is how the eye travels around and around and around, never getting bored or taken out of the picture, but always returning to the focal point.
So unite things by overlapping them, use odd numbers of objects, lean trees and grasses into the picture … don’t repeat the same brushstrokes or shapes. Don’t line everything up according to size, mix the tall and short things up to balance the whole composition out.
Don’t spend time on detailed drawing yet.
Start with the overall placement of things and make a good composition first.
You paint a painting – you draw a drawing!
Your drawing ability is the framework of the painting process.
You made shapes to place things into a good composition, now you will define the anatomy, proportion and perspective of these things.
This can be done by defining the anatomy from the general shape (square, circle, cone, box, cylinder sphere, etc).
Proportion can be determined by measuring or comparing its size in relation to the other objects or to determine the portion size of the whole object. I.e. is the window in the door a third or a quarter size of the door. Is the door half as tall or two thirds as tall of the house … Is the tree taller than the house …
There are many formulas and tricks to help get the right perspective of the picture you are painting.
Often there is a clue in the proportions of the things in your painting.
You will find where your eye level is … you will see if you are looking up, down or straight on to something.
Simply use one-point perspective as a guide. Everything is drawn down or up to that eye level or vanishing point you picked.
To make an object or scene look three dimensional on a flat surface is the real magic of painting.
A painting can far surpass a photograph in this matter. A painting done from a reference photo can come to life in an exciting way if the values are executed well.
The degree of Light determines the value, shade or tone of everything in the painting.
Yes, light travels in a straight line, but it also wraps itself around or through things and it reflects or bounces off things. It is also bright or dim, coming from the left or the right, from high above or from very low.
The hills in the distance may have layers of atmosphere, morning mist or evening dusk that makes them appear lighter than they really are. The tops of the trees are lighter because they are closer to the sun, etc.
EVERY OBJECT HAS FIVE TONE VALUES. Be it a tree, rock, apple, face or boat.
This is especially applied to the objects in the focal area and supporting objects … not each
individual blade of grass necessarily.
1. The Body Tone where the light is in line with the object.
2. The Body Shadow where the light is not in line with the object.
3. The Highlight where a concave or convex plane is in direct line with the light.
4. The Reflection where light illumination bounces back into the shadow.
5. The Cast Shadow where the object stands in the way of the light, casting a shadow onto the ground or another object or table etc.
There are several color theories you can adhere to in painting. It is a personal choice.
I will stick to the one I use the most. The Complementary Color Theory
LIGHT gives us color! We know light has color because we have a sun and we see a rainbow.
Light is made up of three primary colors: Yellow, Red and Blue.
So whatever the light shines on … we must use these three colors to paint it.
Now … for the Rainbow … all six colors!
We put the Complementary Color Theory to work by mixing two of the primary colors to produce the three secondary (Complementary) colors.
Mix yellow and red to make orange. Orange is the compliment to the primary color not used … Blue
Mix yellow and blue to make green. Green is the compliment to the primary color not used … Red
Mix blue and red to make violet (purple). Violet is the compliment to the primary color not used … Yellow
Yellow & Violet – Red & Green – Blue & Orange
Now how to use the Complementary Color Theory!
Have you ever asked “What color gray is it? … Is it bright or is it a dull color?”
That’s what a colors compliment does to it …
It dulls or tones it down from a little bit all the way to a neutral grey.
So the shadow side of a red apple is made with red and enough green to tone it down. If the light is strong and the shadow needs to be darker … add more green to reach a neutral gray, but not enough to actually see green. If that happens, just add more red back into it.
Another way to accomplish this is to mix white and black to make the value of gray you want and then mix the color into it to create almost the same effect as using the complimentary color.
Color Mixing … Hue, Temperature and Saturation
So you have three primary colors and three secondary colors … and I’m telling you that’s all there is … nature only gives us one sun and one rainbow … so how do I get brown, purple, turquoise, magenta, cyan, sienna, umber, ochre, teal, burgundy, peach, beige, aqua … and hundreds more ????????
Hue knows … every color leans more to some degree toward one of the six colors
Ask yourself – What Color is it … Green
Is it a blue or a yellow green … A little bluish green (Teal)
… A little yellowish green (lime green)
Temperature … it’s warm under the sun and it’s cool in the shade.
Yellow, Red & Orange are called Warm Colors
Blue, Purple (Violet) & Green are called Cool Colors
Saturation … straight from the tube or altered in hue or tone.
Saturation is its degree of brightness, tint strength
To lighten a color add white
To brighten a color add a lighter, brighter version of that color
To darken or dull the intensity … add your darkest add its complimentary color
A Limited Palette of Colors is a good place to start learning to control and mix paint.
Titanium White & Ivory Black ( I sometimes use white gesso in place of white paint)
Alizarin Crimson a violet red, but you can make it redder with a little orange added)
Diox. Purple (this is your violet)
Hookers or Sap Green
If everything in your painting has a hard, sharp, crisp outline it will look like
a cutout pasted on.
So, we paint edges soft or fuzzy to avoid this.
The shadow side of an object has to gradually blend in from the lit side.
Save the crisp sharp hard edges for the focal area where the contrast
between light and dark are the strongest.
Everything outside the focal area … is just that, out of focus to a lesser degree.
So these areas are going to have softer edges.
Remember you are looking through layers of atmosphere in those distant hills.
7. Paint Application
Paint can be applied to the surface in many ways; thick, thin, rough, smooth etc.
This also becomes a personal choice and will help define your own style.
The thing to keep in mind is to keep it interesting.
Large areas of flat smooth color without variation are uninteresting to the eye.
Brushstrokes should be no longer than a couple of inches.
Brushstrokes that are repetitive in size and direction also become boring to the viewer.