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Ask HN: How can I learn how to paint?
238 points by scanny on March 13, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 159 comments
Hiya, Just wondering if anyone has any advice/anecdotes about learning how to paint?

I saw a thread a while ago about working with stained glass that got a lot of interest, and thought maybe the folk here might know a thing or two about this as well.

I have really gotten into looking at the works of impressionists ( https://artsandculture.google.com/entity/m03xj1 ) like Monet and Edward Hopper's early work, and would love to try my hand at it. If anything it would be to get more of an appreciation for the art, and as an emotional outlet after writing code every day.

I am pretty independent and would like to do as much as I can myself before going to a course and wasting someones time trying to understand things I could learn on my own, and have a better foundation for learning.

Any input would be greatly appreciated.

I will tell you what I tell my students;

To learn to make art you spend time working with the materials. That is it.

When the urge arises to judge the quality of your work, it will be tempting to say this is good or this is bad.

Take that energy that you might put into assessing the aesthetic and put it back into the materials instead.

Persist and grow. Avoid aesthetic judgements, and instead produce work.

Inevitably as you deepen your experience you will begin to autonomously develop techniques and content that you find yourself returning to.

As you progress through this process your style will begin to take unique, identifiable shape.

Through this process you will become a true painter.

Many people mistake technical capacity at predefined aesthetics as painting, but I would argue that this produces uninteresting work.

Every identifiable style was born from people who chose to work outside of preexisting style.


This advice reminds me of an anecdote from Art and Fear [1]. A ceramics teacher divided his classes into two groups. One group he told would be judged only based on the quality of the best pot they made, the other group would be graded based only on the number of pots they made. After the two classes had finished, the teacher noticed that all of the highest qualities works came from the class that was aiming only for quantity. It seems, at least for artistic/creative activities, simply diving in and making lots of attempts is the key to rapid improvement.

[1]: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/187633.Art_and_Fear?from...

If you follow the citation trail for that you end up with nothing, no individual who says they did that and had those results. The same anecdote shows up in the War of Art.

I made 1000+ melodies without regard for quality, and now quality melodies are effortless. There you go.

How it works: I create good bits in every one by accident, then use those bits on purpose going forward. Quantity leads to discovery.

The same is true with photography. Take tonnes of photos, and some will be great. You begin to take on board what makes some photos better than others. It seems to raise the quality of all the photos. We're basically talking about focused practice, but applied to aesthetics.

Surely there has to be some aesthetic guidance along the way?

Up until my senior year of college, every writing course I took, I would never get any _aesthetic_ feedback on my work. In grade school, my grammar and spelling would get corrected, but otherwise, what I wrote was what I wrote.

It wasn't until I took a sitcom-writing course in college that a teacher gave me feedback that would make my writing better: "this sentence is too long, you don't need to use these words, this character is too inactive, this scene has no point."

If someone had been that direct with me when I was in middle school, I'd have spent a lot less time writing crap.

>Surely there has to be some aesthetic guidance along the way?

It's generally better to run the feedback through the same unconscious mental pathways you use to do the activity, rather than the verbal storytelling loop that can think thoughts like "I don't like how I did this". Use the parts of the brain that are good at painting, not the parts that are good about telling stories about your painting.

I highly recommend reading "The Inner Game of Tennis" to get a much better sense of this distinction. It's broadly applicable to all sorts of skill acquisition and improvement. The best way to learn how to do something is to quietly and non-judgmentally watch yourself doing it. Your brain is really good at figuring that all out once you've started.

Interesting, this idea has a well known countervailing theory -- "deliberate practice". The idea goes that practicing with the intent of (and focus on) improvement is more effective.

Perhaps "quantity over quality" is better for beginners because they're learning different kinds of things, or because their judgement itself isn't great, or perhaps it's just psychologically easier and less likely to lead to burnout.

The Inner Game of Tennis etc isn't mutually exclusive with "deliberate practice". You're still telling yourself what you want to do, but doing this in the language your unconscious mind understands - that is, images and felt emotions, not words.

Compulsory education is not for that. They're not there to change your aesthetic, if they did then we'd lose a lot of good art IMO: people developing their own aesthetic are often considered to be "no good" because they disobey the conventions. When you've learnt all the tools, and different normative styles, read a reasonable body of work in different genre, that's when to develop your own style. Which corresponds with University/school leaving largely.

The sitcom course is almost certainly designed to help you write in a narrowly designed style that is commercially useful. But a sitcom that breaks many of the norms could do really well .. you're not going to learn to write opposing the established styles on a course like that, are you.

Writing crap is part of the journey.

> When you've learnt all the tools, and different normative styles, read a reasonable body of work in different genre, that's when to develop your own style. Which corresponds with University/school leaving largely.

This is far too kind to universities. You get taught Theory in university. You are assumed to already be able to paint. If you want to learn to paint in a third level institution you’re better off studying illustration or graphic design, not fine art.

Learn about value, perspective, colour theory, form and how they apply to art and human perception. Things like that I found were useful for learning art as someone who struggled to draw a stick figure for years.

The problem with aesthetic guidance is it invariably leads to creation of 'product' over 'art'. Just because you can make a pretty painting doesn't make it art.

>Just because you can make a pretty painting doesn't make it art. //

How to start a fight at an art school!

It still beating the "unable to create anything" state most people are in. Definitely I am. I would take ability to create pretty painting with mo art ability as it is miles better then now.

Well, some of us would be quite happy with pretty, and wonder if Art is all it's cracked up to be...

I don't think writing and painting can be compared. Writing has some elements of art, but it also has a lot of rules that come from the language. Painting is much more free-form.

Depends on whether you are a realist or not.

Your comment differs from a lot of the 'copy a photo' comments in this thread. There is an assumption that painting has to be a 'hand crafted photo' whereas we have plenty of people doing that already.

For someone coming from a programming background I think that a topic worthy of doing in paint is 'abstraction'. In code we 'abstract things out' into classes and what not but we don't have 'abstract coders', it is part of what code is.

With painting there is abstract done properly and understanding what it is about. Abstract painting is hard for people used to still life and landscape scenes to understand. Some people just don't get it.

Hence my suggestion is to learn through doing what abstract art is, good abstract art is not the same breed as bad abstract art. There is also a difference in knowing when a piece is finished, there is also an aspect of minimalism akin to neat code. Intellectually I think that it hits the high notes and if a coder with one idea of what 'abstract' means in code goes on a journey of learning what 'abstract' really means in art then they should be able to engage in a creative journey with a difference. Transferable skills and all.

This sounds like a very bottom up approach to painting. It requires tons of trial and error and time. The result is that only the most persistent learn how to paint well.

If I were to try learning competitive programming, I'd much rather work through known algorithms and practice my problem solving, instead of trying to reinvent everything from sorting to iterative deepening search to number theoretic algorithms.

I'd much rather learn tools and solve problems (in painting) than just trial and error through it, hoping that I have the aptitude to really methodically sift through my mistakes and find the right approach to painting.

Tools too early in the process can seize control of the imagination.

I agree completely; there is room for technique.

But I prefer to let the student find where that room is by discovering something about themselves first, rather than vague promises of freedom that comes after satisfying arbitrary minimums.

My preference as a teacher. A good student knows to overthrow my worldview when the time is right.

The downside is, there are techniques and tools that make sense together. If you just start, maybe you find something interesting. Maybe you just spend days feeling frustrated because nobody told you it's a good idea to prime a canvas, or that metal solders better when its clean.

My preference is to study techniques like I'd study anything else - learn the principles, etc, and stay pretty agnostic about what it actually means to make art. I mean, is art really about self-discovery? It's somewhat rare for a good artist to be particularly self-aware. Is art really about freedom? Art has consistently bloomed under absolutely absurd strictures - only being allowed to paint specific things, write on knife-edge-narrow themes, and so on.

Seems to me that it's ideas like these that really seize control of the imagination. I've definitely known artists that have been permanently inhibited by internalizing one or another idea about what it is to make art.

Tools, on the other hand, extend and alter the human senses. A screwdriver is a feeler you stick into the radio, oils are an invitation to a whole light-oriented conception of painting, a chisel tells you stuff about wood you'd never know just by running your hands over it.

I don't really believe there's a raw sense-experience. I think everything we do is mediated socially, conceptually, technically. In this sense, to actively engage with the world, it makes sense to be greedy about grabbing every technical or concept that increases the engagement surface, or makes it more varied.

Well, it's definitely better if one has a teacher. Trial and error can be controlled and some direction can be given.

If I'm learning on my own I don't think I'd be able to find th e right direction most of the time.

Stop trying to find the right one, that’s basically the crux of my approach.

Let it evolve outside of all that.

Yes, art is a lot about trial & error to find one’s way. Because the goal is not to achieve something but finding one’s own expressions. That why artists do a lot of copies to master basic techniques but they don’t stop there yet must go further. Otherwise, it’s just craft. Of course, the situation is completely different if one merely wants to paint well or be able to produce some nice copies.

Reminds me of this advice from Ira Glass: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91FQKciKfHI

I often tell myself to 'mind the gap'

What if your student really just wants skill and doesn't care about a personal style or whatnot? Personally, I get a lot of satisfaction working as a software developer implementing practical solutions to complex problems, with no need for personal expression etc. I think it would be equally fun to produce lots of pretty illustrations in the style of Heath Robinson of, well, whatever someone paid for. I think a lot of people agree with me, and then get a teacher like you and are only frustrated.

This is also the essence (but not the all) of how to learn to program. And maybe how to learn everything else.

To learn to do a thing, you have to do the thing, a lot.

I worked in an adult care facility. One of the patients, a 90 year old man, was a painter. He made so many of the pieces that hung around the facility.

We were friendly. He would talk to me. He would ask for me when he needed something. He told me I reminded him of his son.

He asked me one day if I knew how to paint. I said no. He asked if I wanted to learn. I said yes. He said go buy these supplies and show up here tomorrow morning. $500 later I was ready.

We watched Bob Ross literally for a week. Then he showed me how to gesso a canvas. Then we painted. And painted. And pulled all nighters like we were 20.

He passed away 2 months after. I still paint and I never would have otherwise.

Edit: just one funny thing I remember. This man asked my wife to the movies! She said yet. She went to pick him up but he was tired. They watched “Dumb and Dumber” (in 2017) and had popcorn. He fell asleep before the moves was 1/4 over. :-)

One, that's beautiful and makes me want to cry.

Two, it speaks to getting over the hump of learning something hard, where you have to work 100s of hours, feeling incompetent, before the payoff. Maybe intensives like you did are the best way to get through those gross learning curve stages.

Thanks for sharing the best thing I read on the internet this year.

Thank you. Very sweet of you.

It’s funny how you embark on something because you just want to try it and then it becomes something more.

I hope my children embrace life early on. Maybe if that is all the wisdom I pass on to them it mean I will have been successful.

Thank you.

Awesome story, thank you for sharing that.

Thanks for the great and touching story! Posts like these is why I love HN so much.

In order to paint, you must first learn how to draw. There is a ton of misinformation on the internet and in literature, especially the famous book - "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain Workbook" [1]. This is a completely wrong way to learn how to draw. It gets you to point where your results may look pleasing but your foundation is going to be weak and it will fall apart.

Let me explain.

In order to draw convincingly, you must first internalize the object in 3 dimensions. You have to learn how to "think" in 3D - more specifically, given an object, you must be able to draw it from any angle, with or without foreshortening, and with any arrangement of illumination and with any camera focal length. Start with simple shapes - they're boring but that is a __must__. Then, start stacking primitives such as cones, cubes, cylinders, etc. Draw 20 different views of the same setup of primitives. Do this everyday for 6 months and you will pickup how to think in "3D" so to speak.

If you follow [1], you won't be able to do this. You will be able to copy a photograph or illustration by recognizing shapes but that only goes so far. If someone asks you to draw the same thing from a slightly different camera angle, you're lost.

Learning how to paint then adds another layer about color harmony, texture and stroke style. But fundamental drawing skills are __critical__ in order to paint well. All bets are off if you're trying to do abstract art or non-representational art.

You can take Jeffrey Watt's classes or a full course [2] or follow a few channels such as Sycra [3] on Youtube.

[1] https://smile.amazon.com/Drawing-Right-Side-Brain-Workbook/d... [2] http://jeffreyrwatts.com/ [3] https://www.youtube.com/user/Sycra

This entire post sounds like a "hot take". There is indeed a ton of misinformation around and there is no reason to believe your post isn't exactly that, especially when you make undefended claims like "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is a completely wrong way to learn".

I'm also puzzled that you explicitly put down dotrsotb but then go on to recommend Sycra, who recommends that book frequently...

It's all subjective in that most people who want to draw or paint, likely have completely different ideas of what being good at that is.

"Drawing from the right side of the brain" is basically just a brain hack to allow a person to essentially trace what is in front of them. To some people that might be the goal. To make a reasonably accurate copy of what is in front of them. For others they may want to be able to draw an accurate picture of something from their head. Others may want to create wild stylistic abstractions. The original post referenced impressionism. In that case a more informed knowledge of color and composition might be more helpful.

Personally, as someone who has spent my entire life drawing(and a chunk of it painting) I cringe at that advice to learn from that book. I have read it and it will definitely help someone to render and accurate version of a photograph or object in front of them. But it really boils down to a shortcut as opposed to fundamental learning. Its like teaching math with just a series of steps to get the answer without teaching the underlying fundamentals of what is happening. In the short term you'll test well, but in the long term your growth will be stunted if you do not also learn the concepts involved.

Hope that is a bit more clarification. And with all that said, for some people that book might be wonderful. I do think it is well written and I did enjoy it and I imagine others will as well. Its a fun read and set of exercises. Just wanted to give you a bit more perspective on the opinions presented.

With that said, the general advice given in what you are replying to is way over the top. No one needs to spend 6 months drawing cones in space. That smells like your typical exaggerated internet advice that tends to prevent people from taking the first steps.

>"Drawing from the right side of the brain" is basically just a brain hack to allow a person to essentially trace what is in front of them.

I really don't agree with this sentiment mostly due to the way it is voiced. Yes, the core of "drawing on the right side of the brain" is learning to see objectively and draw what you see. I wouldn't call that a "brain hack" or say that is "essentially tracing" what's in front of them (since "tracing" is kind of a dirty word in art context). Even if it were, that by itself is a very valuable thing to a lot of people, since a lot of styles of drawing and painting boil down to essentially just that, whether it's drawings of nature, portraits, or still lives.

I would say that learning to see is a fundamental drawing skill and this book teaches you valuable things by forcing you to stop and consider what things actually look like.

Of course, that by itself isn't sufficient, but it doesn't need to be. Nobody is suggesting that someone use this book as their only resource. But I do think it's a good introductory book for people who have very little to no experience drawing.

Agreed. I'm a pretty solid artist who doesn't learn well from others, and I'll still praise the book. It had another lesson in it that I never see mentioned, one that was expanded on in Drawing on the Artist Within. Our mind has task managers that constantly assess what we're doing. They do scheduling, handle cost benefit analysis, etc. For someone who doesn't already have the right aptitudes, this can lead to a nagging voice in the back of your mind telling you that you aren't doing a good job, this is boring, you're wasting your time. Getting people to use some simple brain hacks to stop listening to their preconceptions and just draw what they see can bypass these issues long enough for some people to see that they're being their own worst enemy. It isn't a good book to teach you how to draw. It's there to help make sure you don't give up the moment you start.

What book would be a better choice?

Obviously I don’t have data to back up my claims but I explain what’s wrong with shape-copying way of drawing.

Then, I go on to explain the litmus test for evaluating whether one has internalized the “3D” aspect of the object they are trying to draw. If someone can draw from a reference but can’t draw the same thing from a different angle - that means they’ve learned to draw based on that book that I linked.

Contrarily, you haven’t put forth a valid criticism of my post except highlighted that it’s a “hot take”. I am happy and willing to engage in a debate without calling/judging.

This is a pretty strong opinion, and not necessarily correct.

>"Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain Workbook" [1]. This is a completely wrong way to learn how to draw

Do you have a source for this? This book has been recommended by a good majority of the drawing/painting professors I had (at a fine arts school). The entire basis of the book is "learn to draw by learning to see".

>Do this everyday for 6 months and you will pickup how to think in "3D" so to speak.

This isn't bad advice, but not doesn't correlate directly with learning to draw/paint from observation. This is a helpful exercise if you are looking to go more of an illustrative/modeling route. If OP is looking to draw from imagination completely, this would be helpful - but I would still argue that practicing from observation would build a better visual vocabulary than practicing basic shapes only.

>But fundamental drawing skills are __critical__ in order to paint well.


>All bets are off if you're trying to do abstract art or non-representational art.

Demonstrably false. Every single one of the abstract/non-representational masters have an extremely good grasp of "traditional" (i.e. observational) skills. Even Pollock knew how to draw from life.

To OP - I would recommend starting by drawing AND painting from life at the same time. There's no real reason to master drawing before attempting to paint, as painting is essentially drawing with color. That being said, drawing is a great way to force you do as much as you can with a very limited tool box (line, shape, texture, value, space (composition)).

Also - don't take anyone's advice as an absolute. There are thousands and thousands of ways to progress as an artist and not a single one of them is "correct". The only constant is to be persistent and self-critical.

I am expressing my opinion about the book - I have read through it and it is a complete train wreck in my view. I also explain why I think it is a wrong way to teach new comers. Furthermore, I provide a litmus test of checking if someone has learned to draw from the "right" side of the brain. I do not need to provide a reference for an opinion that I am stating.

> "Demonstrably false. Every single one of the abstract/non-representational masters have an extremely good grasp of "traditional" (i.e. observational) skills. Even Pollock knew how to draw from life."

So did Picasso, Rothko, Richter, Burri and many more. But, I can also point to Bacon, Yayoi, David Hirst, etc. who have no interest or background in drawing skills.

My point was, by saying that "All bets are off", I meant that being able to draw well is not a necessary condition to become an abstract artist.

My training was more in the “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” school. My dad, who was trained at the School of Visual Arts in NY, gave me the book as a kid. My drawing teacher in college also focused on representational drawing.

Personally, I still recommend “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”, because I think it addresses the biggest hurdle: drawing what you actually see, instead of what you “think” you see.

Understanding underlying geometry and primitives is a neat trick, and one that can help with figure drawing. But, it can also make the work feel mechanical and lifeless.

I think there’s a balance somewhere in the middle.

As far as abstract work, I think a solid representational foundation is still important. Picasso, by the age of 13, could paint with incredible realism.

If anyone’s interested, here’s some of my “traditional” work:


(Contains some artistic nudity)

Thanks for the advice. From your art I got the sense that, "hey this is a cool dude"... then I found your Alan Watts pixel art :)

In my youth I was training to be a portrait gallery artist and studied privately in artist studios throughout my twenties. I largely didn’t go that route professionally because 2008 happened and other opportunities presented themself, but learning to draw in order to paint is fundamental.

The single biggest issue novices have with art, whether painting or drawing, is edge control and handling values, everything eles is largely practice observing and studying.

The best way to learn edges and values is drawing, lots and lots of drawing, critiques, and master studies. A master draftsman can pick up a paintbrush and be proficient quickly, but it’s extremely difficult to skip that step if wanting to jump straight to painting.

Largely I don’t know your goals, if it’s just to paint for fun, ignore the advice, learn the technical side and enjoy yourself. If you want something nice looking as well, draw draw draw.

I'm fairly surprised this comment is at the top right now.

Honestly, while your comment probably isn't entirely wrong, I'd hesitate to say that painting is the kind of activity where a pre-requisite is learning to draw.

The concept of painting is bringing your vision to life on media. Whether that's a scene with obvious shapes or not. There are plenty of art pieces where drawing or knowing how to draw before creating the painting would've been unnecessary.

You must have noticed why there are a lot of still-life studies in painting. Sometimes, starting out with a 4-shade monochrome palette. The reason for studying still life, classically by countless masters and in today's fine art courses, is that it teaches you about few things:

1. Being able to draw/paint from life. Still life objects are easily accessible without paying for a human model.

2. More importantly, household objects can easily be broken down into primitive shapes. Cups, Cans, Pots, Apples, etc..

3. It teaches you about illumination, finding values by "Squinting" and finding edge quality (soft, hard, lost, etc.)

Furthermore, the classical masters practiced "Chiascuro", i.e. high contrast and wide dynamic range light conditions that can be simulated indoors with still life. The reason why drawing is prerequisite for painting is that the act of application of paint depends on local values where your brush stroke is being applied to. In order to find the value of the color, you need to know the form. In order to know the form and how it is illuminated, you need to "internalize" the 3D aspect of the object. Therefore, always, drawing is 80% of the work in painting (80% to make a point, obviously, I don't know exact percentage).

Drawing is 2D; why would I need to internalize anything in 3 dimensions? Maybe you're thinking of a definition of "drawing" as in "accurately reproducing a 2D perspective projection of an anatomically correct 3D horse from any angle". But that's just a very narrow slice of the vast world of visual art.

> Drawing is 2D

It (like painting, where this is taken advantage of far more often) is actually 3D, since it involves applying one or more layers of material of nonzero thickness on a base substrate, though it can be (and often is) treated as 2D ignoring that.

But, yes, the grandparent was focussed (perhaps excessively) on advice about how to do representational drawing of objects existing in 3D space as a prelude to painting, presumably focussed on similarly representational painting.

It goes without saying that drawing is a way to represent 3D objects into 2D space.

Once the fundamentals are good - i.e. "accurately reproducing a 2D perspective projection of an anatomically correct 3D horse from any angle", you could develop your own style, make caricatures, cartoons, hyperrealism, figurative-expressionism, etc... You can have the freedom knowing that your skeleton (figuratively speaking) is correctly placed in 3D.

> It goes without saying that drawing is a way to represent 3D objects into 2D space.

Drawing provides a way of representing 3D objects into 2D space; it's not what drawing is.

Here's what I did when was in my late teens & early 20s, and taught myself.

1. Copy famous artworks that you admire -- even just drawing in a notebook is great, to start.

2. Once you can copy art that you really like, start adding your own flair to things, develop a personal style

3. Experiment more & more

Just like with programming -- there are a ton of great books about how to paint, how to mix colors, etc.

You can buy books and work through them, whatever is most fun.

There are 2 key points, though:

  * The only way to get better is by painting... you'll have to paint a lot

  * You'll want to paint a lot +only+ if you're having fun.
So don't worry too much. Just grab some paints and enjoy yourself. It's a great hobby.

And try everything you can -- watercolor, oil, gouache, ink brush, encaustic, using the palette knife only, mixing with collage, pastels, all will teach you something. Just be consistent, and you will get good.

> The only way to get better is by painting... you'll have to paint a lot

As with any creative skill, especially the ones that involve fine motoric skills, one cannot skip the practice. The advice I once read about learning how to draw applies in some way to all of them:

"Every artist has at least a thousand bad drawings in them. It is best to get these out as quickly as possible."

I was an artist for about ten years before becoming a computer guy, doing oil paintings from life.

I would highly suggest you take a class. There's a lot of basic tech stuff you need to learn (how to mix paints, wash brushes, prepare canvases) and after that come the rudiments of drawing and color.

I would compare it to learning to play an instrument. You want to pick up the violin and just express your emotions in music after a busy day, but to get there you need some initial help about where to put your fingers, advice from a teacher who knows the kind of pitfalls beginners fall into, and a lot of practice that can sometimes be frustrating.

But when you get there, it's very rewarding and enjoyable. Good luck to you!

EDIT: it's also helpful to have initial instruction so you can navigate the thicket of art supplies. They can get very expensive and the wrong ones, or inappropriate ones for your level of expertise, will make painting a misery.

I'd have been very surprised not to see a comment from you in this thread. Could you link to some of your work?

Thanks for that. I really like these.

I would basically ignore any textbooks or "tutorials" and just start with drawing first, which has the advantage that you can ignore colors. When I was 19, I learned how to draw over the course of 3 years, by using standard printer paper, a pencil and photographs to copy. It was incredibly frustrating during the first few days, but you will get better very quickly. After a few weeks, you will realize that your perception of an image (and your idea of drawing) will change completely. You will see an image in 3 dimensions, and you will quickly learn how you can add "depth" to an image. It's difficult to describe, but basically it will suddenly feel like your pencil is "diving into" the picture you are drawing, as opposed to just scratching on the paper surface.

Something I did not expect was that the other major thing you learn during the first few weeks is not how to draw, but how to fix mistakes you made. This was an important realization for me, because it extends to many other professions as well.

After you have copied a few images, you will realize the shortcomings of your tools (paper, pencil, eraser) and you will start to look for other pencil types or better quality paper. All of this will come naturally after a while, you don't need textbooks for that, and you can apply this type of learning to many other skills afterwards, because you will have developed an immunity against these frustrating, frustrating first days.

By painting.

A painter is simply someone that paints.

Paint most days. Follow whatever gives you motivation.

The above is my translation from watching artistic friends of mine.

I also suspect: Whenever possible discard the that which demotivates you. Experiment with everything, or alternatively find repetition with minute changes or improvements, whatever is your jam. Try to avoid believing you need to find an expert, while simultaneously copying skills from anywhere and anyone that suits you. Or mimic nothing and noone.

Accept your work is a journey where you are always an apprentice. Mostly you will only be proud of some parts of your results, and some parts will disappoint you. Accept that you will look back at your best work as the work of another person (genius or child).

But most importantly, just paint.

My SO went to RISD, is an excellent painter technically and that is what she does for a living. From what she has said the first year or two of art school was just a huge grind of doing lots of drawings 8-12 hours a day, ect trying to get as photo-realistically perfect as possible. Lot of drawing people ect. Then there are different styles of painting she would focus specifically on a given style and practice it. But she always starts with a sketch, then under layers, so drawing comes first.

She practices drawing all of the time. She goes to live figure drawing at the local art school every week. Basically what I am saying is that from what I understand to get to a high level of technical skill painting, you start with a high level of technical skill drawing. There may be other ways, but this seems to be the typical path.

There's a great tutorial.


They also have a subreddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/ArtFundamentals/

I'm taking this course and I'm loving it. The course is free but I'm using patron to support the creator.

I'm not a painter but I think my experience at learning to play the piano in my 50s is applicable. 30 years after college, where my musical career (clarinet) ended, I finally decided to try to learn to play the piano, having had a desire to do so for decades. I started out by purchasing an inexpensive Yamaha electronic keyboard and some beginner's books, sat down and starting banging away. A year later, after gaining some competency, and, more importantly, learning that I really enjoyed it, I went out a purchased a real piano. While my late start and relative lack of innate talent means that I probably will never be as good as I wished, I can play well enough for my own tastes and I still enjoy both practicing and playing. My only regret is not doing this earlier.

As so many others have stated, the key to learning how to do something is to actually get yourself dirty and do it. The tools you can acquire, the variety of things to paint are endless. The only thing you're missing is the will.

Good luck!

I know a lot of people who have just painted along with Bob Ross. Maybe that's an option?

Ross's approach is probably closest to instant gratification: the scenes are intentionally designed to be easy, quick, and striking.

Water color can also be instant gratification, but you can't really paint over mistakes, unlike oils (if you wait for them to dry).

Looking online, people's early Ross-clone works are not so hot, but practice makes perfect. I would suggest picking one segment of a scene, such as part of mountain, and keep trying until you perfect it.

Take a break from the sub-scene for a few days so that you revisit it with a fresh viewpoint. Maybe rotate sub-scenes to rework. Staring at the same thing too long in one sitting can dampen one's objectivity, I've found. This applies to writing also.

Keep in mind that Ross used to crank out such paintings for Alaskan tourist shops en masse. He has the experience of many thousands of paintings, making it look easier than it is. I'm sure his first dozen were clunkers or took a while.

I would suggest picking one segment of a scene, such as part of mountain, and keep trying until you perfect it.

I remember Ross doing a training video along these lines... the resulting painting at the end was not one whole scene, but a bunch of discrete components: trees, mountains, water, etc.

I did a few paintings in his technique years ago. I was surprised at how easy it was to produce something decent.

> Staring at the same thing too long in one sitting can dampen one's objectivity, I've found. This applies to writing also.

This definitely applies to photography. I'll spend two hours processing a photo, think it looks great, leave it and come back the next day. I'm invariably horrified at how overdone it looks and turn everything down to 50%. Then it's ready.

And a heap of his videos are on YouTube! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxcnsr1R5Ge_fbTu5ajt8DQ

Painting along with Bob Ross is totally awesome. Even if it comes out badly (which it will, the first dozen times you try it), it's still super fun. He makes art accessible, unpretentious, and un-scary -- and meanwhile the skills can totally carry over into anything you could possibly want to paint.

Besides being a fun way to paint, this is also a relaxing, almost meditative exercise.

Not when I screw up :-)

Haha, yeah maybe, but aren't those "happy accidents?"

There are so many interesting approaches you could take to enjoy painting as a programmer! Welcome to the fun: https://youtu.be/Up2-myTEviE

Definitely spending lots of time with yourself and your materials, working on pictures, is the easiest way to learn and trust your intuition, and have the best time.

If you enjoy Impressionism, early American Modernism, etc. then you would probably also enjoy the range of practices that were inspired by them over the decades. Recently a rather important computer artist John F. Simon Jr. wrote a book: Drawing Your Own Path, which is great: https://www.drawingyourownpath.com

I’d also recommend looking into Harold Cohen’s work, and Casey Reas: https://vimeo.com/22955812

To go back a bit further I’d suggest the BW film Painter’s Painting, and Shock of The New, the BBC documentary series by Robert Hughes, both of which you can find on YouTube.

Just paint man and have fun exploring your emotions while broadening your knowledge of the ways others have explored theirs throughout time.

I watched the first link. My first thought is that a pool makes for a very strange meeting space, especially for digital art. I know, pretty complex analysis.

OK, in order to get some satisfaction out of it, and to continue for an extended period of time, possibly a lifetime, you'll need to invest in some education:

1. [Optional] take an Art appreciation class. The problem here is that they are all crap. Best to visit the closest Enciclopedic museum near you, and take as many of the free tours. Sure you'll have your preferences (you mentioned impressionists) but it's good to have a well rounded worldview

2. Buy the book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" and do the self-paced course. Yes you need drawing skills in order to paint, not so much that painting is filling the drawings with color, but painting is drawing with paint. Also the book will teach you about negative space, proportion and more.

3. [Optional] after #2 above, take this free course https://drawabox.com/

4. Take a color theory class, preferably offline, or online, or read a couple of books. You'll be painting as well, which is good

5. Take a composition class, you can take it before or after #4 above. Preferably offline, or online, or read a couple of books. You'll be painting as well, which is good

6. Take a painting class, FINALLY! I know. Preferably offline, or online. Start with acrylic, then - if you want - go to oils. Of if you're into watercolors do watercolors. Best if you explore all three mediums. Blick Art is your friend for supplies.

My career involves making visual art (drawing painting, 3d art and more) there is a lot of great advice here,

Kingkawn is absolutely right, familiarity with the materials absolutely shortens the gap between desired results and actual results. billfruit mentioned what my favorite teacher always hammered at me "to learn to draw (/paint) you have to learn to see" learning to interpret what's in front of you as 2d forms, textures, lines, also helps in translating what you want to paint to what you will be painting.

there's a lot more here but what I'll add is a very specific resource - https://www.alexhays.com/loomis/ Loomis books got me started in art. they were written 80 years ago and still are some of the most approachable books on how to draw and paint available.

my own favorite traditional art is figure drawing / sculpting and it doesnt completely overlap your desires but for that I recommend a good anatomy book (my favorites are "Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist" by peck, and bridgeman's "constructive anatomy" which are at the photo-real and volumetric breakdown ends of the spectrum)

really the main thing that helps learning art is to reduce your barrier to creating. join a regular life drawing or plein air painting group, start with a home studio you can relax at. something that can be regular and low pressure.

hope this all helps.

As someone who's interested in branching into the more "artistic" side of tech, I'd love to hear what it is you do in your career.

I currently work as a web developer, but enjoy photography and animation on the side.

Anecdote: the biggest thing I am learning now is just how much professional painters allow themselves to completely change their minds in the middle of doing a piece. I never thought this before, I thought everybody just knocked things out once they became proficient (and yeah, that can be true but not always), more often when I watch a video of an entire painting session they can decide to completely move things around, change the background, the mood, etc, and they are using physical paint, not photoshop.

Also in drawing, there is MUCH more erasing going on than I ever thought. It's true that some artists just work straight ahead, but I have never allowed myself to rethink things if I don't like where it's going. I make the mistake of abandoning works that I think are not going right, instead of fixing things which is a very, very valuable skill to develop.

Watercolors are pretty unforgiving in my experience as a beginner because they are transparent, and you have to be careful and plan things out in advance. I think there is a lot of technique to master there if you are learning on your own.

So you would want opaque colors, and you can get that with gouache + watercolor but more likely you may like acrylics.

Color theory is important. Take time to work make your own tests and color tables as you get used to a selection of colors.

I would add that watching videos of how different people work has changed how I view my own process. There are a lot of different ways to work and some may resonate with you.

My previous startup that I worked on was to solve the problem of "I want to paint, but I don't know where to start".

We used the deep learning style transfer to stylize pictures/drawings with Van Gogh Style. Here's the best one that turned out great (out of 10,000 pictures we styled, this is what everyone loves unanimously) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07831NQJ7

Then we turn them into paint by numbers kit. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H2VDKM1

Apparently the paint is classified as Hazmat, and it took us 6 month to get this thing approved to sell on Amazon. Which kind of killed the idea, as we had to pivot and do other things in order to stay afloat.

I always wanted to learn to paint, but I don't know where to start. I know the first few paintings is going to be ugly, and I don't really want to paint apples and oranges to learn. So this whole startup idea is to make it easy and fun to get started on painting and get the momentum going, because what you paint is idea(picture) created by you. And the painting methodology is simply filling in numbers with colors.

I hope one day I have the time to get back to this. I really believe in this idea.

I think you think too much about this. From my experience: I took an art class for about a year. It improved my drawing and painting skills a lot.

Sure, the problem is that your first pictures are kind of ugly. But you can compensate this by just painting the next one and not thinking too much about the outcome.

Furthermore, I realized at some point, that it really doesn’t matter what you paint. An apple and an orange can be highly satisfying.

Painting has two different aspects to it: producing a satisfying result and the flow-like state of painting. Although I have to admit that I found painting to be quite exhausting. It takes a lot of attention and energy to be focused for 2-3 hours.

wow thanks for the perspective.

have you tried paint by numbers? are those less exhausting for you?

I'm primarily a "drawer", not a "painter", but that said, there's a lot that translates between genres of visual art, especially when we're talking about representational work. I work a lot with pixel art which is often compared to painting in terms of achievable results.

When I give advice to people who want to get into pixel art, I usually give these recommendations:

* Pick a few art fundamentals and aim to study them, by recreating real life scenes or other images with a focus on a specific principle(lots of people will study by recreating the classics). Proportion is one I regularly struggle with because I'll tend to rush along through the early part of the image: if you're drawing figures but don't add enough structure to their proportioning, they will look deformed. But I learned how to proportion better by studying typography, which elaborates greatly on measures and ratios. For any given art principle there are usually guidelines, tricks, and ways to add structure that help in conveying a desired indication without just doing guess-and-check and grinding your muscle memory. And there are a lot of working artists who produce output by grinding through it with the help of the undo key, cut+paste, etc., but traditional forms usually emphasize bringing more preparation to the image.

* Fewer colors are usually better - a principle that is true within pixel art(using more colors usually means you are adding detailed lighting and texture, which can get out of control pretty quickly and doesn't add a lot of information to a low-resolution pixel image) and only somewhat less so in other forms. Paints offer uncanny amounts of smoothness through blending, but this also means having to manage a nearly infinite number of values. Folks who really want to convey perfectly accurate representational scenes these days are likely to look towards the gamut of digital tools to help manage or automate these considerations, since fighting them with traditional materials can be so time-consuming.

* In terms of specific techniques for making marks or stylizing the image, they do depend a lot on the medium, but you don't need a lot of different techniques to do good work. For pixel art, I often suggest following castpixel's[0] style, which is to always make pixel clusters of two or more. This is a style that forces the indication of "brush strokes" throughout the image and makes it easy to resolve fine details, though it sacrifices smoothness around edges.

Across all the arts, the creative part often takes the form of setting down a few broad conceptual rules and structures intended to communicate the idea, and then the remainder is an exercise in the technical followthrough of those rules. So don't feel too pressured to follow a specific set of rules or techniques, as long as you execute consistently through the piece. As a hobbyist you're totally free to explore any combinations that come to mind, even if they're "inefficient" or "unpolished" - you don't have clients waiting on you!

[0] https://mobile.twitter.com/castpixel/status/1006437480059596... (she's talked about style in more depth, but you can see the clustering rule pretty clearly in her work)

Full time coder here, who started to draw/paint 2-3 years back. (You can see my journey so far here: https://www.instagram.com/aqeelvn/)

Haven't read all the response here, so I probably might be repeating, but the basic idea is to spend some quality time actually doing it.

Like other arts this is also something one could learn. Take the time to educate yourself with the concepts in visual art. There is a lot you can learn on your own from resources out there. That was the option available to me mostly.

A solid grasp in drawing is required for making any serious work in representational painting.

Andrew Loomis has written a bunch of books that are now mostly available freely on the web. Its really old but its very good.

For painting, I recommend "Alla Prima" by Richard Schmid. This is not a casual read(even though anyone could enjoy the great paintings). Its full of solid technical concepts and advice. You learn more and more from it as you develop yourselves.

Draw from life as much as possible. Don't depend on photographs during your learning phase(although that is never really over) If you don't understand why that matters, don't bother and just stick to it. Soon you will see the difference :)

Good luck!

First - Where does your motivation come from? Is it an emotion, an image in your mind, a place and how it makes you feel? Go deep into that, and the process of painting, whatever that looks like, should become a means of lifting that up and embracing that motivation in a deeper way.

Second - Painting is a process and understanding technique is all about having a relationship between you and your faculties in conjunction with the unique materials and their inherent processes. Whatever you choose to paint with, oil, acrylic, water color, guache, digital, they all have their limits and their sublime qualities, embrace these limitations and qualities as their strength. Get to know the history of pigments for example to develop a deeper appreciation for this kind of stuff.

Of course drawing skills are essential but beyond a faculty in rendering the work of learning to draw is a serious head-trip. Sure it is about developing muscle groups. The eye to see, the arm and hand to capture, but it is equally if not more-so a battle of overcoming the chatter and false images your mind possess and overlays that are not matching what your eyes are seeing in the world and on the canvas. It is about overcoming your own ego because it will lie to you, make you lazy, invest emotion into a mark on the page and make you frustrated and tell you you are not good enough or you are better than any actually constructive criticism. The wepon against all these things is clearing the page and starting over, clearing your mind and looking again, and closer.

It is lazy and far slower to depend purely on yourself, find other people you can learn from take what you can from their experience and repeat.

As someone who paints I ask myself the same question on how to play piano. I'm told the same thing I tell everyone else - practice.

Obviously practice fundamentals - understudy drawing, form, color, composition etc.

One thing I think a lot of people think is when a painter looks at his work he'll say "this is a badass painting" when in reality everyone like myself I met is it usually ends up as a collection of compromises versus what I wanted to achieve :)

Personally depending on the medium invest in moderate to good supplies. Don't waste money on that one off brush, you'll find better utility getting a good round brush from 0-5, a nice flat and a sturdy fan brush. One thing to help with experimentation is invest more in palettes and newsprint paper or cardboard.

If you're into digital I don't know what to tell you. I desire the feedback of my hand on the brush and the way the hairs course through the surface spreading the medium. However I'm sure it provides as much relaxation and meditation as painting the conventional way it does.

Godspeed :)

Maybe you might enjoy having a look at what Zed Shaw (of Rails is a ghetto fame) does:



I think prior to painting in any style, it is useful to learn how to draw. I found this book recently which I think is really excellent. As you progress through the exercises, the instructor has you work in different media, including paints (but in order to learn how to express a 3d object on 2d material).

The Natural Way to Draw by Nicolaides. It might be found at a library but here is a link to amazon (I don't get any credits for this just for ease of searching)


Otherwise if you're more experimental maybe just study your favorite impressionists and try to copy their style on your own subjects until you find your own way to do it. I personally am into being methodical but this approach (starting realistically) just takes longer.

The hardest part about painting besides the techniques is composition.

Whether your work is representational or non-representational, it's extremely difficult to go from what you have in your head to what you put on the canvas.

If you have a thought, an idea, or even an emotion you should practice putting _that_ on canvas. The technique will come as you paint more and more. YouTube can help for some techniques if you want to figure out how to do something.

Really, just start painting and the rest will come. Experiment with texture, shape, and composition. Don't worry too much about color. When you start getting better at composition the colors become obvious. I'd even recommend your first few paintings just stay with a single color.

I would suggest taking a class. In my city I've taken a couple of night classes, one for painting with acrylics/oil and one for painting with watercolors.

On top of that, draw draw draw. This will out tremendously when painting (which is adds onto the skill of drawing and being able to "see" things as an artist).

Draw and paint because you want to. I get the sense from your post that you want to learn to paint because it would be an interesting skill to pick up. I'd say try drawing something and see if you like it. Honestly, you may not. Don't do it because it's a neat thing to be able to do.

I always wanted to learn how to draw but then when my college provided me with an iPad Pro and Pencil, I didn't have any more excuses. I think Procreate (an amazing Photoshop-like drawing app for iPad) was only $10 at the time of purchase so this setup completely removed all cost for me to get into the hobby. While I'm still more invested in other forms of art (photography and CG mainly), sketching/drawing allows me to remove my mind from my Engineering coursework for a time and open my perspectives.

IMHO I would say start simple and work your way up. Begin with doodling and then progress to more careful drawing. It's often easier to copy another artist's work or to draw from a photograph. One advantage is you can draw lines over your reference imagine and make measurements. From there you can practice shading and get a sense of tone. Don't try to cheat by smudging with your finger. It may sound stupid but make sure you have a full set of pencils as you'll probably want to go darker that you can with a regular pencil. Once you're somewhat happy with that I would then move onto acrylic paints. You can draw out the image as before with measuring and then use that pencil drawing as a guide to paint over the top. Be careful when using black paint. It may just be the paint I used but attempting to make darker shades by mixing black would just give black. Once you're happy with acrylic paints I would then move to oil paints. Oil paints take longer to dry than acrylic paints which can throw you off. One of the great things about paint is if you make a mistake, you can simply paint over it :-) (though with oils you may need to be a little more patient). You may want to take what I've said with a pinch of salt as I've not painted in years and I'm out of practice with drawing. I still make collage-type images in Gimp though :-)

Learning is a continuous and long-term process, so it's important to have that source of motivation and inspiration to propel you through the routine. Lots of routine! Not unlike coding in that sense.

If Monet and Hopper is what fuels currently your interest, then just go for it! Pick a work that draws you the most and set it as goal to copy it.

It's a most intimate and rewarding way to connect with your favorite artist! You'd naturally discover and learn tons of stuff both about the artist and techniques.

I'd opt to use just pencil at first, just to get the feeling of the lines, shapes, and flow of the curves/angles. Pencil is the most readily available medium, you likely already have some basic ability to draw lines ( straw man drawings are still drawings!).

To make this 'organized', I'd buy a simple sketchbook, that you'd carry with you, ready for use any moment you'd get time and drive to draw.

Next, very soon, you could explore the color layer by using .... a box of Crayola pencils. Cheap, portable, Real! Same art work now with adding color, strokes too.

Your sketchbook is your diary, good for notes and questions too!

At some point trying out paints becomes just a choice of medium. Keep your motivation burning - the artists you like are excellent guides. But instructors are here for that exact reason to answer your call and help unblock your progress. Boiling in your own juices too long could get you over-cooked :)

And, hey, your sketchbook is your passport on this fun journey! Profitez bien!

Just do it! You have a passion for it, so harness it!

Go to the dollar store and buy some brushes and canvas (both are surprisingly good despite being cheap). Then buy a 48-color acrlyic (or oil) set, so you don't need to worry about mixing colors (~$40, but worth it).

Paint from photos. Find a really nice photo, sketch it out with paint/pencil and then paint what you see.

Paint with a friend or a nice teacher. Painting will be, and is always, frusturating. Throughout every painting, at some point, you will look at it and think its terrible. Painting with others is nice because when you get to that point and you can ask someone to look at it and tell you its not bad (and they are usually right). Once you paint through the frusturation you will find anything you think is bad can be made good.

As others suggested, you might also learn to draw. IMO the best way to do this is to go to a model drawing session. These are uninstructed and the time-varying of the poses will help a lot.

Take pride in anything you make. Hang it up on the wall, take a picture of it. Don't compare yourself to Monet or other painters, just paint what you like and enjoy what you paint.

Good luck, I'm happy to share more if you'd like.

It's all there on the official Youtube channel too : https://www.youtube.com/user/BobRossInc/playlists

There is a 24/7 Bob Ross channel on Twitch, too.

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But I am with you; Bob Ross videos on youtube.

Awesome, I didn’t know he was on Netflix too

I have some tips for you, coming from an illustration background. You can see some of my work here: https://shirajg.wordpress.com

Try charcoal and a white pencil on toned paper at first. Work from dark to light, applying large areas of tone with the charcoal, then picking out light shapes with a kneaded eraser, and finally adding highlights with white. This is a lot like what you eventually do with paint.

When starting to paint, use oil paint, or acrylic with a retarder in it to slow drying time. This will give you a lot of freedom to fix mistakes.

Work in layers when painting. This can let you tackle different aspects of the painting independently. You can start by toning your painting surface to a base color, then doing a sketch on top of that to establish the big shapes and edges. Once that's dry, you will always have the underdrawing to help you along as you paint. If you screw up the painting, you can scrape off the paint and start from the drawing again.

Learn to see values. The best way to do this is to squint. You'll see obvious contrasts in the light and dark, these are the values. All the detail within those values needs to sit very close to the value it's within. It will seem like there's a lot more contrast when your eyes are wide open and you're focused on one area, but you'll lose the gestalt effect of the light if you do that.

Work your paint from thin to think. You can be more sketchy and loose with thin, flowing paint. Save the thick stuff for the end, when you're sure everything is in the right place, looking how you'd like.

Learn to mix colors to a target value. Pick a random color and paint a swatch of that somewhere, then take another color and lighten or darken it until it's the same value as the first swatch. You can test how close you got by dabbing a bit of the new mix into the swatch you painted before. If the value matches it should fade into the swatch pretty seamlessly. If there's contrast between the dab and the swatch, the values is too light or dark. Do this enough and you'll be able to eye it.

If you want to paint figurative works, learn to draw.

Learning the 3D form of objects is of great help and should work in tandem with the visual stimulii you are observing.

Hope this helps, questions welcome.

I have tried to pick up drawing/painting as an adult, I felt it to be much easier to make progress than trying to learn a foreign language or learn a musical instrument.

Most important thing is learning to see things better, to gauge their shapes and proportions more clearly so that one can represent them on paper. I also felt it is surprisingly easy to emulate from how other people are painting/drawing esp from youtube videos, etc.

John Ruskin wrote that "But I have never yet, in the experiments I have made, met with a person who could not learn to draw at all; and in general there is a satisfactory and available power in every one to learn drawing if he wishes, just as nearly as all persons gave the power of learning French, Latin or arithmetic, in a decent and useful degree, if their lot in life requires them to possess such knowledge."

I heartily recommend John Ruskin, "The Elements of Drawing" to all. A chance reading of that book, lead me to trying my hand at drawing/painting.

I can't paint, but I do enjoy it, so my advice may not be of any help.

It is not so much about learning how to apply paint to canvas, it is much more about learning how to see, how to take what is in front of you, and strip it of concept, that's not a door, it's not even a square, theres something lighter there, something darker there, maybe there's a gradient going in that direction. Deconstruct until it becomes raw visual.

Then buy some paints (I suggest acrylics, they smell nicer and are more forgiving, and come on! 100 years lifetime is quite enough for our paintings!)

Buy some canvas, the cheap stuff. Buy some brushes, any set will do, but you should have large and small ones. You don't need a palette, a piece of cardboard is just fine.

Have fun! The process of applying paint to canvas is interesting in and of itself, so do that for a while before trying to make anything that looks like something.

I'm a somewhat frugal person, so my emphasis on using cheap stuff may not be relevant to others, but for me, it lowers the barrier of entry, because I'm not "wasting" good materials, it makes me able to start a painting with less of an idea, which means more often than I would otherwise. The blank canvas is perfect, nothing has gone wrong with it yet, it is not tainted by idea.. Smearing paint onto it is destruction for a while, I will be destroying the canvas, and wasting paint until it is done, and at that point, it will have no more potential, whatever it is, it is, and it will always be less than its potential, someone better could have done much better with those materials, so they were wasted, and that is why I need to use cheap stuff, to feel less guilty about wasting them. Because I waste them purely for my own pleasure.

Here are my pictures: http://chromophiliat.dk

My wife has been hobby painting for the last few years! Like others have said the foremost thing that will help you improve is to enjoy the painting experience. We have so much art lying around our apartment that soon we will run out of space.

During her early days she would paint 1,2 paintings over the weekend, and with time the sophistication grew and she started exploring newer techniques, and at this stage some of her paintings take a week or 2 to complete. Some of her colleagues and friends have shown keen interest in buying her artwork so that tells you she`s getting good at it.

Shameless plug: https://instagram.com/swethareddyart

There are a lot of other artists on IG who share their work and techniques some even goto the length of making videos explaining the techniques.

Side note: looking for tips on best ways to take a picture of the artwork and get prints? Anyone have experience doing this.

After looking at a ton of youtube videos, taking art classes, and even an in-person atelier (drawing in a studio while being guided by a "master"), by far the best art teaching I've come across is Evolve Artist[0]. It focuses on taking small steps to get the fundamentals down solid. I expect it'll take me a few years to get through the whole course, but I can already tell my ability to draw from life and handle brushes and paint has improved dramatically. There's a lot of personal feedback based on what you do, and I've found that to be a really effective way to improve with art.

I'll put my pom-poms down now. I'm not affiliated with Evolve other than being a student. And my goal after 20 years of web dev work is to be a professional writer/illustrator, so I'm taking this art thing pretty seriously.


- lay out a small inch grid over your favorite painting [throw a painting into photoshop on a tablet to have greater zoom]

- focus on perfecting the small squares only not the larger piece, the fun is jumping around from your favorite puzzle piece and not going in order.

- once you're done remove the grid and blend in the edges of each square to it's adjacent one.

Years ago I found a thread on an art forum that started with the author saying he wanted to learn how to draw, and progressed from childish sketches of hands and spheres to master-level portraits. I can't find it for the life of me, but if anyone knows what I'm talking about I would love to get a link. :)


A real shame conceptart.org is dead...

edit: https://vimeo.com/29510470 here's a slideshow of his submitted works, a lot of the old hosting is gone

I knew HN would remember it! I remember reading a blog post that linked to that thread in 2012 and it totally blew my mind (actually I think it was submitted here).

I remember it too - not finding it, but it was started with "Ok Im going to work on my drawing" and he started with a pretty basic skill and kept on posting progress for over a decade.

I did find this though - http://www.dorkly.com/post/81987/artist-progress

I would highly recommend finding a place that offers figure drawing sessions to learn to translate form to paper. That foundation will help you so much when you're trying to translate your vision to canvas. You could also just YouTube tips and get a friend to get naked for you. In terms of paint I'd go to a dollar store and just buy a bunch of random paint, brushes, and canvases. They usually have acrylic, oil and watercolor. They're obviously going to be lower quality but they'll help you figure out what you want to pursue. YouTube tutorials on styles you want to emulate and then grow. Grab a cheap projector and Trace a picture you took on your phone on canvas and go crazy. Finger paint on poster board with tempra. Try weird things that just come to mind.

I think drawing and painting is a wonderful investment to make in yourself. Others here may disagree, but I highly recommend the classic, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.”

I’d suggest getting some big paper, some fairly wide felt brushes, and India ink. This will force you to loosen-up and get your body into it. A common mistake is gripping a brush or whatever like it’s a #2 pencil and you’re about to do homework. The aim is to be free, loose, smooth.

Experiment with charcoal. Use materials you don’t feel bad about “wasting”. It takes practice.

Drawing from life is invaluable, so if you can find time to go outside and simply draw what you see, you’ll get steady progress. Try to measure with your hands / brush, to see how accurately you’re depicting the scene in front of you.

It’s a rewarding challenge. Also, remember to breath :)

Good luck!

I've been teaching myself illustration for a kid's app I'm making. It's such a different mental exercise than coding!

And yet... I found that I was getting stuck on things while drawing. It really wasn't until I started to bring some of my discipline and rigor from engineering to art making, that I was able to break through. Specifically, debugging what wasn't working with my art. Breaking it down, and trying new ideas.

So I would say, there's actually a lot of similarities in the practice of learning to make art and programming, even if the actual skills, sensibilities, and motivations involved are completely different. You're probably more equipped to make progress than you think.

I'm a coder who learnt to paint, and what I did was attend a into course over a number of weeks and I found that was a really good way to do it (for me)... it was pretty cheap and it quickly broke my preconceptions. I went in wanting to be quite precise, and that is nearly the opposite of what you need to do. Painting is highly refactorable, mistakes don't doom your painting. A lot of the trick to painting is just to paint a lot and learn what paint does how it interacts with other paint and how you can manipulate it with various instruments ( brushes, etc )

If you are going to teach yourself, I reckon watching Bob Ross on youtube and try and follow along is not a bad way to go.

Have you actually painted something yet? Start with that and see how far you get, and then start practicing, finding the right medium, etc.

I did that - studied on how to paint a design on a shirt. At some point you gotta just buy the stuff and start and experience how it works and what to do next.

Just like everyone will show you the "best way to build an app" there's a lot of books that will show you the "best way to paint". And like app development, ultimately you will need to just work it out for yourself and hone your own style.

I'd set your sights on whatever you want to see painted and how then do whatever it takes to achieve it. :-)

My favorite painting is Van Gogh's wheat field with crows. Not that I understood why for a long time. I finally realized that when I look at it, I feel like I am standing in his shoes, looking at the field and understand just a bit what it was like to be him at that moment.

There are lots of ways to learn to paint, starting with paint by numbers, taking classes, reading books, but those are not the important parts and they often get in the way. The essential thing is finding a way to get the painting to tell someone about how you, emphasis on you, experience something.

The good news is that just making the attempt will make you a better coder!

If you're in/near Washington, DC, come to my wife's class. Free to students, paid for by DC government: http://watercolordc.com/

Learn go draw first. Pencil, paper, eraser, sharpener.

Best way to learn to draw is to go to a life drawing session. Drawing the human figure will be a great challenge and will teach you to look at your subject.

Moving onto painting... Read some basic colour theory. Artists say the primary colours are: Red; Blue; Yellow. They mean: Magenta; Cyan; Yellow really. Start with a 6 colour pallette, a warm version and a cool version of each primary colour.

I'm currently attempting to forge a career as a professional artist: https://www.james-o.tools/

Figuring drawing is a great first step to loosen up, relax, and practice seeing and abstraction. There's probably a class nearby.

Photography, especially digital, is a great way to explore composition and narrative.

And a key bit of advice - take a class in oil painting first. Acrylic and water color seem simpler, but are less forgiving of mistakes. Dedicate a studio space / corner to practice painting.

Art is like exercise - pick what you enjoy doing and will keep doing over what someone else says to do.

Others have this mostly covered it seems, but I'd add: it's easy to get discouraged when you start a painting, because everything looks rough, flat, and badly-proportioned. A lot of people tend to give up there, but the trick is to keep putting down more paint. Paintings by talented artists look the same as a bad sketch when they first start and only have one layer of paint down, but by the time a good-looking painting is done there are many layers of paint on it.

I would advise to go take a beginner class from the get-go. You will be less frustrated in the long run.

What is your current ability to draw? Before you start wrangling a craft-intensive media, develop the ability to get scale and proportion and line correct, and learn you some composition. A sketchbook of decent paper and some good art pencils will help you accomplish all of that. An old book that "worked for me" w.r.t. going from crap drawings to "ok, I can practice now and get better" is "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain." I haven't seen that book in a while, so I don't know if it is still around. Start with a drawing class if you are not confident in your drawing ability.

But maybe you already draw well and understand composition and color, and want to tackle a painting media. Think about which media is right for you. My observations (I am not a painter):

Water color: My sister is a professional artist and art teacher, and does mostly water color. This media requires modest set-up and clean-up. The paper and tools are somewhat specialized. It rewards good use of negative space, and color blending using washes and layering. The ultimate "less is more" media. Color blending is reasonably logical.

Acrylic: My mother's media choice, after charcoal drawings. It acts somewhat like oil, and you can achieve oil-like effects. But it dries much, much faster, so wet-on-wet techniques are mostly not a thing. Set-up is a little less work that oil, clean-up is HUGELY easier than oil. Color blending is fairly logical.

Oil: My daughter's favorite media. Set aside space for it. Set aside painting clothes. (Well, actually, if you go into your your painting room, stains will leap onto whatever you are wearing, so those clothes will become oil painting clothes.) Set up is not bad, since you have a room permanently set up for oil painting. Clean-up is time consuming, so oils are really only practical if you have large blocks of time. Color blending is abstruse. (My daughter is now living in a college dorm room, so oils are not part of her life, and she is using it as an opportunity to learn water color and acrylic. She finds acrylic's rapid drying to be an annoyance.)

Again, for any of these media, find a class. There is a craft to each of them, and it will save you frustration.

Shopping list:

- small brush, medium brush

- cheap easel

- value pack of small (8"x10" or so) canvases

- one of those "cheap" acrylic paint sets that includes white, black, red, yellow, and blue paint.

1. After buying your supplies, find images of paintings that you like.

2. Copy them.

3. Repeat the first two steps for awhile.

4. Set up a bunch of inanimate objects, and paint those from life.

5. Repeat step four for awhile.

Also, DO NOT COMPARE YOUR WORK TO OTHERS'. Compare your work to your own previous work. You will only be perpetually angry or disappointed in your own work otherwise.

Source: I'm an artist.

Ah, I was afraid to start painting at first, myself. I'm currently a full time freelance artist, and I work with both paint and traditional/digital illustration. I'm also nearly completely self taught.

My first piece of advice might seem a little bleh: Just start! Really. Grab some premade canvases from wal-mart or Amazon (nothing super pricey or massive), and a starter set of both acrylic and oil paints. I say both, because both of them work very differently from each other. Acrylic dries much faster, and water washes it right off, but (in my personal experience) oil paint is much better for colors and mixing them up and doing all sorts of crazy neat things.

Learning to draw first is nice, yes, but it isn't exactly necessary. I started drawing and moved to painting, but I've met other artists who started with painting and went to drawing with graphite. Art is fluid and unique to each individual, and no one does anything the same way.

Just starting out, don't try to imagine a massive, amazing piece your first time. It'll just bum you out. Start off with simple things, like painting a vase, or some scattered objects around your house. You aren't trying to impress anyone yet, so just do simple things to learn how the paint works, how it reacts to different strokes and different brushes. With acrylic, add a touch of water to thin it out and let other colors bleed through. Add a little linseed oil to oil paints to make them thinner and easier to blend.

there's all sorts of videos and courses you could take, but honestly, I've never really looked into any of that. They help, yes, but painting is a very personal, emotional thing. In time, you'll find what you like, what you don't like, how you like to hold brushes and use them, etc. There's no right or wrong way to do it. It all sorta boils down to what works for /you/.

Though, I do recommend this video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNB3XY67Q-I

The guy is a little boring, but he teaches you how to make ANY color with oil paints. This was a huge thing for me when I was learning.

If I can help any more, you can find me around the net by searching my art name, doublePopsicle, and toss me a message wherever! (I draw NSFW furtrash stuff, just an FYI)

Art degree here, and fairly decent at it. I'd suggest that you learn to draw first. Having a good handle on rendering form and value (dark and light) are a necessary foundation for painting. You can start with painting but you're going to have to build that foundation while also learning a bunch of things particular to paint. If you want to try drawing first, Youtube is such an awesome resource.

Do you have any specific channels to recommend on youtube?

I can recommend "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" as an excellent guide to overcoming the initial hurdles to becoming a painter. "The Artist's Way" is another inspirational guide.

The best advice I was given: Start right now! and don't give up! You will keep improving and don't be afraid to cultivate your own style. Even "mistakes" can provide great learnings.

I'd highly recommend taking a class just to get the basics of technique and perspective. I took one at the local community college, it was not very expensive and it took me from "can't draw anything more expressive than a smiley face" to "hey, that's not bad" in just 3 months. After that practice, practice, practice (practice).

Just do it. Your errors will be your best teacher.

I have been taking some video courses at New Masters Academy, and they've been pretty good, I would give them a recommendation. They are more focused on traditional more realism centered art, so it might not be exactly what you are looking for, but check them out.


I've been referred to "How to See Color and Paint It" by a self-taught painter: https://www.amazon.com/How-Color-Paint-Arthur-Stern/dp/16265...

I haven't made the time to get into it myself yet, though.

Bob Ross and Porfirio Jimenez videos on Youtube.

The most eye-opening thing for me was learning how to carve a pumpkin (photorealistic human faces), how light and dark create dimension and shape.


I really liked the book: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

It tell you how to suspend your judgement and get into a state of flow while drawing. The same can techniques can be applied to painting. Also spend some on quality material, you don't need to have a lot, but make it quality materials that inspire you.

There is someone called Sycra on Youtube, he talks a lot about mileage. Basically you draw and paint as much as you can and learn as you go. If you draw a hundred heads, the last one will look different from the first one. A teacher can be helpful, but the work needs to be done by you.

two ideas:

- Take an instructor lead figure drawing class. This will teach you to see "line" which is the primary foundation of "form". I suggest this route because any class worth it's salt will give you tasks: 5 min pose/ 10 min pose/ 1 hr pose these will challenge you to think in different ways and get the skill of line down vs. working on aesthetics.

- As you start to master line, you then want to explore the "absence" of that, which is what impressionism is; "color as form." How do you take the essence of what you see, and capture that as color.

Impressionist art is a reaction to line, and if you start there (like a lot of them did) you may have better luck.

Have fun!

I would highly recommend watching the old episodes of Bob Ross.

His goal was to teach you how to paint.

There is a Bob Ross channel on youtube:


I went to a master painter for years. And the advice that he always gave was something like: to know how it will look you have to put the paint on the canvas.

And that's it. Put paint on the canvas. Then the rest will follow.

1.- start with Black and White drawings.

A pack of 10 Grayscale Pastels or Conté pencils are cheap.

2.- Trace and copy

3.- innovate

4.- Then go with Acrylics: it dries fast, works with water, and it's cheap.

brushes: Get about five different ones, don't invest a lot of money in them.

5.- Learn color mixing

6.- Trace and copy

7.- Innovate

I've started drawing Tintin :) What's great with Tintin is that it teaches you basic 3d stuff. Basic 3d buildings for example, or streets. Basic 3d clothes and characters.

Bob Ross videos, but depends if you want to learn about awesome nature views and mountains with snowy peaks :-)

Bob Ross, my tv painter hero

FD: I don’t paint

Edit: scrolled 2 miles more and happy to see more bob Ross fans

Pick up a bunch of paints / brushes and whatnot and just play with them, then focus more on the ones you like. Maybe you wont like it.

recently found these videos by MoMA[1]. they're more entertaining than instructional but they may be useful to get you familiar with more concepts.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/user/MoMAvideos/search?query=how+to+...

Watch all 2000 episodes of Bob Ross on YouTube.

That is some amazing painting you shared. Is there a way to download it? I would love to print it and hang it in my office.

BYOB painting studios are getting popular these days. Could be a good opportunity to experience a guided painting session.

A lot of communities have adult education classes that teach skills like painting for relatively cheap.

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