| How to Start a Painting? |

I had a fabulous, meaty question from a subscriber recently who wrote to say she had recently switched from a 30-year graphic design practice to painting and was finding it tough.

She asked “How do I start a new painting? My paintings have no consistency.
Do I just let it flow? Or does in need to have a set direction?”

This is the question that comes up when we begin to take a more focused approach to painting. When it becomes for us more than a pastime or hobby and becomes a passionate pursuit or profession.

Usually, it’s not the painting that’s tough, it’s the thoughts that come up – the judgments, the inner critic.

Here are some things I suggested she try:

1. Create a studio journal. Writing before starting a painting. Blurt everything out.
2. Step back from the thoughts that are coming up. Become aware of what the quality of the thoughts you have while painting.
3. Set a timer during your painting process and step back, pause every 20 minutes or so and notice what is going on. Check in with your body, emotions, thoughts.
4. If the thoughts are not supportive, replace with more supportive thoughts.
5. Take out all your paintings completed thus far and look at them as a group. Journal about them from a curious, non-judgmental perspective. Don’t worry whether you love it or hate it. Just get curious. Write down from a neutral voice what you are noticing.
6. Think from a broader perspective about what the paintings are about. What are they teaching you? What are they showing you?



Responses to “How to Start a Painting?”

  1. Danila Rumold

    Make drawings of previous paintings that will give you a lot of information

  2. Rich Mason

    Hi Michele, Your right on with your advice. I have found that I do a better job if I have given the painting a lot of thought. I research the subject if possible so I can feel familiar with it before I start. I don’t get discouraged if it don’t go as planned, they rarely do for me. I do paint on through as you can also learn from what you consider a failure. I like the meditation aspect, it does help me relax and clear the mind.

    Thanks for posting

    Rich Mason

  3. Ed Smiley

    As far as I can tell, everybody has a different way. Some need to have everything planned, and some need to improvise. For me I try to set up some kind of dilemma, or bring together opposing ideas, get myself in trouble, and try to work my way out of it. At some point, the painting takes on a certain character, and I try to let that lead me from there, even if it was not my original idea.

  4. Ed Smiley

    nice video…

  5. janis

    keep a sketchbook…do not look at the sketchbook before starting painting…mix a color and put it on a surface….create a relationship to that mark…with the same color or another…keep going until you “need to stop”-then look at your sketchbook or your journal…making marks is what painting is about…did we not get in trouble as children either painting on walls with crayons or markers?

  6. janis

    I stopped painting with acyrics-or with wax and dye-for now-I am living in a cramped situation and do not have room to work with larger materials; The sketchbooks and journal are a lifeline-I use watercolor and pencil alot and work in coffeeshops. I start with a mark….that defines relationships on the paper to reflect the relationships of whatever I am observing-people, trees, etc. If I dont do this, I am a crabby person with whom to live:)

    • Michele Theberge

      I admire your keeping your art up despite space limitations. And I understand it’s something you have to do. I’m the same way. If I’m not being creative, I get unhappy.

  7. Mike Dennis

    Hello, I liked your Video on where to start. I really liked what you said about being meditative. I believe this to be a very important part of the creative process. For me personally, I like to listen to softer music while painting. It makes a huge difference in how you feel, which in turn will be expressed on your canvas. When I start to feel frustrated or negative, I also take a step back and relax for a bit. Closing your eyes and listening to some soft music for a while will usually give you a different outlook. Try to just close your eyes and relax for a few moments. It really helps. Thank you so much for mentioning that in your video. BTW- I love how you paint. Your demeanor is fantastic. You appear to have a relaxed but focused way about you. Please keep up the great work!

    • Michele Theberge

      Mike – Thanks so much for sharing your process using soft music to spur your creativity. I know music has been an enormous boost for me in the studio over the years. Either for breaks or while I’m working. And thanks for your kind words. All my best.


Leave a Reply