Painting Tips #42

8 things I know for sure.


Your eyes play tricks on you. Your brain wants to see it all - don't let it! If you want details in your painting, put them in later. Begin by tricking your brain into seeing less. It's simple. Squint! 


What is cause and effect? Every detail in your painting, every stroke, every colour and tone has a job to do. Pay attention to the entire painting to figure out what the effect of an individual stroke is and more importantly, what effect you want to create.


Read more to see the 8 things I know for sure...


  1. Squint when you are looking at your subject. Eliminate all the detail and whittle it down to 3 to 5 simple shapes.

  2. Think 'cause and effect'. As John Carlson says in his Guide to Landscape Painting: “We must not train our eyes to copy tone for tone but think of the bearing of such colours and harmonies upon the main idea of our picture." (Great book, available for a few shillings)

  3. It’s all in the value. Is it lighter or darker? You might have the right colour but do you have the right value? Value trumps colour every time.

  4. Temperature is all you need to know about colour. Is it warmer or is it cooler? Don’t worry about what colour it is, worry more about what temperature it is.

  5. Evaluate. If your painting isn’t working, identify the problem.  Ask simple questions. Is it?.... Too big, too small? Too bright, too dull? Too round, too square? Too tall, too short? Too close, too far? Too light, too dark? Too soft, too hard? Too cool, too warm? Too loud, too quiet? Too much, too boring? Is my drawing right? Is the perspective correct? Am I portraying what I initially wanted to portray? If you can identify the problem you'll know how to fix it. As Jerry Markham always says “good or bad, decisions keep you alive”.

  6. If your painting still isn’t working take a break. Drink some coffee. Read a book by John Carlson. Read number 5.

  7. If it still isn’t working... Stop beating a dead horse!

  8. Quit. How do you know when it's time? When you have either nothing left to say or you have run out of time. Remember: 20% underfinished is better than 2% overworked.

Your friend in art, Doug.

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