What Should I Paint?Bright Light Fine Art
Finding Inspiration for a Painting
The most important requirement is the desire to paint. The best way to get started is have a collection of resources and references, like photos, sketches and other artists’ work that you admire. This can be inspirational when looking for ideas. Keep a sketchbook for ideas about future paintings. Capturing something that inspires you and use it as reference once back in your studio. A sketchbook is a very important tool that trains your artistic skills and serves as reference for painting ideas.
Deciding What to Paint
Paint a subject that inspires you. I love painting portraits and movement. When I travel I’m the most inspired. I want to capture what I see. I recommend painting something where you can see a simple visual idea. It’s really not about the subject matter. It’s really about the lighting and shapes – an abstract idea that you see in the subject matter. Painting is an opportunity for you to be yourself using paint and color to express feelings and passion. Find your fun and gratification in the journey, not the destination.
The following is a conversation between Jackie Kamin and Sherrie McGraw about choosing their subject matters.
Sherrie: “Should I paint?” You know, it’s a question that people who want to paint have all the time. They don’t quite know what to paint. As you and I have spoken before, I don’t think that’s because they aren’t inspired by things, but I think that maybe there are other things that come into their thinking. Things that make them doubt what it is they want to paint. And one of those things might be that people feel they can’t do a certain thing, you know, like they really are attracted to doing portraits or a figure, but they feel that’s too hard for them.
Sherrie: That could be one reason. Can you think of some other reasons that people might be inspired by something, but might not actually pursue it?
Jackie: I think people get caught up in what’s available to them and what they’re used to painting. They fall into a sort of rut where they won’t try to paint a portrait because they’re stuck painting the same landscape over and over. That’s where their comfort zone is.
Sherrie: Yeah, I think that makes sense.
Jackie: Good to get out of that. It’s a struggle. It’s a struggle to push yourself in another direction.
Painting What You Want
Sherrie: Right. And so the thing would be, if somebody is asking that question, “what should I paint?”, I don’t know if they’re thinking in terms of should they do something as a kind of exercise. Or should they really paint what they want to paint? I think that might be part of the question. And I think you know that certainly the simpler you start, if you’re a brand new painter, the better. Let’s say, for instance, that one of the simpler things to paint is a still life object. So what you could do is take something very simple – a piece of fruit, a pear, a peach, something like that.
And just see if you could simply make form, you know? So in all of our videos and one in particular that David does, he shows you how to make form using a little tangerine. I have one doing a pear. I know you have one doing grapes and flowers. Then we have more complex still life paintings. But when we have people that are just beginning, we’ve had them start with one object. You may be inspired by something much more complex. But it may be smart to just get a little experience under your belt and learn how to actually make form. And make it look lighted. All those things will get you well on your way to having some confidence in painting.
Doing Something Different
Sherrie: But I do think that, as you so aptly stated, a lot of people get frightened by doing something different. Maybe even doing something different than your local teacher is teaching. Maybe they’re teaching you a particular way that makes you feel awkward trying some other subject matter or other technique. I think the thing that we stress so much at Bright Light Fine Ar,t is that what we’re teaching is really how painting works. We’re not teaching a technique. We’re not teaching formulas, but we’re teaching how it works. And so the beauty of that is that once you understand how painting works, then you’re able to paint your ideas. You will be inspired by the things that inspire you and then be able to paint them. So we talk about color, edges, composition, paint quality, and making form. All of these qualities go into making a painting.
And then with that understanding that then allows you to paint the thing that truly inspires you. And I think we don’t have to tell them what that is because I think they know what they’re interested in. Whether you’re wanting to paint dogs or you’re wanting to paint horses or landscapes or people or interior settings – whatever it is that you envision in your mind that you would love to paint. Then certainly all of our films will give you the ability to do just that.
Jackie: Right, I think you said it! What you just said is very apropos and makes a lot of sense.
Seeing the Beauty in Something Simple
Sherrie: Thanks! And in fact, it shouldn’t feel like it’s some sort of penance that you have to pay because even if you’re just doing one, you know, pear, there’s beauty in just seeing how you could paint one pear. See the beauty in a little clump of grapes – in something that simple. Make it look lighted, make it seem dimensional, make it seem like it’s in air – all of these qualities we talk about. Then you’re able to paint whatever you want to paint.
Jackie: Right. It just seems so possible. Sherrie, you know, taking that information and that ability and translating it into the landscape, for example. By making the landscape seem lighted and the air flowing, the foreground and the background and creating that space and color and all those things that you learned in the simpler fashion – I can see those elements so aptly in a full landscape. It’s just a microcosm of a bigger picture.
Sherrie: Yes! And in fact, I love the little demo you just recently did of a beautiful little clump of Aspen trees. That’s going to be coming out soon on Bright Light Fine Art, but it’s just so lovely. You’ll see in that landscape what Jackie and I are talking about. And I hope that helps everyone have some idea of what it is they should paint!
Jackie: Sounds good. Thank you, Sherrie!
Sherrie: Thank you, Jackie!