I did a little painting this weekend and I thought it would be fun to show you the process. I used to paint a lot in high school. It was probably my favorite thing to do. Haven't been doing it so much lately, because life, but it's something I'm trying to do more regularly.
First, because I was just playing around, I didn't get hung up on the materials. I only had some watercolor paper lying around, so I used that even though I was painting with acrylics. Side note: When people say they want to get into painting, I don't understand why they start with watercolors. Watercolors are one of the hardest paints to use well. Try acrylics, or hell, even oils can be really effective since you can layer colors much more easily. Also, a little tip, when I paint on paper I like to use cheap painters tape to create a white border. You'll see the effect when I take it off at the end.
I wasn't going for anything realistic here. And I've never had a very good sense of color, so I didn't bother to do any mixing; just used the paint straight out of the tube since what I was really interested in was using blocks of color to emphasize the composition (the balance of the spatial layout). The picture is loosely based on a section of the property we rent. Our landlords have put up a lot of statuary throughout the grounds and along the paths, so that's kind of what I was trying to show here.
It's always hard to know when to stop, so I added the trees very slowly, physically taking a step back to look at the picture overall. When I decided that one more tree would clutter the composition, I took the painters tape off and then I really got a better sense of the final image framed in the non-painted regions of the paper. Not bad for a little study. In retrospect, I might have done the trees in white or grey to lighten up the "tone" of the picture. It looks darker and more foreboding than I'd originally wanted. I'll probably paint this picture a few more times, trying out different colors and techniques, before I settle on the idea, and then I'll give it a go in oil paints on canvas. That's another trick, don't immediately jump into using the most expensive art supplies. If I had had computer paper available, I would have used that to do this quick study.
But the advantage of painting on sturdier stock like watercolor paper is then it's easy to hang on the wall. I used painters tape to stick it, nothing fancy, and super-easy. When it comes to art, I say let your inner five-year-old be your guide.
I put it up in our stairwell since it was looking a little bare there, but it looked off-balance, so I addded another study I had laying around.
I was never that happy with the figures I painted in the red study, but I liked the blocks of red, black and especially the unpainted white of the windows. It's not perfect, but again, it's just a study. It's all an experiment. Ultimately, I decided it wasn't something I wanted to paint again, but regardless, it's color that looks nice on the wall. I'll probably add a third picture, vertically oriented, to nestle above the woods study. Pictures look nice hung in odd numbers. We'll see.
In addition to your reading and writing, do you have another hobby? I really enjoy focusing on each brushstroke. It's one of the few things that makes my mind go quiet.
But a thought occurs to me. Why don't we use studies when we write? It's a common technique in art. You sketch and paint a few practice pictures to test out your idea, the color, the composition. Why don't we write quick novel sketches? Seems like it would save a lot of wasted writing. Too many of my attempts to write a novel a few years ago resulted in pages and pages of writing that I edited and honed, only to find the overall story and structure disappointing and filled with holes. A writing study could have helped me avoid that.
I suppose that's why people outline their stories, but when I say "study," I mean a step beyond an outline. Sometimes it's hard to tell whether a story is working until you're actually writing it. Maybe the closest analogy we have to studies in writing is a "fast draft." That's what I'm doing right now for my work-in-progress and already I have 30,000 words with the end in sight. I've never gotten along so far in a novel before and frankly, I think it's because I've been consciously fast-drafting it. It's my WIP study.
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