If you are asking yourself the question…
“Where do I go or what do I need to know to start painting?”
…this post will provide you with absolute clarity.
You may believe it all starts from simply knowing what painting supplies to use.
Or perhaps you’re more focused on what subject you should try to attempt to paint.
In fact, it starts with establishing a solid growth mindset.
So before you rush off to buy canvas and paint, let me help you set some solid foundations…
Fear And Confidence
Quite often our failure to start something worthwhile is intrinsically based on fear.
Sometimes we are conscious of it.
But it can also be unrecognisable.
Most of the time our failure to even attempt is derived from a fear of failure.
Or fear of what others will think.
There is also the fear of success.
Fearing success seems kind of ironic, but it is a real fear in a lot of people.
There are of course the practical steps of knowing how to start a painting.
However, establishing the right mindset will greatly help you pursue your creative endeavours confidently.
Art In Many Respects Is About Pushing The Barriers
It’s about pushing through challenges and venturing into the unknown.
When we tread carefully though life in attempts to remain safe, we are in essence reinforcing a real fear that exists. Think about that for moment.
Fear has a real purpose.
Humans are wired to experience fear to ensure they make wise decisions about their survival.
Animals experience fear when there is clear and present danger.
It serves them well.
However, they don’t live in the presence of fear when it’s not required for the principal of immediate survival.
Humans fear something in the future that quite often may never actually materialise.
Most of what we fear as humans is impractical and unnecessary.
There is a big fear preventing many people from making a start at something worthwhile.
That fear is…
Not being good enough.
In fact, if you investigate the fear of not being good enough – you’ll see its core root is made up of fear of failure, fear of what people will think, fear of rejection and so on.
From a personal perspective, I have suffered from imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome is best described as…
Although I provided adequate evidence of legitimate achievement, I still suffer from intellectual fraud.
It’s a major form of fear, because no matter what you achieve, you struggle to internalise your accomplishments.
This belief buries itself deep in the unconscious mind.
Many Fears Are Quite Baseless
Fear is natural.
Unnecessary fear is what prevents you from moving forward and achieving something worthwhile.
So, in your quest to start painting, acknowledge your own fears.
Doing this is a major step forward.
It’s kind of like crawling around on the floor of a pitch-black room trying to locate the torch.
When you have established your fears, write them down and look at them.
Address them for what they are – which in most cases are quite baseless and powerless.
Watch how writing these fears down and recognising them will begin to eliminate the power they have over you, and in turn, give you your power back.
Now you’ll begin to see that these fears are no longer within you – they are external and completely exposed.
The next step is to know and feel those fears, experience, and recognise them as powerless.
This false expectation appearing real sensation will pass quickly if you recognise that the feeling itself is the worst thing that can happen.
What the fear is identifying with is nothing more than a fabricated result – something for which will probably never happen.
Fear Magnifies Itself Through Thinking
So, the tip here is to think less (within reason, friend – there are enough people crossing busy streets, face down into their mobile phones).
Less thinking, and more doing.
To explain this in another way…
I have feared a lot of what I’ve ever done in life that’s been worthwhile. But I decided to do it anyway.
I have found that preparation will often stop fear from getting in the way of doing something you really want to do.
For example – I felt the heavy expectation (form of fear) of sitting down to write this blog post.
So, in turn, I set up my 33-minute countdown clock.
I wrote down six key areas I wanted to write about on the topic of how to start painting.
I typed for 33 minutes without stopping – without editing, without doing anything else, just writing.
Then I’d take a break.
If I had not prepared, and allowed myself to sit in front of an empty word document, idly watching the blinking cursor at the top of the page – I’d have probably fell into the depths of procrastination.
In fact, not probably – I would have.
The idea is to prepare yourself for battle.
If you need silly little props and kooky structures, then use them.
Mine is 33-minutes for writing, and Frank Zappa music to accompany the commencement of every painting project – kind of like the lighting of the Olympic flame.
I know of a writer who wears a name badge when he writes.
It’s his way of assembling the mindset to match the action required to get the work done.
If there is a strange or unorthodox routine or habit that helps you to take real and immediate action, do it.
Do kooky, if kooky works for you.
An immensely powerful technique is to also practice being present.
The ability to switch off thoughts and associations to past and future will greatly help you in reducing the fear factor.
Overcoming fear is never going to be permanent.
It’s never going to be a destination.
Working through fear is often intimidating and quite overwhelming.
Take small, but actionable steps, to succeed in pushing it aside. Don’t allow it to limit you from really experiencing life.
How To Start Painting With The Right Energy and Environment
Some people like quiet environments to work in. Others much prefer an element of danger and noise.
Structure your painting habitat, so it’s easy-to-get work done.
When I first started painting, properly – I knew very clearly if my working environment was not set up to make it easy for me to wander in and just start working – I probably wouldn’t make a start at all.
The idea of having to set up every time I was about to start a new painting seemed exhausting (future fear, not real).
By default, I’m lazy at organisational architecture – I probably wouldn’t maintain a consistent work ethic if I had to set up and pack up after every project.
The point is – make it super easy to start.
Make it so easy to start painting at any given time, that its on par with filling up your glass with water, or brushing your teeth.
Seriously though, if you are just starting, and the starting part is already hard – it’s not going to help to maintain your enthusiasm.
It will begin to feel like drudgery.
Locate your piece of turf in your home. Claim it as your own.
Post an official notification on the wall so everyone in your humble abode has been informed – “Artist is Residence!”
This may sound a little contrived – but it’s important you have an area set up strictly for hatching your evil schemes (i.e., creating art).
The level of appreciation you’ll have for this advice will become more apparent when you get started.
You’ll feel confident, establish a sense of pride in your ability to maintain the right kind of atmosphere and energy in the same area, each time you begin to create.
Then there is the guy at the back who yells…
“Yeah, well, what about plein air artists? They don’t confine themselves to safe space creative corners, indoors, away from the elements.”
This is true.
However, you may not yet have a basket of supplies to trundle off with out into the open air.
By all means – give plein air painting a go when you feel ready.
My point is, you need to first get established in an area close by, to develop your routine and skill.
This will assist in maintaining your enthusiasm.
How To Start Painting And Avoid Procrastination
Procrastination is not laziness.
In fact, procrastination is an active process of deciding to do anything and everything but the very thing you know you should be doing.
Too much procrastination over time can begin to be quite demoralising in nature.
Procrastination is the ego’s way of spoon feeding you the false notion that you don’t yet have all the resources you need to start.
It lies to you and tells you it’s too cold, it’s too hot, you need to get a haircut.
Procrastination tells you to overthink about what it is you already know everything about and for which you are very capable of already doing.
It provides you with every conceivable reason why you should not start, today.
It tells you to start tomorrow.
When tomorrow arrives, it then tells you to start next week.
It is so cunning, it tricks you into telling your friends and family, “I’m going to get that business up and running. Next month. This time for sure…I’m ready!”
If procrastination were an entity, it would be the devil’s son.
Procrastination cons you into the idea you have plenty of time.
Time is the only thing we humans share equally.
We all have 24-hours in a day.
But as to how many 24-hour blocks get allocated to any given person before their time is up, is something entirely different altogether.
In fact, the trouble for many people is thinking they have a lot of time.
The reality is, we don’t really have time to idly drift.
We naturally assume we can put the important things off until later.
We need to be aware of our impermanence.
We can never own time, but we do need to be responsible for how we use it.
Why am I telling you all this?
After all, you landed here simply to learn how to start painting.
I know a lot about why people avoid doing what they should do.
I also know why people take years to get started on something that is important to them.
I know because I have been one of those people.
I have experienced every form of vile resistance, procrastination, and self-sabotage.
Therefore, it is my duty to ensure you are aware of the potential plotting and planning that may be taking place in your subconscious mind.
If I had started this post with advice on the best paint brushes to use, how to mix acrylics and paint an abstract portrait…
…you may very well of been quite happy.
As a result, you could achieve a lot over the next three days.
However, by day four, something starts to shift in you.
Suddenly, you cannot seem to get the motivation to start.
You’ve now discovered a new “how to start painting” coach on you tube. Five hours later, you’ve watched all his/her videos.
The advice was great. But you already knew most of what was presented.
Four hours could have been spent painting, experimenting, and failing your way forward.
Which leads me to another critical point in your start as a painting artist…
How to Start and Fail Happily
Start with a knowing that nothing you produce on the canvas is how it should be.
At this stage in the game you don’t even know what should be, should be.
Let me explain…
Give yourself permission to fail tremendously. Expect it. Be open to it. Celebrate it.
But don’t pursue it to justify a belief you are not good enough.
Does that make sense?
Let me explain another way…
Don’t seek failure deliberately to justify any “false” unhealthy beliefs you may already have about yourself.
That is what they call diving into self-sabotage with absolute intent.
However, embrace failure in your creativity.
What you will soon discover is that it is not actually failure at all but covering creative ground.
There really are no mistakes in art because art is always moving.
This is the very reason why it’s a waste of time to dwell on anything you do creatively.
So, the tip is to keep it moving.
If you stop and over analyse, you lose momentum and reinforce those false belief’s that you are not good enough.
You can only be “not good enough” if you are not doing anything at all.
In the video below I set myself a challenge to produce one painting, in one day – no excuses.
The principal was to demonstrate how you do not have to get it right, you simply have to get it going…
It’s also critical to go in confident and never ever create to seek the approval of others.
By doing this you manipulate the free spirit of creation.
It becomes like a salesman trying to sell you an item not because he openly and honestly believes it will benefit you, but that it will benefit him if you buy it.
This is your life. You are working on your own self-esteem and respect.
The biggest problem with seeking the approval of others in your creative endeavours, is you are ultimately handing over all the power to someone else.
You are making it their decision to decide what is valid.
Can you see how this will eventually ruin your passion and drive to continue?
Adapt a sincere healthy opinion of failure. What you will quickly discover is that failure is not failure as we’ve always interpreted it.
In fact, failure begins to have lesser negative connotations to it.
It becomes a “new discovery”.
See what happens now? You’ve started to create positive associations to failure. That’s exciting.
Paint With Passion
If you paint from a photo, it is neither the right nor wrong way of painting. Painting from a photo is painting what you can see.
Some people may argue that it is about painting what you know.
Painting with passion is what you know, can see, and feel.
That is where your goal should be.
At the very least, aim for painting what you feel. What you feel is what you interpret.
This could even mean creating your own adaptation from a photo or reproducing the reality you see from plein air painting over a lake.
The main objective is you are painting with passion.
By now you may have realised this post has been about building the scaffolding to get this point.
It is easy for people to tell you to paint with passion.
But unless you are aware of the potential obstacles that can prevent you making a start, painting with passion would be quite an abstract concept for you to fully comprehend.
Hopefully you can see an open road of potential to paint and create with passion, and consciously aware of your beliefs and interpretations.
Paint With A Goal In Mind
Art is an environment for spontaneous creation.
However, at times you may also need to cater to time bound, money and result based principals.
The fact is you are a human. You need objectives.
You need goals to create clear priorities and pathways.
What will really help you in your endeavour to start painting is to set yourself a specific, attainable, and time-bound goal.
My biggest suggestion is to not make this complicated.
The first step is, believe you are in the right place and have the right resources within your reach.
Have confidence in your ability to access these resources, knowledge, and solutions.
The next step would be to write down your goal. Then write down what needs to happen to achieve it.
Also, ask yourself, “What is the time frame I have allocated to achieve this goal?”
There is plenty of time later for you to investigate the greater purpose of you creating art. But for now, you need a goal to simply start painting.
Life purpose and visions are great. But they mean little when you have not even used a paint brush to tickle a canvas yet.
Your goal could be to produce your first painting portrait.
What needs to happen for this to become a reality?
The building block goals to reach that main goal of producing your first portrait painting could be as follows…
Goal #1 - Seek out one good artist who teaches portrait drawing. Complete today.
Goal #2 - Buy sketch pad, HB pencils and erasers. Complete by 5pm tomorrow.
Goal #3 – Draw along with artist of choice and learn to draw two different variations on human lips. Complete by 9pm tomorrow.
Goal #3 – Draw along with artist of choice and learn to draw two different variations of a human nose. Complete by 9pm the following night.
Goal #4 - Draw along with artist of choice and learn to draw two different variations of human eyes. Complete by 9pm Tuesday night.
Goal #5 - Draw along with artist of choice and learn to draw two different variations of a human mouth. Complete by 9pm Wednesday night
Goal #6 - Draw along with artist of choice and learn how to draw a full human face portrait. Complete by 9pm Thursday night
Goal #7 – Buy 2 x small 15 x 15’ canvas(s), tube(s) of red/blue/black/yellow/white/brown and a round/flat/filbert/detail round brushes by Saturday 5pm.
Repeat the process from goal #2.
Do this and you will achieve your goal.
Do it again, then again, and then you can begin to investigate your purpose as an artist.
Whatever you do, make a start.
There are many people who never get to the starting block.
You have made it here – your next step is going through all the principals we have a touched on and set some very uncomplicated goals.
Go forth and create!
Artist/Coach/Replaces words with grunts when the question is ridiculous