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How To Develop Your Painting Style And Subjects

How To Develop Your Painting Style And Subjects

How To Develop Your Painting Style And Subjects

In this series of lessons I will share tips on how to develop your painting style and subjects. This approach has helped me create a unique style (at least I think so) and to connect to my subjects and mediums in ways that I never knew existed. I can't promise it will work for you but I'm positive it will impact you in a positive way.

Here's How It All Started

The interesting thing here is this technique developed as I became very frustrated with my art. So frustrated that I simply avoided painting finished art because it never satisfied my vision. But I enjoyed painting and spent time doodling - like what you will see in the videos. I never realized that what I was doing was actually exactly what I needed - to develop connections to my medium and subjects. This 'connecting' allowed me the freedom to express myself which would have never happened if I didn't spend time doing these exercises.

To this day I still spend half of my studio connecting. Painting is easier these days but there's still so much to learn.

Step One - Charcoal Sketching & Doodling

In this series of tutorials I'm using a cityscape photo for reference in all the exercises. Feel free to use whatever subject excites you the most.

  • Try using charcoal to ‘Connect to your subjects”. By simplifying the medium to only charcoal and paper you can now focus on the overall concept without getting overwhelmed with other mediums which could complicate the learning process.
  • The basic idea is to focus on the elements, shapes and objects rather than the entire scene. This icebreaking technique will surely help you to avoid the trap of focusing on the complete scene. Connecting means to discover the elements within the image/scene that intrigue us so that we can start to make the painting our own.
  • Most artists simple grab the image and paint it. This problem here is there’s no relationship or connection between the image and artist. The result is typically a stiff or boring painting that lacks personality. By taking the time to explore, connect and doodle with the image you create opportunity to express yourself in a much more interesting way.
  • In the video demonstration you will see how I dissect the cityscape by quickly sketching the objects and shapes that interest me the most. There are demo images below that illustrate these sketches.
  • These early connections will help me create a unique work of art. I do believe if ten artists try this exercise none would be the same. So each artist would be well on their way to creating a unique painting.
  • This lesson represents what I feel is the first step in creating a successful painting and most importantly a style or your own. We will discuss this further as we move forward in the next lesson.

Have fun with the exercise and remember to practice every technique over and over.

Step Two - Acrylic Sketching & Doodling

It’s time to introduce color by using acrylics.

  • So, the approach is to connect in a similar manner as the charcoal but this time with brush and paints.
  • I encourage you to be free and expressive with your color and execution.
  • The goal is to explore – to push the boundaries out to see how you react to them.
  • And most importantly to break the idea of having to paint what we see all the time. This applies to shapes, proportions and COLOR!
  • So have fun, be free. I grant you the permission :)

Step Three - Explore Mixed Media

It’s time to introduce mixed media to the process. I happen to love mixed media and if you do not feel free to bypass this step.

  • The combination of drawing with crayons and sweet, carefree strokes of acrylic opens up a whole new world of possibilities.
  • It’s important to remain true to the ‘connecting’ process as you continue to break down your image and focus on the details.
  • One object, shape or feature at a time & whatever you do try to avoid painting the scene as you see it.
  • The more you understand this idea the better chance you have in creating individualized artwork.

Thousands of artists can paint the same exact scene but each one will connect to different features; this is your gateway to creating a style of your own.

Step Four - Create A Final Painting

Now it’s time to create a painting based on what we have learned about ‘connecting to your subjects’. The journey from a basic charcoal sketch to a final piece should result in a more exciting painting if you have taken the necessary steps along the way.

  • Remember to stay loose as you paint. Nothing worse than reverting back to the ’painting what you see’ approach versus taking full advantage of the opportunity to create something unique and exciting.
  • The beauty of this workshop/lesson is that I can revisit this cityscape image in a month and connect to something totally different. It may be the reflections in the windows, the texture of the brick and stone walls, or the telephone poles. I could create an unlimited amount of paintings from this one image. I know this to be a fact because I do it all the time.

Looking Forward

I want to remind you that this isn’t a one-and-done lesson. If you want to evolve and grow as an expressive artist you need to make ‘connecting to your subjects and medium’ part of your painting routine.

As I’ve mentioned several times during this course it’s how I spend the majority of my time at the easel. I’m more interested in doodling and experimenting than creating a finished painting. It’s how I will ultimately achieve the next level while maintaining the freedom in my work.

To those of you that will actually stick with it you will certainly be rewarded – this I guarantee.

Parting Thoughts

In my experience I find artists to be an impatient bunch. They tend to want results – a masterpiece ‘right now’. This impatience and attitude gets in the way of taking the time to explore the unknown. To relax and become more comfortable with their subjects and medium.

I attribute the success of my art and career to the time spent ‘connecting’. The very lessons I taught you the past four weeks. The freedom I’ve discovered through this exercise has been earned and not given to me. Actually, I get very offended when I hear ‘you are gifted’ and that’s why your paintings look this way. They have no idea how many hours I spend working at the easel – trying to develop my style and push my creativity to places that I’ve never been before. I have stacks and stacks of inferior art and rejects that resulted in this ‘connecting’ process. I used to be ashamed of them until I realized how important they were in my journey. I embrace them these days because I’m much smarter now and know that this is how I achieve the ability to paint with a carefree attitude. I won’t deny there may be a natural gift in what I do, but it’s the hard work and approach to my creative process that allows me to do it in a way that’s unique – a style that’s my own.

Note: This is the free version. If you would like access to the Premium Video Tutorial Version it's available via SkillShare

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