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  1. #1
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    Painting questions from a beginner --

    I've only had one class in painting, and there, we squirt the paint on the palette, lightly painted the outline of what we were painting on a small board-canvas(?), and we just started painting. This was merely an intro, so I didn't get much out of it but an hour of really trying to paint and some tutorials which wasn't completely hands-on. So, here are my questions:

    1. I mentioned squirting paint onto the palette and just start painting as my experience, but at one point in time, I had a problem. I found a very good mix of two (or three?) different colors and made a small batch, and no sooner do I find that I can't create that right mix of colors ever again, and my painting turned out bad. Is there a way I can solve this problem? I noticed with such paintings like Mark Ryden's, that the colors are solid and smooth, does that mean these artists just mix huge batches of paint so they'll have more than enough for their paintings? I've also heard the term "color theory", is that the study of colors, and is that crucial to a beginning painter? can I learn it on my own? (if so, I'd take any book recommendations.)

    2. I have a problem with seeing the right colors. One of the most tricky things is at dusk when the moon is slowly rising, and everything seems blue (I forgot the actual term for it. I think it's called "blue shift" in scientific terms.) I know everything's blue, but I can't seem to pinpoint what kind of blue it is. That probably doesn't make sense, but for those who have experienced it (I know some, if not all) you probably know what I mean. It's when, for instance, a red object is exposed to this light or time of day, and you get confused, thinking "wait, it's red, but it's blue, so what color is it? I can see that it's red, but it's still blue." Again, unless you've experienced it, it probably doesn't make sense.

    3. How does some artists (again, like Mark Ryden as an example) create such clean and crisp paintings? is it because his paintings are huge that he can make them as smooth and as detailed? or do artists like him just nitpick the piece to the smallest corner to make them perfect?

    4. How exactly does one paint? I don't mean for this to be a totally newb question, but I meant in actual steps. What do you do first, and is it crucial that you do things step by step? do you paint the background first; do you draw the outline first; can you only paint it with light colors - things like that. I noticed that when I was painting with acrylic, I had a hard time "fixing" problems. For example, I painted a certain object too wide or too thin, I would try to paint over it with another color (usually white) but it ends up being visible still, or sometimes just more messy since you also work with water while painting with acrylrics. My only solution was to dreadfully wait until the paint completely dries. How should I paint so things would go much more orderly, and if I mess up, how do I fix it so it wouldn't look.. well more messed up?

    Thanks in advanced for any responses.

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    "Artist's Manual," Edited by Angela Gair, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, Copyright 1995 by Harper Collins Publishers. Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books, 9050 Shaughenessy Street, Vancouver, B.C. V6P6E5

    Chronicle Books LLP
    85 Second Street
    San Francisco, CA 94105

    Yes, color theory is a theory, but it is too complicated to cover in a single responsive post.

    Alright, I'll add more. It depends much on medium, but it general you will probably want to make an underdrawing in a friable medium such as pencil or charcoal. Based on that, you will then place the large areas on there that seem to be approximately the same color (called "blocking in colors" or underpainting). When you have completed this and it is dry you begin painting the detail areas that are lighter and darker than the basic color. If you look at a tree for example (and a kindergartner will tell you the tree is "green") well there will be speckles of all different shades of green on there and one side will probably be darker than the other because of where the sun is. Block in the medium green and then later put on the dark greens and even blacks that are in the shade. Put the light greens on the other areas where the sun is hitting on the tree most strongly.

    Look at some trees next spring and see how some areas of the new foliage are almost yellow, rather than green. The more you practice looking at things the more you will see of the marvels of nature that are all around you. The more you try to draw and paint them, the better you get at it. Being an artist is like being a magician in a way. You can turn a piece of paper into a tree, or a beautiful woman's face, or a futuristic jet. Buy sketch pads and practice. Best of luck.

    The underdrawing can be erased and re-drawn if you screwed up. If you get it right, then paint inside the lines just like your third grade teacher told you and you will be fine. Practice will allow you to know how much of a middle color to mix for a particular underpainting. The details are all different anyway, and so at that level it is not as important for you to match up the exact same color like a Home depot paint mixing computer. You'll see. Just don't give up.

    Last edited by arttorney; November 23rd, 2006 at 01:40 AM.
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    I'm a beginner painter myself.
    Stangely, i've always been able to mix the same colour once the first batch is gone, as long as i just have a smear left to use as a match.
    I think you just need a systematic approach to mixing paint. Don't splash the paint around and see what you get, think about what colour you want and add the paints one by one, in careful amounts, so that you may recall it later.

    Most artists new to colourized work have trouble seeing the colours, it is indeed difficult. Having basic knowledge of colour theroy is a must, that will help you greatly. It's alot easier to see a colour once you know how it works in theory.

    Those are just my oppinions.

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    I agree with the above post. In order to remix a colour, you simple have to remember what colours you used, and in what proportion the first time. It sounds hard at first, but it becomes second nature. Especially as you get used to how the colours on your palette mix.

    I think I know what you mean about the red/blue thing. Where you know the object is red, but it looks blue because of the light falling on it. In situations like this, its best to mix what you think is the colour. Then hold some of it up on a brush/knife etc to the actual object to compare the colour. Its usually easier to see if its red-er or blue-er.

    Keep rocking though, painting is brilliant!

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    For those subtle colors that are both red and blue, etc. I also highly recommend that "uses of underpainting" thread that is stuck at or near the top of this forum. It will show you ways of optical mixing and the like. Those are some of the magic tricks you will learn as a painter for how to capture something like a sunset that seems to be in colors that you can't get out of any tube.

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    You mentioned that painting with white wasn't covering mistakes and it takes too long to dry. I think you're using too much water. If it's drippy and watery, that's too much water. If you don't mix with water, your acrylics will dry in minutes. Only use a touch of water to bring back a paint that's dry on your palette, and to keep brushes moist when not in use - stick em in the cup. Be sure to wipe your brushes when you take them out to keep excess water off the palette.

    If this isn't enough, then you must have a trasnparent white - possibly zinc white? Get some titanium white, and it'll cover over anything.

    Also, use less colors to avoid mixing confusion. just primaries and white. or appelles palette.

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    The answer to almost everything you have asked is "it depends". There are thousands of ways to go about painting. Which method suits you is a matter of taste and experience. Try different approaches and see what feels right to you.

    Do you have an hour a day you can put towards learning to paint? Then do like I'm doing with my sketchbook. I'm doing one oil painting from observation a day. It's been very educational.

    There's no such thing as a right color. You can paint the same subject with one set of colors on one attempt, and another set of colors on another attempt, and both sets of colors can be perfectly right. It's just a matter of what set of colors you prefer.

    It sounds like you are having trouble with acrylics not being opaque enough. Try this - don't add any water or medium. Use just the paints. And waiting for the previous layers to dry is just a part of the process. If you are impatient, use a hair-dryer.

    One general tip for any type of painting - start with large brushes, and "block in" all of the colors roughly, before you even think about painting details. Also, with acrylics especially, work on a toned surface, because a white surface is blinding and hard to work with.

    I think you are awesome, and I wish you the best in your endeavors, but I am tired of repeating myself, I am very busy with my new baby, and I am no longer a regular participant here, so please do not contact me to ask for advice on your career or education. All of the advice that I have to offer can already be found in the following links. Thank you.

    Perspective 101, Concept Art 101, Games Industry info,Oil Paint info, Acrylic Paint info, my sketchbook.
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    ArtEdGradstudent - actually, adding water to acrylics can make the darn things dry faster. To extend drying time, add acrylic medium.

    I think you are awesome, and I wish you the best in your endeavors, but I am tired of repeating myself, I am very busy with my new baby, and I am no longer a regular participant here, so please do not contact me to ask for advice on your career or education. All of the advice that I have to offer can already be found in the following links. Thank you.

    Perspective 101, Concept Art 101, Games Industry info,Oil Paint info, Acrylic Paint info, my sketchbook.
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    For color theory check out www.realcolorwheel.com. If you are totally new to painting this will help out a lot.

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    First if you need a basic outline of color theory, there are some tutorials that can get you started in the tutorials forum which is in the critiques section.

    You should start by painting still lives, it's simpler because the thing is front of you. And set up your own lighting so you donít have these complicated lighting situations like blue twilight. Work on that later after youíve gotten the basics.

    Start a piece with a good drawing and/or an under-painting. Your Mark Ryden paints in oil, he most definitely has under-paintings. I usually start with a toned under-painting, most often just black and white to establish values and the composition and drawing. Then you can come in with color.

    When working with color ;
    1. First, ask yourself what color the thing is. Easy enough, there are only 6 possibilities. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Violet are the only colors an artist has available to them. All the tubes in the art store are just popular variations of the 6. White and black arenít colors in painting they are lightening and darkening agents. A white object is never painted with pure white, a black one never painted with just black.
    2. Then ask yourself if the color is light or dark (which we call tone),
    3. bright or dull (intensity),
    4. and finally if the color drifts toward another color, if itís a warm or cool. (hue).

    So take a fruit, say a plum. Itís color is violet, itís dark, itís dulled somewhat, and depending on your plum it may be bluish or reddish. So you choose a violet paint, add a little yellow (complimentary colors dull and darken each other), and darken the mixture further if it needs it. You can kill two birds with one stone if you add a dull dark yellow, like burnt umber. Then see if your color needs to be pushed toward blue or red. Ask yourself those four questions about whatever youíre trying to paint. What is the color? What is itís tone? Itís intensity? Itís hue?

    Start painting with a limited palette like the ďold-mastersĒ palette; yellow ocher, Venetian red, mars black (which is a very dark blue), burnt umber, and titanium white. You canít get bright intense colors with this palette, but you want to get a feel for tone and basic color theory first. If you start with a limited palette itís not so hard to figure out how you mixed a color because you only have five colors to choose from. Later you can expand your palette with some brighter colors, as long as you know why youíre adding a color to your palette you wonít have problems.

    Spend a little time with your palette. Learn what the colors do when you mix them together. When you find a color you especially like put a swatch in your sketchbook along with how you made it. It seems complicated, but you learn it just by doing it. Eventually you'll be able to mix the color you want without thinking too much about it.

    I'm not so good with the advice...Can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?

    my painting blog
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    Thanks for the feedback everyone. I'll devote more time to painting and see what comes out of it and I'll get back to you all.

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    Last question guys..

    What are the most essential supplies that I need? I have some stuff left over from my previous college art class (which was only for a month) and those were: 4 different size brushes, a paper palette (the ones you throw out after you're done with them), some board canvases (I think that's what they're called) of different sizes, not necessarily big ones, but the ones I have are 11x14, 12x16, and a smaller one. For paint, I have Alizarin Crimson (dark red?), Ultramarine Blue (dark blue?), Titanium White, and some other colors that I don't really use because I mainly used red, white, blue and purple in my class. They are Cadmium Yellow (bright yellow), Burnt Umber (brown), and Yellow Ochre (dull yellow-brown.)

    Other than the colors Firefly suggested (thanks by the way), is there anything else I might need or am I just fine for now?

    PS, as for what Firefly said, what did he/she mean by "under-painting"? Does that mean a two-toned rough draft of the picture?

    PPS, what basic colors (red, blue, white, etc.) would I need (especially the baby blue-turquoise) to produce the colors you see here:



    My Ultramarine Blue + White didn't really produce the type of light blue I wanted.

    Last edited by Sleep_Eden_sleep; November 24th, 2006 at 09:29 PM.
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    PS, as for what Firefly said, what did he/she mean by "under-painting"? Does that mean a two-toned rough draft of the picture?
    yea, pretty much.

    also for #2 on your first post i thought i'd just chime in and say learn to Compare. If youre having a hard time reconizing 1 color, compare it with another color near it. so with that you'll ask yourself, or tell yourself Color X is warmer then Color Y, and color Y is less Vibrant then Color X. Compared to Color X, Color Y is much cooler, but not as cool as color Z. Does that make sense? you should be doing that through the whole painting.

    Also i dont know if anyone has mentioned it but get Alla Prima a book by richard schmid. it pretty much goes over everything about the way he paints and it's one of those books you can go back to time and time again.

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    For a good, cool watery blue, use Pthalo. Pthalo is a greenish blue, whereas ultramarine is a violet blue.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sleep_Eden_sleep
    Last question guys..

    What are the most essential supplies that I need? I have some stuff left over from my previous college art class (which was only for a month) and those were: 4 different size brushes, a paper palette (the ones you throw out after you're done with them), some board canvases (I think that's what they're called) of different sizes, not necessarily big ones, but the ones I have are 11x14, 12x16, and a smaller one. For paint, I have Alizarin Crimson (dark red?), Ultramarine Blue (dark blue?), Titanium White, and some other colors that I don't really use because I mainly used red, white, blue and purple in my class. They are Cadmium Yellow (bright yellow), Burnt Umber (brown), and Yellow Ochre (dull yellow-brown.)

    Other than the colors Firefly suggested (thanks by the way), is there anything else I might need or am I just fine for now?

    PS, as for what Firefly said, what did he/she mean by "under-painting"? Does that mean a two-toned rough draft of the picture?

    PPS, what basic colors (red, blue, white, etc.) would I need (especially the baby blue-turquoise) to produce the colors you see here:



    My Ultramarine Blue + White didn't really produce the type of light blue I wanted.

    know I am sure you have heard already that blue, yellow and red are primary colors

    however, there are six primary colors in painting. why? those primary colors can be either 'warm' or 'cool'. mixing red and blue give you purple. but if you mix a 'cool' red with a 'warm' blue youll get an ugly brown. infact, thats how I mix a lot of my browns these days, mixing red and blue.

    thalo blue is slightly greenish and it is 'warmer'. it can give you a great turquise fit for tropical waters. ultramarine blue is 'cooler' as it is purplelish and can make better sky colors.

    cad. red is warm...alizarin-whatever is cool and so on. just remember mixing warm and cools will give you a brown faster than you think!

    so now that you understand the two basic blues better =3 what do you think the painting is asking for? the top bright area looks like thalo to me, where is the darker blue looks like ultramarine. you can mix a dash of yellow to your thalo blue for the really bright areas especially. and some 'cool' red to your ultramarine for the darker areas

    if you have any really specific acrylic questions, feel free to pm me! ive been painting with acrylics for a little over eight years now. dont feel bad if your first acrylic paintings arent smooth looking, also remember a lot of great painters that we all admire paint..fairly large. and the larger you go the easier you can get away with large brush strokes. when its reproduced in a small print, it all looks so much smoother!

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    Kitty's right (and ArtEdGradStudent). That light blue needs to come out of Phthalo rather than ultramarine. The more cornflower blue you want it to look, the more yellow ochre rather than something like lemon yellow. Matching up the cool lemon yellow with the cool Phthalo blue will make a real crystalline kind of "off blue" (after you use white to prepare the tint). Mix and match a bit with the yellows until you find what works best.

    About the underpainting here's the thread that will open that door wide for you:
    http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=64674

    The limited Old Masters palette already described is uncomplicated, but the colors will be muted. If you want "really bright" to "really dull" all to be possible then maybe this:

    cool yellow: lemon yellow
    warm yellow: cadmium yellow
    cool blue: phthalo blue
    warm blue: ultramarine
    cool red: permanent rose
    warm red: cadmium red
    plus burnt umber, and white.

    Make your black out of phthalo blue and burnt umber. Make your grays by mixing complementaries such as red/green, yellow/purple, blue/orange.

    Last edited by arttorney; November 25th, 2006 at 11:37 AM.
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