This is a question retiring newcomers to this area often ask me. I could give multiple answers, but for me, it all starts with one.
My first suggestion – and last – is to learn the basics of drawing and develop a strong foundation in its principles before even considering moving into color. Pablo Picasso had a strong foundation in representational drawing, and if you study the works for which he was best known, you can see his understanding of perspective, light, shadow, hues and value from his traditional training in all of it.
When I teach, basic drawing is where I start.
I have painted professionally with watercolor, pastels, pastel pencils, acrylics and oils, the latter of which I’ve stayed with for the last 15 years. (Mouse over images to see the medium used.) But before I ever worked in color, I mastered the art of drawing. My first job illustrating for publications was doing black and white drawings for a weekly newspaper for 8 years. It was great training.
Whether you want to paint realistically, impressionistically, expressionistically, abstractly or all of the above, knowing the basics of light, shadow, hue, value and perspective are key.
Here are some examples of drawings and paintings in different mediums that illustrate the importance of having a foundation in drawing. As I went through my paintings and drawings, I think I could have chosen every one for this purpose. There's not one that did not require at least basic drawing skills.
If you'd like to ask me any questions, click the word Comments at the top of this blog and I'll be happy to answer. - Ellen
This post is for those artists among us who face blank white canvases with fear and trembling. You're not alone.
I've earned my living solely through my artwork for more than 25 years, have been painting professionally for more than four decades, have gained a reputation for quality work, heaps of praise, a strong following, a lot of awards and am known fairly widely as a "collectible" artist.
But I still face a blank canvas with trepidation.
I'm basically self taught, but had a wonderful high school art teacher, Irene Silverstein, who taught the basics of all good representational art and I often "hear" her words as I paint. Those principles don't change.
One of my most distinct memories is of her telling my class that the greatest challenge even the best artists have, sometimes throughout their careers, is a facing blank white canvas. Her answer? Cover it, cover it with any color, even white!
Just the act of covering the canvas with even a thin glaze of color makes the Great Blank White Canvas Monster fade away. Once those first brush strokes go down fear turns to joy and the Great Blank White Canvas Monster is defeated.
It helps me. I hope it helps you, too. - Ellen
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