Planning a Painting – How to Start your Next Creative Project

There are essential decisions to make before you start any painting. Planning in the early stages will help you avoid unwanted mistakes in your artwork.

Essential decisions

Is it necessary to plan a painting in careful detail before you start, or should you let it evolve as you go along? Planning a painting can be a help as you know exactly what you’re going to do, but it could also inhibit spontaneity. Letting a painting evolve as you work is very free and lets you be spontaneous, but also leaves you open to the possibility that the painting won’t go anywhere and you’ll end up with a mess. However, remember that one of the virtues of using opaque media (oil/acrylics) is that you can start again provided it has not been applied very thickly.

Ultimately the degree to which you plan out a painting depends on your personality, aptitude and confidence; some people find it essential and others a hindrance. But regardless of how detailed you like to plan, there are several decisions that have to be made before you to start to paint.

1. Decide On a Subject to Paint

Deciding on a subject is the logical first step as it influences the format of the support, Kreativ leg the type of support used, and the technique you’re going to use to create the painting.

If you’ve only a vague idea of what to do with an appealing subject, such as a glorious landscape, sketching or doing small studies rather than a full painting will enable you to see whether the composition and selection of elements works well without wasting time or materials. A pleasing study can then be used as the basis or reference for a full-scale painting.

But if you find that doing a study makes you stiffen up when you come to do the large-scale painting because you’re focusing on replicating it, rather than it reminding you sufficiently of the original scene, consider doing only quick sketches to see if a composition works and taking reference photos to work from back in your studio. A digital camera is a useful tool for this as you can move the image around until you find the most pleasing image.

2. Decide on the Format of your Painting

Having decided on a subject, you need to decide what the best format for the support is; whether it should be landscape or portrait, or perhaps square. What shape of the canvas will best suit the subject matter? For example, a very long and thin canvas adds a sense of drama and wide-open spaces. If you are painting on board it is much easier to cut it any shape you want, i.e. round, hexagonal – whatever!

3. Decide on the Size of your Painting

The size of the painting should also be a conscious decision. A painting shouldn’t be a particular size simply because that’s the size of the sheet of paper you have. If you buy primed and stretched canvases, have several in various sizes to hand so you have a choice. Think about how the subject would look if it were painted small, or perhaps very large. Are you going to work life-size or oversized? For example, portraits which are oversized are very dramatic.

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