Many students tell me they are afraid to get started with a painting; they remove the plastic covering from the new canvas and place the shinny white canvas on their easel and then just stop! They are afraid to move forward, asking “where do I start”, and “what if I mess it up?”. Fear starts to set in and all of our doubts about our ability to paint start to enter our heads. I say, Forget it! Don’t be afraid, have fun!
Once you take that shinny new, glaringly white canvas from the package, lay it flat on a table and pick a color ... any color ... and slap a coat of paint onto it. There are no right or wrong answers: paint it light, paint it dark, put a texture on it, even use more than one color if you wish. For those that have painted with me in the south of France for my one week long workshops or in a private retreat, you know the response “there are no mistakes.” Just do it, just go for it, and slap some paint on the canvas. It gets your head out of the way and lets you move forward and start thinking about the painting process. It helps to unblock your mind and start things moving. I also believe it builds energy in the painting as well, which is one of the reasons that we do many layers of paint during my artist workshops.
Your results will be much different starting from a light color than from a dark color, however you should try both. I say to myself: “maybe I will use some of this base color, most of it, or maybe just cover it all up”. THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, and to help you chose the color just learn to follow your intuition. Whatever color calls to you: red, blue, black, gray, green, they all work. There truly are no mistakes!
Be brave, be bold, use up your old paints, try something new, play on the canvas with color. It helps us get out of our heads that are always trying to tell us what to do. And no need to properly place the paint on the pallet and slowly paint the canvas. Just pour some paint on the canvas directly, smear it around, use a pallet knife or a sponge or a brush, and just play. What have you got to lose? There is no need to take your painting process so seriously, so relax, flow, and let what is inside come out. And remember: “There Are No Mistakes!”.
I talk in my artist workshops in France and Spain about letting go and seeing what develops, what comes out. I also talk about the dreams we have, how real they are, how colorful, and sometimes very detailed. Where does all of that come from? It comes from us, we create it in our heads in our sleep. Learn to fall asleep (so to speak) and let your intuition and your unconscious mind take over and be spontaneous. If your intuition says use yellow, do not question it: pick a yellow and paint. The results will be amazing. Is this an easy process? No, so start simply by finding a color you are called to and pick it up and squirt it on your canvas. Smear it in and get ready to jump, yes JUMP into the painting. Do not think about it too much, our heads can just get in the way. Over time this process will help you to relax, bring new depth to your paintings, and move you towards a more fun and interesting time in your studio. Always have fun when painting, never make it work. And don't worry about getting it perfect: be playful, childlike, uninhibited, let your self go, relax, have fun with it, play, forget your other life, melt into the best escape from life, Painting!
Here is a painting I did several years ago. I started with bright blue, but then covered up most yet not all the blue. In the end I put some of the same blue on the frame to pick up the color.
So go ahead, have fun, experiment, try new things, keep your style loose, easy and fun. Once you are done, the viewer will see your energy and creativity and the piece will be something you love. Starting a painting is easy: slap a coat of paint on, any paint, any color, JUST TRY IT!
Copyright © Mike Snow & Timothy White 2020.