By Rick Jones
You just finished setting up an interesting still-life. You placed a couple of apples, a vase of flowers, and some grapes on a lovely piece of fabric, carefully making some folds here and there. You've arranged your still-life in front of a very dark background. Since you positioned a light source coming in from one direction, there's an interesting pattern of darks and lights. Your palette is loaded with colors and all of your supplies are at hand. You've chosen just the right size canvas for your painting and it's properly prepared and placed on your easel. Now, you sit down to paint---and you draw a blank. You're faced with this vast, white canvas staring back at you. You reciprocate with a blank stare back at the canvas.
Now what? At one time or another every artist faces this artistic version of "writer's block". Almost every beginner faces it out the gate. The wiring in our brain that has evolved from prehistoric times that protected us from predators and each other triggers our "fight or flight" response when we face fear. And fear is the root cause of artistic or creative mental block.
Many questions race through your mind when you first sit down in front of that blank canvas and are confronted with that vast, white nothingness. A beginner may think "What if I mess this up?" "What if I make a mistake?" or "What if people don't like it?" An experienced painter---and this does occasionally happen to them---might wonder "Will this painting be better or worse than my last one?" or "What if the selection committee rejects it?" or "Will this one sell?" Sudden fear can set in whether it's related to failure or success.
There are some strategies that may help you overcome this fear, whatever the cause. Step away from your canvas, grab an 18"x24" newsprint pad and some soft pencils (4B or 6B) or soft charcoal and begin sketching your subject in very loose, gestural strokes. Cast aside any thought of careful drawing of shapes and detail. This is an exercise to loosen you up and force you to not only see the subject's overall shape, but the relationships of the shapes within and the shapes between (negative shapes). Spend no more than 1-2 minutes on a series of theses quick studies. You're not trying to capture a "picture" of what you see, but rather the essence of what you see. Keep your strokes fluid and moving freely around the page. After a few of these quick studies, begin to think positive thoughts about what can happen as you begin your painting like "Creating is a lot of fun!" or "I love making art, making something out of nothing!"
Once you feel fully engaged in the process, sit back down in front of your canvas, and using a number 4 or 6 round brush, mix up a lighter blue, green, or gray color, and begin loosely sketching in your still-life laying it out on your canvas in an interesting way. There are no rules stating that it has to look exactly like what you see. This approach should get you to focus more on the process of seeing and composing. You'll have time later to think about the finished product as you paint in areas and arrange your colors so they make sense to you.
In the meantime, you may notice that your fear has turned into joy!
Renaissance Fine Art Supplies in Hamilton, Ohio is a better quality art supply store. Rick Jones owns the store with his wife, Chris, and son, Brandt. They are located in downtown Hamilton at 218 High Street in the Artspace Hamilton Lofts building at the intersection of High and Second. We offer paints, mediums, brushes, canvas, papers, pads, pencils, charcoal, colored pencils, markers, inks, dyes, pens, easels, and much more---including varnishes. Visit: http://www.rfasupplies.com for more information.
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Save the Date! If you have a car you'd love to enter, contact Stan Gauntt for more information 785-717-9170
Junction City Arts Council offers painting classes for children and adults. Find out more.
Do you remember how fascinating it was to mix colors as a child? Finding out that yellow and blue make green is a profound discovery for a young mind, and an important one. But in order to learn color mixing, it’s important to be able to see it in action.
Fortunately, there are many color mixing experiments that kids can do at home. And they are very inexpensive. Here are some to try.
Mixing Colors “By Hand”
Young children love to finger paint. There’s just something about the feeling of wet paint on the hands that they can’t resist.
It’s easy to turn finger painting into a color mixing lesson. Try putting one color of paint on one of your child’s hands and another color on the other. Then have him rub them together three or four times. When he pulls his hands apart, a whole new color will be there.
Once your child has gotten accustomed to the idea of mixing colors, he might like to try to mix his own unique shades. Give him plenty of paper and paint in primary colors and let him work with minimal guidance. He’ll quickly realize what works and what produces dull blacks and browns.
Mixing Colors in Water
Another fun color mixing project involves mixing different colors of water. This can be accomplished with clear glasses or pitchers, water and food coloring. Start out by filling the containers about half full of water and adding a different color to each one. Then have your child mix the colors as he pleases, either pouring one color directly into another or mixing colors in a separate container. Show him how to add more food coloring to change the shade or make the color more intense.
Once he’s gotten the hang of it, try quizzing him on the colors. Provide a container of water in each of the primary colors, and ask him to make a specific color by mixing two of them. This will provide valuable lessons not only in color mixing, but also in trial and error.
Kids who have been exposed to color mixing might like to try their hand at coloring some of the foods they eat. Vanilla pudding and white cake frosting are good mediums for color experiments. Kids can add a drop or two of different colors of food coloring and mix until they end up with their favorite colors. And when they’re done, they can eat their creations.
Mixing colors is lots of fun for kids, and it’s very educational. It can come in handy if they decide to pursue art later in life. And any child can benefit from the reasoning and memory skills taught by color mixing experiments.
JC Arts offers lots of fun art classes for kids. During the school year, we have free "Hands & Hearts 4 Art" classes on Saturdays at 1pm. Contact us for more information or check our calendar for times and dates.
You probably already know this, but just in case: the primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. They cannot be created by mixing colors. It is from these colors, however, that all other colors have their origin.
When you mix two primary colors you arrive at a secondary color. Red and blue makes purple, red and yellow makes orange, and blue and yellow makes green. Once you mix three colors together, such as orange, orange, and yellow, you get a tertiary color. Which tertiary color you get will depend on which primary colors you combine and in which proportion.
Many people consider black and white to be colors, but they’re not. You can’t make black or white by mixing other colors together. These are considered hues or shades. When you add black to a color, you darken that color; conversely, when you add white, you lighten the original color.
Colors also have a tendency to be either warm or cool. Reds and yellows, as a general rule, are considered warmer colors. Blues, on the other hand, are considered cooler colors. While there are different types of primary colors, you will always get a secondary color when mixing two primary colors together.
To help you determine what colors you will receive when combining a particular set of paints, you may want to create a color wheel or chart. Begin with a triangle on a sheet of paper. At each point paint one of the primary colors from your set. In the middle of those two colors, on each side of the triangle, mix equal amounts of the primary colors to make the secondary color.
Keeping track of which primary colors you’re using when creating a new color is helpful. You’ll want to list which colors you began with and then in which proportions so you’ll be able to duplicate the color in the future. Look at the colors opposite of each other on your color wheel; those are called complementary colors. So, the complementary color for red is green, blue is orange, and yellow is purple.
Why do you need to know about color theory and how will it help you as a crafter or artist? Knowing what colors are needed to create other colors can help when painting, using colored pencils, or deciding which colors to combine for your home décor. Now, what can you do with this new knowledge?
We offer a variety of fun and interesting art classes at JC Arts Council. Contact us today, or check out our home page for more info.
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