1. Not Covering the Entire Canvas with
Paint before Finishing off Areas
You can’t see the value and color relationships in a painting unless all the general color and values already on the canvas. Just as it is hard to tell if a recipe works without all the ingredients combined together. Here are the general steps to a painting.
1. Start by drawing in the basic contours of your subject with either charcoal or a neutral paint color.
2. Once the drawing is done using thin paint(about the consistency of heavy cream) cover the main areas and shapes with accurate values and colors.
3. Blur your vision look for the basic light value and color along with the dark value and color of each area and object. Once the entire canvas is covered you can more accurately access which value and colors need to change and which ones may stay the same.
4. Once the painting is roughed in, work on the painting as a whole.
5. Whether you are doing abstract, non-objective, representational or hyper realism this is the best way to start your painting.
2. Using Thick Paint too Quickly
Don’t put the paint down too thickly or too quickly. It is very hard to control even by a very experienced artist. Start with thin paint. Artists that create thick paintings don’t start out painting in thick paint. In fact except with a few exceptions all paintings start with thin layers of paint. Each successive layer of paint is built up thicker and thicker until the surface is as thick as the artist wants. If you paint too thick early on you will end up fighting the paint and it will be almost impossible to get the subtlety you want and can end with a painting that is overworked. If you have the paint too thick and you can’t work with it take off the excess paint. Scrape it down with a palette knife and start again. Many times scraping can be a great way to regain control of your painting so don’t be afraid to scrape away paint when it is necessary and then go back into the area and repaint it.
3. Using too Much White
Using white paint incorrectly can lead to pasty color mixtures. Pasty lifeless color mixtures is one of the most common problems beginning oil painters have when they paint with oils. The problem arises because they overuse white. White paint is necessary in order to mix literally thousands of colors however you only want to use it as needed. Many new artists reach for the white paint first. It should be one of the last things to reach for when creating your lighter color mixtures. Remember when you use white it causes your paint mixture to lose intensity and shift slightly cooler. The best way to avoid lifeless color mixtures is to use this basic approach to your color mixtures.
1. Mix your colors together to get the hue of the color first(using as few paints as possible)
2. Lower the intensity of your color mixture as needed afterwards
3. If the color mixture needs to be lightened then add white.
Tip: Also never use white and black in the same mixture as a beginning painter.
Doing these things will help you to mix bright clean colors.
4. Focusing on Details not Form Shadowing
Almost every person when they start to learn oil painting makes this mistake. It’s hard not to fixate on the little details but, that is exactly what we do. We jump right in and try to define every one of those wonderful details and for some reason it never turns out right. We need to start with the correct form shadows. Remember those little details need to be on top of a layer of correct values and colors. So when you begin painting use the following procedure.
1. Start with the basic light and dark values and colors of your object.
2. Then continue to modify your colors and values to include the light tones, middle values, highlight, core shadow(if it has one), dark tones and reflected light.
3. Once you have all those form shadows defined then you add the small details. Details need to conform to an objects form shadowing.
Doing this will allow you to paint convincingly.
5. Using Too Small of a Brush
When we first begin to paint it’s hard not to be intimidated. This usually leads to grabbing a smaller brush. It seems much less intimidating. This is probably the biggest mistakes beginning painters make. Using small brushes in the beginning instead of larger brushes. It creates a couple of problems first you add considerably more time to finishing your painting. Secondly when you paint using smaller brushes you miss larger relationships. So next time you find yourself reaching for that small brush go large instead. if you start with large brushes, then transition to medium size brushes and end with small brushes you will have a greater variety of marks which will give your painting more visual impact.
4 thoughts on “Improve Your Painting, Avoid 5 Common Mistakes”
Nice short summary of excellent tips. Often forgotten.
Thank you! Really helpful! I’ve taken a semester of drawing and one of oil painting–and been using more titanium white than you can shake a stick at. And using small brushes.
I’ve been working on a painting of my niece from a photo that looks quite like her, it was looking very pretty to others and even to me. But I’ve sandpapered it down several times and need to again, actually.
What’s happened is, thanks to your article(!) I have realized too much white is one of the issues.
Is it beneficial to start painting with thin paint?
Yes, you can certainly start with thin paint depending on the technique. With some techniques, it is absolutely necessary to use thinner paint with others not so much.