Learn to Paint Tips

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I don´t have a pallette

Wet Palette

To keep your acrylic paint from drying out during a painting session you need a wet palette. There are commercial ones as well as one you can make from home. the choice is yours. The Sta Wet Pallette comes with a sponge and special paper. The container has a lid and keeps paint moist for weeks. Chezza b palettes are a handy size into which you put a wet sponge and some baking paper. Again the paint will keep. Make you own by selecting a flat airtight container, placing and appropriatelky sized sponge wrapped in baking paper in it. If you are in a hurry a styrofoam meat tray supporting a sponge with baking paper also works, but keeping the paint a few days is not possible without a container.
You can also wrap paper towel in a piece of baking paper envelope style. Make 20 of these ready in advance. When you are ready to use them just open one end of the envelop and pour water into it.
Finally again with a meat try, put a wet paper towel on it and pinch it up to form furrows (like a farmer would when planting seed) and put puddles of paintinto the furrows. These will keep the paint moist from the bottom and sides.
For all palette styles use a water mist spray bottle and lightly mist the paint from the top to keep it moist from the top.

What are the basic steps?

The basic steps

In very simple terms, the basic steps in the dance of painting are
1. Gather your supplies.
2. Select your project and pattern.
3. trace the pattern and read the instructions.
4. Seal and sand the piece.
5. Basecoat and sand the piece.
6. Trace on the design.
7. Complete painting the design.
8. Varnish

What should I look for in a teacher?

Picking the teacher

Ok...so you want to know how to choose the best or right teacher. Well there are a lot of variables here and your number one priority should be to in the long term learn from more than one teacher! The other issue is that many painters become teachers with little or no teaching experience. Some are very good at it regardless and some struggle to really satisfy student needs. On the other hand there are great teachers who perhaps don't paint as well as they teach. So...what do you do?
1. Meet prospective teachers, view their work, talk with them and ask questions.
2. how long have they been painting/teaching?
3. Who have they learned from...what is their painting background?
4. Ask them about their program...do they have structured classes and set projects or do they offer you freedom to develop at your own pace?

With all this question and answer now you tell them what you are hoping to achieve...let them know where you are coming from and note how they respond to that. If they are being rigid about your needs then your time with them may be short.

IMHO you need teachers who have the skills to teach...to move around the classroom, help and communicate the techniques through demonstration of techniques. Someone who can paint delightfully may not be the teacher for you. You also need to feel comfortable with the teacher...are you feeling welcomed and comfortable dealing with them. Finally, as I said in the beginning...don't choose to have only one teacher...go to classes with many!

Should I paint all surfaces?

Finishing Inside boxes

If you really care about your painting and the impact it has on those who view it you will tackle the inside as well as the outside inmost things your do. It can be as simple as a single coat of colour. You could try a little glad wrap or sea sponge sponging, or use the product called soft flock for a velvet finish in a jewel box. On natural timber items that are to be used to store foods such as sugar canisters, potato bins..these I would leave in their natural state, even though most paint we use is labeled non toxic. Non toxic doesn't mean food safe. Keep that in mind if you choose to paint the inside of these. Read the label!

What do I need to trace designs with?

Tracing materials

First you need tracing paper. This can be the cheap lunchwrap type bought in the supermarket, or the more expensive type used by draughtsmen. I prefer the more expensive type, if nothing else but for the fact it is more durable. You trace the pattern onto this paper with a felt pen, biro or pencil. I prefer the felt pen as it is much easier to see in night time lighting. Finally you need something for transferring the design. there are several products on the market for this and the most common known are the graphite papers. Please do not use ordinary carbon copy paper. It will ruin your work. ou can however also use school chalk. Rub it on the back of the tracing.
Lay the tracing over the painting surface and hold it in place with a low tack sticking tape (Scotch magic Tape). Slide the graphite paper underneath if this is what you are using. Then used a pinyt but not sharp implement to trace over your line. This can be an old dried up pen, a stylus, or even a bamboo skewer. By fixing the tracing in place you can now lift and look to see where you have been with shifting the pattern.

Should I take paint to class?

Paints in class

The paint you take to class depends on a number of things.
1. What brand is used by the teacher?
2. What brand do you have or like to use?
3. Is the policy that you must supply your own paint or do you use classroom paint?
4. Is the paint supplied for the workshop you are going to? If not you should seek clarification from the organiser and see if you must esentially have the exact paints on the list or if you can substitute.

Beware: there are some brands of products used for very specific purpose and they cannot be readily substitued...so before you substitute check first.

So..only take what you need...that is what is on the list. Aside from this...take some favourite mediums if you like them. I always carry easy float and Flow medium...just in case!

I need some ideas for small designs

Places for ideas

Check the fabrics in your home - your curtains, drapes, bedspreads and hankies. There are loads of design ideas around you. Try to find the comma strokes in them!

Should I do lessons on line?

Online classes

Online lessons are a great way to enhance your skills. While there is nothing like have the teacher in front of you you can often pick up some basic skills and complex theory by following online lessons. They can compliment what you already know and do. Give them a try! Go to the links under this category.

Help! My graphite lines don´t show!


Can't see your graphite? Well, that is easily solved, provided you haven't done your dusting! Grab a rag, collect some dust and rub this dust over the surface. The graphite will pick up the dust and you will see it again!

Where can I get support and information?

Societies and Guilds

One of the most important things I ever did was join some Folk and decorative Art societies. Through these groups I have learned the bulk of what I know. The Society of Folk and Decorative Art of Victoria for example was where I met reknown painters such as Lea Davis, Cheryl Bradshaw, Carolyn Ballantine, June Varey, Jan Fox...and it goes on. Some of these ladies were just starting out 10 years ago and now they are finding success in publishing and teaching. What is more they have supported and encouraged each other along the way. Societies give you a wonderful source of support, information, workshops, organised conventions, displays and shows, newsletters and workshop information. If you belong to a society or group that has a web presence and care to share the URL with me it will be added to the list.

You can't beat a group of dedicated painters for a bit of support and direction.

What books do you recomend?

Get a good couple of resources

It wouldn't hurt to have a bible or two at your side. Susan Adams Bentlieghs Acrylic & Fabric Painter's Reference Book, Fourth Edition is an excellent resource for beginners. You can also go for Jackie Shaws Big Book of decorative Painting.

Should I paint all surfaces?

Finishing the back.

The finishing of your work is very important. All sides or areas of the piece deserve attention. They should all be sealed against the elements and finished against the elements. Never leave the back of a piece not done. It is not only unsightly but also unhealthy for your painting. If you don't finish the back, time and the elements will attack your painting from behind and ruin the work in years to come. Do the back to match the front: Same basecoat colour or contrast colour. Apply as much varnish here as on the front too!

Where can I find a class?

Where to learn

So you want to know where to learn? Lets start local. Check your local newspaper, local phone books,community groups and council. Ask for classes in Folk Art, decorative art or Tole Painting. There are lots of artists out there who teach and class fees will vary depending on who the teacher is and where they are teaching. Once you have found out about these and checked them out the next step is the shops. Small art and craft shops and the bigger Craft stores. If they don't have classes they may well know who does. Finally get a magazine that focuses on folk art like the Australian Folk Ar and decorative Painting magazine. This has a store directory, teacher directory, lots of studio and mail order adds and supplier lists. Make a few phone call inquiries to find out what is near to you. Gather all the information and check them out. Compare prices and policies. Note: Take a note of the enrolment policies as these will vary too. Failing all this, there are some good books, videos and online lessons which will be coming to tips soon!

What should I expect from a class?


Your behaviour in class is important.
Be on time.
Cancel well ahead of time if you are in the position of having to do so.
Give the teacher your full attention when requested...brushes Down!
Socialise...but don't turn the gathering into a party!
Don't be the teacher! Much and all as you feel you could help the person next to you encourage them to seek out the help of the teacher. That's what the teacher is paid to do.
Ask for clarification if you are unsure. You should be able to get some individual pointers from the teacher. If this means getting out of your chair and going up to them then do so. Avoid calling out and doing the sorts of things our kids are expected not to do in class at school.
Keep on task. Some students delight in stories from the teacher, but often in engaging the teacher this way they help to drag the teacher off task. Others may be ready to move on...
Talking of moving on some are faster than others...so be patient if you are waiting for the group to catch up and be patient with yourself if you are one of the slow ones. If possible and if necessary take a break, make some notes and jump to catch up if you can, coming back to that bit later. This is not always possible, but don't engage in a race with other students. This problem can often be avoided by not setting your self expectations too high.
If you are seeking autographs from the teacher, photos etc...please ask first! Be prepared for no as an answer too.
At the end of the class give a nice thankyou!

What should I take to class?

What brushes?

If I were to take all my brushes to classes I would need a big box! If you know the project you should be given a list of the brush requirements. There are some essentials though
1" basecoating brush
#3 round
#0 or smaller liner brush
#8 Flat
1/2" Flat
1/2" or 1/4" angle shader
#8 filbert

If you are really clever you could almost do everything with these...however if you are into teddies and fluffy things you should also invest in
1/4 " Feather filbert
1/4" Deer foot stippler

Mind you...I have almost every size of every type of brush! But this has been ten years in the making.

What can I expect from a studio?

Studio policies

Class policies will vary from studio to studio and country to country...or event to event. Make an effort to find out what they are. They may include:
No refund on the deposit paid.
makeup lessons for absences being available or not available.
Requirement of 24 hurs notice for absences.
Bring your own everything, or please make use of studio paint etc.
Help yourself to paper towel or please pay for it.
Free tea coffee or an honor system
Bring your own mug or use these ones here.
Class time ends at 9.30 pm...and that means no lingering and chatting...or maybe you will be welcome to linger.
You must come prepared...sometimes there is a lot of prep on a piece to do before you get to a workshop...so plan ahead to get the piece ready.
Some may let you bring pieces from home, others may insist you only work with pieces purchased at that studio.

The most important ones to keep an eye on of course are the financial ones...what happens if you can't come to a class you have booked and paid for.

Should I worry about ridges in my painting?

Ridges in the paint

Some of us like ridges in our painting and some don't. It really depends on the painting. If you are blocking in a colour, say a shirt on a teddy bear and you get ridges your painting won't look as good as it would if it were nice and flat ready for the addition of colour for light and shade. To avoid the ridges don't overload your brush with paint. What is on the outside of the bristles of your brush is what is causing your ridges. When you lod the brush, be sure each hair of the brush is evenly coated with paint and not all scooped up on the outside. Hold you brush upright and press the bristles into the paint and pull through the paint to get the brush loaded. When you feel there is enough paint inside look at the outside. lots of paint there? Wipe gently across a paper towel and remove it. It will cause ridges. This applies to whatever brush you are using - flat or round. If you don't want ridges then you don't want excess paint on the outside of your brush.
Also keep in mind how many strokes of the brush you are taking to get the blocking done. Use the biggest/widest brush appropriate for the job. A big brush for big areas, and use the whole brush not just the tip or the edge. remember your stroke work and press down on the brush to open the bristles and have the paint flow to the pice from the inside of the brush, not the outside.

What should I take to class?

The essential tool box

When you are heading off to class for the first time you will be struck with horror or excitement at what you see in the painters tool box. You do not have to have everything...even though now you have seen it Santa's wish list has run off the page! You should have the following basics, and anything else the place you are attending has asked you to bring along:
1. Protective clothing...a painting shirt or an apron. Doesn't matter what so long as it becomes your dedicated to painting wardrobe...or else there will be a whole robe full of 'painted' clothing!
2. Notebook, folder or plastic sleeve book. Chances are you will want to write stuff down, you will be given patterns and notes...so you need somewhere to put them. Oh and don't forget the pencil!
3. Old Towel. You will have to clean up your place after you. An old towel, laid down in your place makes this quick and easy. Pack it away and your space will be as clean as it was when you arrived. It also serves as a protective wrapping for the piece you are working on.
4. paper towel (Shop towel in the USA!!! oh if only it existed downunder!) Use good quality towel which is lint free...cheaper ones are harsh on brushes and leave lint behind. Even a nice absorbent cloth will do.
5. Flat plastic airtight container. This is for your pallette...the teacher will show you what they do...but you will need to keep paint active during class and maybe even take some home. There is a great pallette for this called the Chezza B on the market.
6. Empty film containers - also useful for leftover mixed paint.

Them to all this we add your brushes and paints if needed ...oh and your piece of course!

Where can I find a teacher?

Teachers..where are they?

If you come from the USA try the list of links, Teachers..where are they? in the links section of this site to find a teacher near you!

I don´t have a pallette

Quick Wet Palette

A quick and easy pallette comes from having a styrofoam meat tray, a flat kitchen sponge and a piece of baking paper. Wet the sponge so it is dripping, wrap it in the kitchen sponge and place it on the meat tray. When you are done simply throw the paper away.

How do I paint Watercolour?

Learn simple watercolour

One way to break the barrier of fear in painting is to learn the simple technique of watercolour. Try this online lesson with Frank Clarke, an irish artist and teacher who believes in making painting fun and possible for all. Go to http://www.simplypainting.com/htms/lessons/lessons.htm
and begin to paint now!

How do I paint a scene?

Have Some More Fun

Frank Clarke uses this phrase to give you some basic direction for beginning a scene painting in watercolour. Have Some More Fun is a phrase you will remember and gives order to Horizon, Sky, Middle ground and foreground. Foe a more detailed explanation from Frank himself try here: http://www.simplypainting.com/htms/morefun.htm

What if I can´t draw?

I can't draw!

You don't need to be able to draw in order to paint. I couldn't draw before I started painting. my drawing skills have grown out of my painting skills. There are thousands of pattern books and packets, ideas and instructions for your painting. We trace patterns on to the surface we are painting and follow the guideline of the pattern. Most of us start out this way...using someone elses drawing and concentrating on painting it. Learn to use the brush and skills with a pencil will soon follow.

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Guru Spotlight
Sherril Steele-Carlin