I did a search for 101 ways and another for 10 ways. Search results were 500,000 for 101 ways and 190,000 for 10 ways. So here are 10 ways. Actually I don’t care what the results were, 10 just sounds easier.
- Pick your subject. I take a camera almost everywhere I go. I end up with a lot of useless pictures but every so often one is perfect. I often take lots of pictures of a scene and put them together in Photoshop. Don’t forget to take detail shots of various parts of the scene. I also look on the Internet. It’s hard to find images with enough detail but sometimes you can find multiple images. If you need a detail shot of something special (a certain flower for example) you can likely find something on line. I used to use transparency film. Every shot that you keep costs about $1.00. Now with digital images they cost almost nothing.
- Pick a canvas size to fit the work. If its a little detail like a bird or squirrel pick a small canvas so you can paint it about life size. If it’s an infinite vista then make it large but remember how big your painting location is. I can’t fit a canvas larger than 48 x 36 inches in what I call my studio. I like big canvases. I need a bigger studio.
- I like a background under-colour wash. Decide if you want the work to be warmer or colder. Pick a colour that complements this. Remember that a snow scene isn’t necessarily cold, if there are lots of warm highlights then you might want a warm under-colour. One of the biggest benefits of an under-colour is the canvas doesn’t show through. The wash isn’t necessarily visible on the finished painting but it influences your choice of colour every time you mix. Scientifically blue is actually a hotter colour temperature than red but our observation is reversed. I often want a picture to feel warm so I use a yellow or orange wash. On ‘Red Tree’ I used a red wash.
- Get paint on the canvas. It doesn’t really matter how you do this. Remember you can always scrape it off, sand it off, or just paint over it. I start with mid-dark tones and leave the darks and highlights till last. I paint in blocks so that I don’t get lost. Water gets a blue block. Leaves get a green block etc…
- Draw a very detailed sketch. Now when you are adding new elements or colours you can just fill in the required area on the sketch.
- Don’t do a detailed sketch. I usually just put some paint on a brush and start with the horizon line. I sketch with the brush as I go along.
- Fill in the canvas in the area you need to work on next. As you look at the work this area should be obvious. If not pick a place on the canvas that could use work. I think of this as a series of iterations. I clean my brushes between each. Since I work in acrylics cleaning brushes frequently is essential. I use this time to consider my next step.
- Ask a friend how it looks. This can be difficult since they sometimes don’t want to hurt your feelings. My wife and youngest daughter can be brutal but this works very well. My oldest daughter can be equally brutal but she also paints so I ask her to look at the work earlier and her observations are useful.
- When you are finished put the canvas away. This means when you can’t think of anything more to do or can’t find a place on the painting that is screaming “needs work”. Every time I look at one of my paintings I see a place where I could have done something more or something else. This doesn’t help so put the painting away.
- Get the painting on your Web site or out to the gallery. You are collecting a series of paintings (I put mine in my attic). You won’t sell them as fast as you can paint them but you never know when a given painting will sell. If you have sold them all then for heaven’s sake start charging more.