Daily Painting Practice: How to Pick Subjects

by Mary Gilkerson

Don’t let picking out a subject slow you down. Paint what’s around you, what you know.

When you paint things you know your connection to them, your passion, will come through. Even if they’re relatively banal subjects.

1-Two main sources for subjects:

  • Direct observation of things in front of you
  • Photographs (I recommend your own. See above paragraph.)

2-Make a list of your ideas for subjects. Pick several more than you need.

  • List or gather them if from direct observation, ahead of time
  • Put photos in a folder.

3-Simple is better than complex for quick 20-30 minute paintings. Keep It Simple Smarty!

4-Work with related subjects. This will make paint mixing easier.

Still Stuck?? Here are some ways to get un-stuck.

Use your smart phone camera to snap pics of everyday objects in your house or studio on a simple background. Think Wayne Thiebaud.

Use your phone to walk around your home and around your neighborhood. Snap pics of interesting nooks, crannies and out of the way corners.

Use your phone to snap pics along your daily route. Be sure to pull over and snap while parked. Don’t overthink it. Just pull over every five minutes and snap a photo of whatever you find in front of you. No judgements.

Switch subject matter, medium, or painting surface. Try painting your normal subject from a different angle.


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