C us sm l or a p e e

Painting 1: Starting to Paint

Written by Ian Simpson

Contents
Learning to paint You and your course
The paints for the course A list of basic materials Additional materials What you should start collecting from now on Keeping sketchbooks Keeping a logbook Visiting museums and galleries Annotating Theoretical studies Reading and books for the course Monographs Starting your logbook Extending course projects Deciding where to work Using the text Your timetable

Aims and structure of the course
You and your tutor Course aims Course structure

Making a start
Brushes Paper size Using acrylics Making a start with oils

Project and tutorial plan

Notes for students tutored by post
Assignments and tutorials reports A working pattern Student profile Your tutor

1:

Shapes and tones
Theoretical studies What you need

Project 1: drawing shapes and tones
Stage 1: choosing your subject Stage 2: making charcoal drawings Stage 3: selecting a drawing for development Stage 4: masking off Stage 5: extending a drawing Stage 6: making a final selection for development

Project 2: from drawing to painting
Stage 1: painting with a limited palette Stage 2: developing the painting Stage 3: considering the design Stage 4: what have you achieved?

2:

Colour theory and practice
Theoretical studies

Your first project: colour mixing
What you need for this project Stage 1: mixing colours Stage 2: adding black or white to colours A brief digression on light and colour

Project 2: the colour circle

What you need for this project

Project 3: tone, saturation and contrast
What you need for this project Stage 1: tone values Stage 2: saturation Stage 3: colour contrasts

Project 4: how colours affect each other
What you need for this project

Project 5: optical illusions
What you need for this project Stage 1: optical mixing Stage 2: inducing colours Stage 3: what have you achieved? Further reading

3:

Using colour to describe objects
Theoretical studies What you need The advantages of an easel Positioning yourself to paint

Project 1: a colour study
Stage 1: deciding your viewpoint Stage 2: colour mixing in practice Stage 3: revising your colours

Project 2: painting objects in an interior
Stage 1: thinking about your approach Stage 2: deciding on the size to paint Stage 3: a painting Stage 4: what have you achieved?

4:

Painting in three dimensions
Looking Drawing

Perspective Drawing objects Local colour and the use of colour contrasts Theoretical studies

Project 1: perspective
What you need for this project Stage 1: rectangles seen ‘flat on’ Stage 2: rectangles seen ‘corner on’ Stage 3: what have you achieved? Perspective and looking

Project 2: solidity
Stage 1: drawing an apple Stage 2: painting an apple

Project 3: Painting a Flower or Plant
What you need for this project Stage 1: choosing your subject Stage 2: three preliminary studies Stage 3: an interior with a flower or plant Stage 4: what have you achieved? Further reading

5:

Extending the view
Theoretical studies

Project 1: some different views
What you need for this project Drawing your home

Project 2: looking from one space into another
What you need for projects 2 and 3 Stage 1: considering light Stage 2: making a start Stage 3: continuing the painting

Project 3: looking out

Stage 1: the right scale Stage 2: the right tone and colour Stage 3: making the planning Stage 4: what have you achieved? Project 4: more that one view What you need for this project Stage 1: multi-viewpoints Stage 2: scanning vertically Stage 3: drawing from right to left Stage 4: painting from two or more viewpoints Stage 5: what have you achieved?

6:

Composition
A good composition A painting rectangle Painting before composition Shapes for paintings Theoretical studies

Project 1: the dynamics of the rectangle
What you need for this project Stage 1: in black and white Stage 2: in colour Stage 3: what have you achieved?

Project 2: geometry
What you need for this project Artists and geometry The golden section Stage 1: hidden geometry Stage 2: a geometric grid Stage 3: using the grid Stage 4: what have you achieved?

Project 3: composition in practice
What you need for this project Three-dimensional composition

Four practical composition problems Stage 1: using preliminary studies Stage 2: the flexible approach Stage 3: what have you achieved? Further reading

7:

Painting from photographs and studies
Different ways of working Theoretical studies

Project 1: painting from working drawings
Stage 1: drawing shapes Stage 2: tones and brush marks Stage 3: colour Stage 4: final preparation Stage 5: making a painting from studies Stage 6: what have you achieved?

Project 2: developing a shorthand
Colour notes Numbering tones Stage 1: drawing shapes Stage 2: colour notes and numbered tones Stage 3: assessing your information Stage 4: painting Stage 5: what have you achieved?

Project 3: using photographs
Stage 1: deciding on your photograph Stage 2: drawing from the photograph Stage 3: assessing your information Stage 4: making the painting Stage 5: what have you achieved?

Your fourth project: squaring-up
Stage 1: squaring-up Stage 2: painting Stage 3: what have you achieved?

Further reading

8:

The figure
Theoretical studies What you need

Project 1: figure at a table
Stage 1: the subject Stage 2: a working drawing Stage 3: starting the painting Stage 4: developing the painting Stage 5: what have you achieved?

Project 2: artist and model
Stage 1: deciding on the subject Stage 2: working drawings Stage 3: painting Stage 4: what have you achieved?

Project 2: a reclining figure
Stage 1: the subject Stage 2: working drawings Stage 3: painting Stage 4: what have you achieved? Further reading

9:

Expressionism
Theoretical studies What you need

Project 1: associations
Stage 1: a starting point Stage 2: a different approach to painting Stage 3: painting Stage 4: what have you achieved?

Project 2: atmosphere
Stage 1: a starting point

Stage 2: preliminary drawings Stage 3: painting Stage 4: what have you achieved? Further reading

10: Painting outdoors
Basic equipment required Some outdoor painting problems Painting outdoors Theoretical studies What you need

Project 1: a garden or park
Stage 1: starting your painting Stage 2: reviewing your first painting session Stage 3: a second painting session Stage 4: what have you achieved?

Project 2: a landscape
What have you achieved?

Project 3: a townscape
What have you achieved?

Project 4: a waterscape
Stage 1: visual research Stage 2: painting and reviewing Stage 3: what have you achieved? Looking back at the course Further reading

Going on to the second course If you plan to submit your work for formal assessment

Project 2: From Drawing to Painting
This project will take about seven hours. The drawings made in Project 1 should have given you a good idea of the best viewpoint for painting the same group of objects. Put the earlier drawings away and prepare to make a painting of approximately A2 size from the position which gave you your most successful drawing. Although this drawing will have given you a vantage point from which to start work, don’t try to make your painting a direct copy of the drawing. This time you’re going to begin by drawing in the main shapes of your subject in very thin paint. Look for the most interesting shapes. These may turn out to be different from those in your earlier drawing because as you look at a subject over a period of time your attitude towards it changes. To artists, the appearance of things is constantly changing and you change your mind about what is important, even with subjects that you know well. The painter Carel Weight wrote: You pass the spot each day. You know and love every brick and tree. Suddenly, in a moment, everything is changed...

STAGE 1: Painting With a Limited Palette
The word palette is used in two ways. It means the range of colours you use, as well as the surface you mix them on. For this particular painting, I want you to use a limited range of colours, black, white and yellow ochre only. You’ll be surprised by the variety of colours than can be mixed from these three basic colours. Painting in this way compels you to translate rather than to copy colour. The restricted colour range also exercises a harmonising influence on the painting. In a sense, the limited palette sets aside the problem of having to make the colours in the painting relate to each other. Instead it allows you to concentrate on other issues you’re concerned with: shape and tone.

Matisse, who became one of the greatest of all colourists, made several early paintings with a palette limited to four colours, those above plus vermilion red. First draw in the outlines of the main shapes of the objects. Do this with a small brush and black paint diluted by water (or turps, if you are painting in oils) to make it very thin, so that the lines can just be seen. Once you have drawn them (and perhaps redrawn them), don’t paint the objects, but begin to paint the shapes between them, using black, white and yellow ochre. These shapes are often called negative shapes as opposed to the positive shapes of the objects themselves (see below).

Paint everything you can see which makes the negative shapes interesting in themselves - such as a slight change in the colour of the table-top - and appear to be in their correct place in your painting. It may seem odd to you to be concentrating on painting the negative shapes but as you do so you will see the positive shapes of the objects emerging.

STAGE 2: Developing the Painting
As your painting begins to develop, you will almost certainly find that the positive shapes, having been left white (or grey, if your board or paper is grey), will stand out like ghostly cut-outs. You will need to ‘kill’ the white or grey ground by over-painting with a single suitable colour and tone, still restricted to the limited palette. This will leave the positive shapes as a simple abstract pattern, seen against the more detailed treatment given to the negative shapes. Resist the temptation to develop the positive shapes as recognisable objects. You’ll be surprised how recognisable they become, even without any attempt at describing them. There’s a very important lesson to be learned here. Often the best way to get the elusive shape and form of an object is by painting the shapes and forms around it, rather than by painting and repainting the object itself. In later paintings you will be painting the objects but nevertheless this approach of carefully considering the shapes between objects will continue to be a most important painting strategy.

STAGE 3: Considering the Design
When you’re satisfied that you have the best arrangement of shapes possible, and that you’ve made as complete a statement as you can about the shapes between the objects, stop. You now need to consider where the edges of the painting should be. You may already have decided that they should be well within the edges of the paper or board on which you’re painting. Even if you think you have successfully designed your painting within the confines of the rectangle, try masking off sections of the painting with strips of white paper as you did with your drawings. Be certain that you eventually have the most satisfactory design framed within your paper strips. It may be a different shaped rectangle from the original A2 size rectangle. It may be square. Mark the

position of the masking strips on the painting so that you can replace them when you come to refer to the painting.

STAGE 4: What have you Achieved?
Pin up your four tonal drawings alongside the painting of negative shapes developed from one of them. This section has started you painting but it has compelled you to concentrate on looking, selecting and translating what you see. You may have found the restrictions welcome because they directed you to what you had to do. You may have found them frustrating because they didn’t allow you to paint the kind of picture you would have liked to paint. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t paint a picture describing these same objects if you want to later on, but the object of the course is not to produce finished descriptive pictures, although I hope you’ll make paintings you will learn from and think worth keeping. My aim is to get you to experience a series of different approaches and attitudes which will help you to develop a better understanding of seeing and painting. As you continue you will paint better, with greater skill, but the learning process never finishes. Hokusai, the Japanese artist, envisaged the age of ninety as when he would have penetrated the mystery of things and a hundred and ten as when, ‘Everything I do, be it but a dot or a line, will be alive’. Look at your work and consider it carefully. Don’t be discouraged if your drawings or your painting ended up looking messy and confused, particularly if you haven’t done much painting before. You have searched for the position which gives the best viewpoint of your objects; you have translated what you have seen into simple shapes, and finished by painting the negative shapes only, using a restricted palette. When you review your work, ask yourself these questions: were there better viewpoints than the one you chose? Did you choose the best drawing to

develop? Did you use only four tones in your charcoal drawings to translate the tones in your group of objects? Would you change any of the tones in your drawings if you started again? You will have another opportunity to consider this same subject again later. However dissatisfied you are with your drawings and paintings, I hope that you feel you have learned something about shapes and tones. If you have only discovered your own inadequacy, don’t be discouraged. I firmly believe, as I said in the introduction, that everyone can learn to draw and paint. But it needs practice and cannot be achieved overnight or after a few hours work. Many artists practise drawing every day just as musicians practise their instrument. They are exercising not just their hand but their eyes and the coordination between hand and eyes. As well as beginning to learn about drawing and painting, perhaps you’re also starting to see your everyday surroundings in a new way, recognising more and more potential subjects for painting. Make some notes on what you feel you’ve achieved or failed to achieve and a list of possible questions for your tutor. These notes and questions, and any subsequent comments or advice from your tutor, should eventually be placed in your logbook as a record of your artistic development. If you do have your work assessed formally at the end of the course, they will form part of the evidence of your judgment. Let your tutor see all your work because this will help her/him identify any special help you may need.

This is a sample from Painting 1: Starting to Paint. The full course contains 31 Projects and 5 tutor-assessed Assignments.

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