10 Things I Know About Painting

By Doug Swinton




Since the day the late Brock Linehan asked me "What do you know for sure?", and I had trouble answering, I've never stopped asking myself that question. Over the long haul some things keep repeating themselves and as I paint in my own studio or attempt to solve problems with my students, I realized that some things are always true. This list keeps growing but here are a few of those "for sure" things I've come to believe.


If there is anything you believe to be true every time, in other words, universal to every good painting, please post it in the comments section.


  1. The only difference between a great painting and a lesser painting is fewer mistakes.

  2. Knowledge will always be greater then ability. If you want more ability get more knowledge.

  3. 20% unfinished is better than 2% over-worked.

  4. Whatever happens in your head comes out the end of the brush. If you're hesitant it will show.

  5. The biggest consideration should always be "Is this scene worthy of a painting. What's my motive?"

  6. Too much reality in a picture is disappointing. The soul is an imaginative beast. We love the idea of something more than the thing itself. Leave lots of room for interpretation.

  7. The painting takes on a life of its own, separate from the original source. Learn to not copy pictures value for value but to react to what art is happening on the canvas. (Carlson's Guide)

  8. Painting is just an extension of drawing. The importance of learning to scribble must not be underestimated.

  9. "For one to be creative it is not necessary to invent the wheel every time – the artist needs only a new look at and old idea." William Reese

  10. "Nature does not capriciously scatter her secrets as golden gifts to lazy poets and luxurious darlings, but imposes tasks when she presents opportunities." Edgar Payne

See you in the field! Your friend in art, Doug.

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