The very essence of art is that it can be done by all. There are only certain requisites you need to fulfill to create art, and very little of those requisites have to do with art. First, you have to have free time on your hands. Canvas painting is a laborious process, but immensely pleasurable and relaxing as well as rewarding. It won’t be done if you are distracted with other work. You have to create time for it. Secondly, you need to be aware that as a beginner, chances are your first work won’t turn out great. In fact, it might even be terrible, by all standards. That does not mean you should give up; I, personally, worked at canvas painting for several years until I could gather enough courage to hang up my work around my home. But when I did, there was nothing more gratifying: I felt so proud of what I had created, and people praised it immensely, complaining that they envied not having done something artistic like I had.
What should be your first step?
The first step every painter takes is that they have to be ready. This does not mean just to be in the right frame of mind in order to be able to create, like having no anxiety or being stress-free and free from responsibilities, but also to have the right materials in order to work; this means having adequate amounts of paint, paintbrushes, and painting canvases. If you make a trip down to your local arts and crafts store, that will work in your favor. Try to start up a chat with the owner and explain you are looking for materials to just start painting for pleasure purposes; they’ll be sure to help you out and provide you with the right amount and type of materials for a beginner. Once you have all your brushes and paints ready, then you are ready to begin.
What do I do now?
In art, like in most things, it is best if you begin from the beginning. You have to get some color on the canvas; this color is meant to cover all of the canvas, and will be the basis for the rest of your painting. This coloring of the whole canvas is known as setting a “ground” for the rest of your painting. You can come up with many reasons to begin this way. One reason is that it is what the professionals do; another reason is that this allows for you to work speedily and have a backdrop for your painting. Think of the night skies in Van Gogh’s works. He began with a blue background and that allowed him to easily fill up the rest of the canvas. You’ll have to work the same way, which means, in some sense you should already have an idea of what you are going to paint, whether it is going to be a landscape of a natural environment, or something that depicts city life. Stuff like that.
Artists usually create the ground for their painting in two ways; one way is to do it transparently and another way is to do it opaquely. For beginners, the opaque method is recommended. What are the best colors to use for this purpose? That usually depends on what you are trying to create, but for a beginner, I would recommend more solid colors, like a strong yellow, for example, yellow ochre. Another strong recommended color might be umber. These colors, while seeming perhaps to beginners something to be daunted by, are perfect, since they allow easy background painting and they can give a balanced look; this also allows for other light colors to blend in and contrast with the rest of the painting. However if you still harbor under the worry that these might be too strong a color for your painting, you can bring down the tone of the colors quite easily by simply introducing Titanium white in the mixture of the background colors used for your grounding of the painting.
What would be the best paints to use for the background of your canvas painting?
The answer is simple: acrylic paint. This is because of a variety of reasons:
- Acrylic paints dry easily. For beginners, this is a relief, or else they risk smudging their new work.
- They are soluble in water, allowing you ease in changing up tones of the paint by adding in water. Furthermore, as soon as they dry, they become water resistant, saving your canvas painting from the dire consequences that might come from an accident involving water spillage.
- It is unique: you can make it look like either like an oil painting, or a watercolor painting, depending on how much water you dissolve in the paints. Other kind of paints cannot create that effect, or allow this kind of liberty to the painter.
How much water should your acrylics contain?
When you buy acrylics from the manufacturer, it already contains about forty to fifty percent of water dissolved into it. This means that there is a lot of water in the paints; if you add more than this you risk adding in so much that the qualities of the acrylic paint might be toned down or completely erased. In order to overcome this problem, you must be very careful in adding the water you need in order to create an effect of painting. If you find that these acrylics are not working for you, you can get other forms of paint as well; acrylics are not for everyone, and they are not the only kind of paint available to you. Canvas painting can be done in a variety of ways and it is not bound to one kind of paint.
What should my canvas painting be of?
It is best always to start with something small. Professionals recommend beginning with something you are already familiar with; not in the sense that you have drawn that thing before but rather in the sense that you know of its dimensions quite accurately and also know what it looks like in terms of color and shape. It could be a piece of furniture in your room that you cross by every day, such as a rocking chair, or it could be a piece of decoration, like a flower vase. The point is, when you are painting, you should be able to recall it accurately into mind. However, if some people find it hard to imagine things while they are drawing, they can hold these things right in front of them, or place them behind the canvas painting and keep on looking at them every once in a while. If that is not feasible, then there are certain universally accepted easy-to-paint images everyone can begin with. I’ll list them below, to make your canvas painting easier and fun:
- Learn how to make the petals (it allows for practice of painting strokes) and the different shapes in it, as well as the different tones of color (allows you to understand toning as well).
- Bare trees in snowy weather. This can easily allow you to make a night sky out of a blue background color (we called it the “ground” before) and paint different branches in white color with a ragged look before this night sky. This will help you become precise in detail when you are painting. Finally, you can add small drops of white to indicate falling snow. What this allows is an eye for what makes a painting realistic, and will help you in other forms of painting as well.
- Animals are very easy to draw and have different shapes which you need when you are painting. This will allow you to practice the various kinds of shapes an artist has to get used to making. A cat for example will require you to draw circles (head and body), triangles (ears) and straight lines (legs as well as tail). This is helpful in opening you up to how difficult it can be to paint, and get adept at it.
Can I use something other than paint for my canvas painting?
Let’s admit it. Painting can be complicated, and not everyone is willing to get their hands dirty by playing around with different kinds of paintbrushes. But who is it that is stopping you from doing otherwise? You do not need paintbrushes to make a good canvas painting; other things are readily available. My favorite is using spray paint! They can produce artistic works that will be simply awesome. To mix it up, you can get objects from the natural environment. One example would be of a branch of leaves. Place them on top of the canvas and begin spraying over them. What’s left behind? A beautiful image of leaves outlined against the color of your choice! This is just worth a try, because it is so simple, and yet, so perfect and beautiful.
But that’s not all.
People tend to think that in order to produce great art it has to have some sort of shape or structure to it. That’s not true at all. Take a few paints and a few brushes, and scatter them across the canvas anyway you wish. Mix up different kinds of paints and watch the differences between them unite in order to produce something which is an amalgamation of the both. It does not need to have some sort of structure to it at all; sometimes, the best structure is no structure. There are no boundaries in art and you can take your canvas painting to any particular style you want; it’s your canvas painting after all!
What should I avoid?
As a beginner, the first thing you need to avoid is spending too much money on things you might not even need. Often, shopkeepers tend to exploit new artists by giving them products that they do not need, or can buy different versions of, of equally good quality, at a cheaper rate. Which is why it is best to either take an experienced artist along with you when you go buy something, or to buy your art material from a trusted shopkeeper. Besides this, you should also try sticking to the basics; don’t buy expert equipment in your first go—it can be very tempting, but you must cull that desire. Stick to basic brushes and paints that do not bear too heavily on your pocket.
When you are painting, you should know very well that you cannot begin with a masterpiece. Don’t try to copy a Van Gogh painting or the image of a sunset in an attempt to create something you know you aren’t ready yet to create. Stay small, and begin with something simple, like the flowers or animals I have mentioned above. It is especially advised on my part to stay away from human forms; don’t try to make faces since they will turn out to be a disaster in your first attempt, and besides, canvas paintings are more suited to landscapes or paintings that are related to scenes from nature. They aren’t suited for human faces.
Do not, under any circumstances, try to work colors together that just do not go together—when you are trying to draw mud, use plain brown; if you try to mix in black, it will look out of place. Similarly, you would want to have art that contrasts itself perfectly; when you create mud in snow, you would want to have a great brownish look, but the kind of brown in paint might not be suited to create that kind of effect. Instead, to get the slushy, dirty look of mud in snow, you would want to use black instead.
There is a strong debate between what kinds of canvases to use—some will tell you to use the cotton ones, and some will recommend the linen ones. Avoid this debate at all costs. You are a beginner. There is no need for you to spend the extra cash on linen canvases when you are not going to be paid for this. The only time it will make sense for you to buy linen canvases is when you move from a beginner to a professional. Don’t go for it till then.
Where do I store my canvas painting?
Before you even ask yourself this question, there is a more important question you should ask: where do I do my painting? As I said before, canvas painting can be laborious, and it will require the best of your attention. How do you do this? The first thing is to have a place which is secluded from the company of other people. The more the people, more the noise, and more the noise, less the attention you will be able to give to your canvas painting. If you cannot give it attention, then there will be more mistakes, and what’s more, you won’t enjoy the process at all. You might end up giving it all up after just one go. So, make sure you have an environment sealed from others when you are painting. It has to be quiet. The best time is mostly afterhours since all people are sleeping then.
After the silence, you need to make sure you have the perfect lighting. No painting will ever be completed properly or with the accuracy you desire until you are able to see every single thing about it. If you are painting in an area where there are a few shadows, chances are this will cause the colors to seem different to you than they would appear in bright light. What happens then is that you end up using different kinds of tones of colors and not the ones that you really wanted to use. This means that when you take the canvas painting under bright light, the results you will see will be quite different from the ones you were expecting. Perfect lighting is essential. If you feel there aren’t proper enough lights that you can shine on your painting when you are working, then you must buy some. You can buy cheap lights that can be placed on the floor and they give a direct source of constant bright light which will fall on your canvas painting and prevent you from making any mistakes.
Once you are done, then comes the time for storage.
Storage has to be done in a region where there is minimum human contact. If more people enter that area, then more are the chances of your canvas painting ruining quickly. You can either rent an area serving as a storage facility, or you can store the painting in your own home. Either way, there are certain basics you will have to cover.
When the canvas painting is dry, then you can do two things: if it is framed, cover it with bubble-wrap and seal with packing tape. If it is unframed, wrap with glassine paper, and then cover with bubble-wrap. Your canvas painting can be stored now.