You Should Make a Painting - I Did

I haven't painted in about six months. It feels good. I have a room in my house that is my studio. I've been absolutely ill for the last three days, and that's always a great time to make gesso. I make my own gesso and my own oil and acrylic paint. I think that alone is well-worth a very expensive art school education. Here's an article from 37 Signals, telling you to paint. 37 Signals is a company that makes amazing web-based applications in Chicago, and they have an interesting blog about all kinds of things.  I agree that you should make a painting but I have some qualifiers.  but I'll let you read the article, and then scroll below for my comments:

1. "Don't use crappy paint" Use decent paint. It's a waste of time and money. Don't get one of those all-purpose packs of different colors, either. Pick out the colors you like one by one. It's more fun to make paintings with colors you are excited about. If you want a list of basics, get: Cadmium red, cadmium yellow, titanium white, burnt sienna, yellow ocre, ultramarine blue, phthalo green, carbon black. That's enough to make a huge range of colors. You should choose some special ones that you like, too.

2. "Get something to paint on. Canvas works. Do you have your own woodshop and like to make things ten times more complicated than they need to be? No, then don’t stretch your own canvas. " Please either stretch your own canvas or get some panels if you don't want the hassle. Store-bought canvas (unless purchased from an art student) is totally unusable, in my opinion. It's so much more fun to have a good-quality surface with good-quality gesso and good-quality canvas or linen. It doesn't matter if you don't think your paintings are very good. You might as well enjoy the process of painting, and an important part of that is using good-quality materials. You should get a bunch of canvas, some heavy-duty stretcher bars (all of this blick or other companies will ship to your house), a staple gun, staples, and watch this youtube video.

3. "Rig up an easel. You can paint on a tabletop or on the floor, but I think it is really important to learn how to paint from a vertical position." Why? Also, it's cheaper just to put some plastic on the wall, and some brown paper, and put a couple of nails in the wall and hang a canvas on that and paint.

4. "Your painting is going to suck. Don’t worry about it." Not necessarily. It might be good. Don't worry about good or bad. It's not really your job to decide what's good and bad anyway, as you are not an art critic. Just make a painting, and if you find yourself stagnating or getting to comfortable, try something that makes you uncomfortable. Or violently ill, even.

5.  "Think about what color you want to make when you are mixing. Mixing paint is way cool, but have a plan in mind." It's good to do this, but also good to not think too hard and go by intuition sometimes, and see what works for you. I do both, and I think it's important to not rule any practices out.

6.  "Don’t squirt random colors next to each other and mush them together. That will only create a bunch of dirty, ugly colors." Some of my favorite colors are dirty colors all mushed together. I absolutely love the complex colors mixing a bunch of stuff together can create.

7. "Adding white often helps." Adding white never helps. Adding white makes things washed out, quite literally. It decreases the pigmentation and makes colors less vibrant. White is great, when it is used as white or a white-synonym. Try making colors based on what is next to them. Yellow, blue, green can all look white when put next to certain colors. There are no rules, though. White can sometimes be a crutch, so look out for that.

 8. "Avoid adding black to colors to make them darker. That’s bush league. " I think he's trying to say that black can be a crutch, too. I often mix black and purple together to make lovely purple-black, or black + phthalo green makes green-black. Also, very purple and very green and very blue and very brown can become black, no need to add anything labeled "black. They will often be more engaging to the eye since they are more vibrant, even though they may look completely black.

9. "Only jerks try to sell art" Just don't try to sell your art to your friends. It's more useful to have them come over to talk about your paintings, and get their feedback. Ask them for emotions or metaphors they think of when they look at your work. Ask them for positives and negatives, and take both with a grain of salt. Having someone tell you that your art sucks, and that your ideas and your very being suck by association, is one of the most awful and freeing things that will ever happen to you. Knowing that you can and do have dumb ideas, and that that is completely irrelevant, will free you to focus on your vision. Follow your vision to the letter, regardless of criticism or praise, even if you can only devote 1 hour a week to it, and you'll have a much better chance of having a fulfilling life.

All in all, I really liked the article, which was written by an artist who went to some art schools in Chicago, like I did! Also, for a bit of a bonus, I've created a list at Blick.com so that you can get started without thinking too hard about details. 


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