Painting 101 - Part 1 Prerequisites

Posted on by Wess Foreman

So, you want to try your hand at painting but have never tried it before? Perhaps I can help. Painting is not hard. It just takes some practice and an afternoon.

There are a few skills that are nice to have at your disposal (though not at all necessary to begin). A steady hand is a good thing - some level of drawing ability is even better. Basic knowledge of color theory would be another plus. And, along with rudimentary eyesight, observation would also a very useful tool to have at the ready.

As far as materials: Paint would be good - acrylic paint would probably be best for a beginner (any cheap brand would be fine to start with), though watercolors would be a fine starting media as well. Oils require a bit more knowledge and tend to be more dangerous, but if you've gotten more information on the subject and are comfortable with them they have the potential to make great masterpieces (same as the water media).

There are many colors to pick from of course. Here are my recommendations for what to start with (if any of these are not available, just get the closest color you can find) - Bare Minimum: Titanium White, Ivory Black, Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow Light, and Napahthol Red Light - Additional: Yellow Ochre or Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber, and Hooker's Green. More about color at a later time.

The second items needed, would be brushes. Any brushes will do. Most craft stores have kits of various sized brushes bundled together, or just pick them up individually. I tend to use three or four brushes: a large brush (3-4in.) for blocking in large areas of color, a medium sized brush (1in.), a liner brush (the kind with which an artist would sign a painting though I use it more often for detail work), and occasionally a ½ inch brush. Brushes come according to medium and in a broad range of sizes, materials, price, type, class, order, and phylum. Bottom line: just get a few different sizes and then work with what you have.

Third, canvas. Or watercolor paper. Or hardboard. Or cardboard. Whatever surface is appropriate. Canvases come in varying sizes and grades (as in student-grade, professional-grade, et cetera). A beginner would do well to start with whatever size he or she wants to paint on (but common sense tells me to suggest a smallish size - maybe a 11x14" canvas). As to the grade, I would advise you to get the cheapest available - this is, after all, a beginner's painting (plenty of time for your own masterpieces later on). By the way, if you get a large canvas, make sure you also get a large brush to go with it (one usually wants to cover the entire surface with paint) - a house painting brush will do fine for this purpose.

Fourth thing you'll need is water. In a large cup or can or old Tupperware container, your choice. This would only apply to acrylic and watercolor painting - oils and water don't mix.

That's basically it. You might want an easel to make you feel more artistic, though a flat table top covered in old newspaper would work fine, and I guess it would be a good idea to get a palette that can be covered (I use a plastic tray with a tight fitting lid) so the paint will last over several painting sessions, and, while I'm thinking about it, I use a spray bottle of water to keep exposed paint from drying too quickly on the palette. Another thing might be a change of clothes that you don't mind getting paint on. And possibly a beret or some other overtly artistic accessory - I, for instance, keep a keenly trimmed goatee on my person at all times.

Finally, I would suggest a spirit of creativity. Browse the Internet for artist galleries or your local library for books on art. Find a few paintings or artists that you enjoy looking at. Use these examples of creativity to inspire you in your own painting. [I'll stop there before I get too mushy on the subject]

So there you have your Prerequisites for Painting 101. Next time, I'll walk you through exactly what to do to start your painting. Until then, get your materials together - we will reconvene next week . . . let's say, next Wednesday (1/9/08) for Painting 101 - Part 2 The Beginning. Class dismissed.

Please leave me a comment if you liked this article, disliked this article, or if something was wrong with what I wrote. Thanks!