Painting Badge

Bill of Thompson’s Fine Arts

Originally uploaded by nodigio

Step One: You like painstakingly reproducing a loved one’s portrait in paint. You adore flinging pots of paint at a canvas two meters away. Painting gives you peace and quiet from the family – and gifts for friends. You can spend hours at a scenic lookout, painting and sketching what you see. You love mixing colors and getting special effects with paint that others never thought possible. It doesn’t matter if it’s art – it’s painting and you love it!

Step Two: People will tell you painting allows you an avenue of self-expression, but there are hundreds of ways of expressing yourself. People paint because they love the colors, working with the textures and strokes and smells of the paints and brushes and turpentine. Others will claim that painting increases your observational powers, but those can be honed in other ways. And then there are those who claim only a painter can appreciate the work of another painter. You’d have to earn your Art Appreciation Baadge to compare on that.

We say painting allows you a physical connection with your inner self that can’t be touched with clay, or wood, or keyboards, or music. You have an involvement in pigments, textures, and the sheer physical movement that the other mediums of express lack – and that appeals to you very strongly.

Painting is one way you can help others see what you see – not just the physical things about you, but the feelings they evoke, the moods, the layers of meanings that are present in the way you compose the picture. It doesn’t matter if your art is a Van Gogh or a Smith – it’s yours.

Step Three: Usually Step Three is about finding a Mentor, but for self-expressive badges, jumping in first, then getting guidance seems to work best. If you prefer to seek a mentor before you begin, skip to Step Seven, then come back to Step Three.

Prepare a place to paint. Painting is messy; it requires a place where the art can stay out to dry, and it needs light and ventilation. It needs to be either easy to clean or someplace where you don’t mind paint and turpentine spills. Be sure the place you select isn’t very dusty because dust settling on your wet paint may damage or disturb your painting. That means the garden shed in summer is probably not a good idea, what with blowing dirt and floating grass clippings.

You won’t need much in the way of furniture: an artist’s easel isn’t esential, but you can get simple ones for a couple of dollars at a flea market or under $10 new in some stores. A for table for pen and ink sketches or watercolors will keep them from running and smearing. If you pick up a drafting table, you can set it flat for pen and ink or watercolors, or tilt it up for acrylics, pastels, or oils. With a table, you’ll want a stool or chair. You’ll need a shelf in which to store your paints, brushes, sponges, turpentines, gessos, glosses, and fixatives. The final thing you will need is a hook for holding your painting smock. You may want a stool or table for setting up still lifes or posing models (either living ones or the wooden posable ones you can buy in art supply stores)

Also select your artist clothes. There’s a reason artists wear smocks – to catch the paint spills and smears even the mostcareful artist will accumulate. Pick something you don’t mind getting painted. Long sleeved and loose enough to let you move easily, yet not so loose it smears your painting-in-progess is good. Leave your smock in your painting area. If you feel the need to wash it – don’t wash it with your regular laundry. Hand wash it in and hang it up to dry. It will have paint thinner, brush cleaners, and paints on it that are not washing-machine or dryer safe. You can get a new smock when the old one gets too groddy to wear – and recycle the old one by tearing it into strips to use for garden ties, marker ties, bundling up tree and shrub prunings, and other outdoor tasks where a bit of cloth might be needed.

Step Four: Get supplies. Pick one type of painting you’d like to do first, and buy supplies for it.

Water-based colors come in bricks and tubes. You can create both brush strokes and wash effects with water-based paints and inks – and they’re easy to clean and often inexpensive.

Acrylics come in tubes like oil paints if you buy them from an art supply store. Latex based paints from a house paint store or department are the same thing, just in bigger containers and cheaper, especially if you buy mis-mixed colors.

Oils are considered the classic artist’s paint of choice. Get student grade oils in a beginner’s kit of colors.

Paint mediums, thinners, and primers: for water-based paints, water is the only thinner and cleaner you need. There are texturizing mediums you can get, as well as additives that make your colors shiny, opaque, or matte. Acrylics also clean up well in water, and you can use water to thin it. There’s a wide range of mediums to alter the qualities of acrylics, making them transparent, glossy, or grainy, by altering the textures. Oils require turpentine for cleaning the brushes. A good choice is a pre-mixed blend of damar varnish, turpentine, and stand oil. This is versatile blend that you can add to the oil colors to get thick, frosting-like swirls or thin luminous colors that glide on almost glass smooth. Buy these separately as well so you can experiement with textures. Turpentine will thin it almost to water color consistency. Damar varnish will make it runny and kind of gloppy. You’ll need gesso to prime before you paint with oils.

Brushes: You’ll need a variety of shapes and sizes of brushes: round, tapered, flats, and filberts. You’ll want a wide house-paint type brush for applying gesso to prime your canvas for oils.

Palette: You don’t really need a paint palette for mixing and holding your colors. A square of plexiglass will work as well. But paint palettes are cheap, and they’ll make you feel very artistic, so get several.

Canvas: You can buy pre-stretched and even pre-gesso’d canvas at art supply stores. There’s also canvas mounted on boards in a variety of sizes, and even sketch books made of canvas pages. All of these will work. You can also buy unstretched canvas at fabric stores, and even paint on 100% cotton fabrics or burlap. You can stretch these fabrics on stretcher bars or frames you make with 2×2 lumber.

Wood panels: You can buy wood panels at the art supply store, or visit a caninet maker’s store for their birch and pine plywood scraps.

Other things: A palette knife helps you scrape off too much paint or to get special effects on the canvas. A small squeegee can be used for applying large amounts of paint, or smoothing ares where you want to build layers of texture. Razor blades and clay sculpting tools can add textures to the paint, too. Toothpicks and swizzle sticks can be used to mix paints. Straws can be used to blow paint on the canvas into interesting patterns. Collect tin cans from canned vegetables, old dishes, broken handled mugs, and so one for holding your brushes and small supplies.

Step Five: Play with your supplies. Experiment with color and texture. Like the Victorian and Colonial girls who made embroidery samplers, consider making paint samplers using different echniques and textures. Play with your colors and don’t worry if you make something “pretty” or “artisitic”. Just put paint to canvas and go for it!

Step Six: While you were daubing, flinging, mixing, brushing, and scraping your way through Step Five, you probably had a number of inspirations of the things you want to paint. So, prep your canvas and plunge in. Ifyou set up a still life, don’t try to paint it realistically, look at it as if it were only patterns of color or light or shape. Paint it in a series of thin layers that you can change easily if you decide to. Remember to let paints dry between layers unless you plan to smear the colors.

Step Seven: Meet with other artists for inspiration and tips. COnsider taking classes, either ones offered at local colleges or from a loca artist you admire. Visit art galleries and study how the paintings appear to be done. See if you can guess the techniques used. Apply what you’ve learned in your own little studio. As you paint, step away from it to gain perspective. Look at it from different angles. Keep working on your painting until it tells you its done.

Step Eight: Arrange a small gallery showing of your art for your family and friends. Set out simple but elegant finger foods and offer wine to accompany it (or beer and chips if that better suits you style). Hang your paintings in your house or rent a conference room and set them about on rented easels. Play mood music. Have someone else be the host to greet your guests and direct them to the wine and cheese and paintings. You are the star, and get to wander about with munchies and a wineglass, talking about your art and listening to what others say about your paintings.

Step Nine: Claim your badge!


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