Square 2: Picking a Subject

So, I don’t know about you, but I got pretty tired with painting poor trees, unnaturally blue skies, strange clouds, and rocks that no one could guess were rocks. It didn’t matter if the were in the foreground or the background. They were just wrong.

Don’t assume that at this point it is fine to berate yourself and dump everything into the trash. I didn’t. Instead, step away from your work and try to see if there is something you are repeatedly doing that may be contributing to these unwanted results.

I didn’t take a step back, I walked completely away. I had exams to take and places to be. But it was during a routine procedure that I thought to myself – wow, I remember having to do this step by step and having it take forever. And there it was. I realized what I was doing that had been holding me back.

I was trying to paint without any outline or plan or idea of what I wanted to accomplish at that sitting. Now, this may not seem like such a big deal if you have the natural talent, perhaps have a background or former experiences with painting or sketching, or just aren’t me. However, if you fell into the same rut that I had – rest assured, I got there too.

What I believe is the cause of all of this blind ambition is the mastery of the artists in the videos I had watched on YouTube. In fact, you may be familiar with one in which the artist remarks while he painted that, “…my mind is wandering now.” What?! How did you make that beautiful composition of you closed your eyes and thought about last night’s dinner?!

Well, after calming down a bit, and feeling less sorry for myself. I really sat down and took a look at what I could be doing to make me crank out something nice – maybe even worth hanging up.


And then the thoughts appeared slowly, one following the next, as if they were leading themselves along, hand-in-hand:

1. Maybe sketch something beforehand so you can fill in some lines.

2. Wouldn’t hurt to make sure that your perspective is all ok, and not wonky – you’ll notice it later.

3. Decide where you want all your hard and soft edges earlier.

4. Learn what you actually want to focus on in the image you are creating.

5. Colors?

6. You get the picture, don’t you.

I decided to stop at six here, because writing these down has given me the subjects for some subsequent posts. I want to spend some time thinking about these things and then actually devote a post to each one. Maybe break them down? I guess you have to stay tuned.

Until then, I will draw you back for a minute more. I was writing about planning a painting. No, it was picking a subject. Well, it doesn’t matter too much, as long as you consider sketching it out first. All it takes is a few lines made lightly with a pencil. Just take a minute to find something that means something to you. I am not saying that you shouldn’t be ambitious. Go right ahead. I just started with trees because I knew there would be a lot in my paintings, and I like them. They still elude me, but they are getting better.

If you need some extra help finding inspiration, I often scroll through a source of free, royalty-free images at pixabay.com. There may be fewer “stock photos”, but there is a huge amount of things that you can make work. You’ll see that a lot of my paintings are based on subjects I saw there.

This is a long post, and I have probably created more questions than I answered. Rest assured, I will cover these things eventually.

Just don’t get discouraged, and keep painting. I even left you a mountain tortoise. It is what happens when you scrape out some small mountains and don’t want to throw out the rest of the paper.


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