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5 Steps to Get a Unique Painting Style of Your Own

5 Steps to Get a Unique Painting Style of Your Own

“Storm over the Salt Marsh”, oil, 5 x 7″, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

“Storm over the Salt Marsh”, oil, 5 x 7″, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

Have you wondered how to get a unique painting style of your own so that when people see your paintings, they know that you did it and not somebody else?

Well, today I’m going to talk about five different things that you can do so that you can begin to develop a style all of your own.

Rough Transcript:

You know, there really isn’t any magic formula. I wish there was, but there’s not. Style develops through the habit of simply making paintings. Kind of like the way you developed your style and handwriting as a kid.

Think about going back to first grade and your handwriting probably looked like about everybody else’s. Then by second grade you began to develop a little bit of individuality and mainly through practice.

But third grade you could recognize that you wrote it. And so could your mom, dad, and everybody else in the classroom.

I’m going to talk about the ways that you can apply the same strategies that made your own handwriting to creating your own personal style and painting.

#1 Explore & Experiment

The first thing I want you to do is experiment, test different things out, explore.

Until you’ve really explored all the different possibilities that there are out there, all the different options and techniques, you’re not going to know what it is that you want to dive into and explore more deeply.

So if you’re just getting started as a painter, don’t feel like you have to develop a style right away. In fact, you can’t. What you have to do first is explore, dive deep and just test out all of the different things that there are.

#2 Practice Your Craft – Paint!

Once you’ve picked a medium and a technique that you really enjoy, not what you think the market’s going to go for, but what you enjoy, then it’s time to spend a little more focus on number two, practicing your craft.

What I mean by that is you need to spend some time in front of the old easel with the brush in hand or the knife or whatever it is the tool is that you work with because that practice, that time that you spend on your craft is what really is at the heart and the core of developing a style.

It’s not going to happen without spending that time. It’s what happened between first and third grade. Remember that story about your handwriting?

In order to do this, one of the things you’re going to want to do is to develop a regular practice. Ideally, a daily one. And think about how you can integrate that into your regular life. Even if it’s just for a few minutes a day, doesn’t mean you have to make a painting a day, but it means you have to do something towards your practice every single day. If you don’t, the style part is not going to happen.

You got to paint.

So it doesn’t mean you necessarily need to do that old adage of 10,000 hours. I’m sure you’ve heard that before, but it does mean you’ve got to spend some time at the task and you can do that on your own.

You can be self-taught. There is nothing wrong with it. And you can work through the issues that are at hand and develop your own style, or you can sign up for workshops and classes and speed that process up, but there’s no replacement for time spent painting.

#3 Look at Other Art

Number three, and this is really important. Super simple. You got to look at other art. This is how you feed your imagination. One of the ways that you begin to realize all the different options that there are out there is to look at what other artists are doing.

Now, when I say this, I don’t mean go out and copy other artists. Not at all. Copying is not going to make you a better artist. Let me say that again. Copying other artists is not going to make you a better artist.

You can absolutely be influenced by other artists. But you’re going to learn the most from other artists by looking at what they’ve done, exploring the different techniques that they’ve used and how they have developed and woven their own lives, their own passions into their art.

#4 Focus on Painting WELL

Number four, it’s not enough just to paint because if you’re just painting and repeating the same errors over and over and over what you’re teaching yourself is to paint full of errors. It’s to make mistakes and then to keep reinforcing them.

So you want to practice painting well, That means get feedback from other people, whether it’s in a formal class or in a critique group or with a group of other artists.

We don’t always see our work with a lot of objectivity. Sometimes we’re our own worst critics. So in order to facilitate painting better, you’re going to learn faster if at the bare minimum you are sharing your work with other artists and getting feedback, if you are joining in crit groups, if you are participating in art, Facebook groups remember -we’ve got a free one.

And if you are joining classes and workshops and professional development, you’re going to speed that whole process up if you get some help and some training.

#5 Follow Your Curiosity & Interests

The fifth one is super important in a lot of ways.

I think it is as important is that second one, which was paint. So follow your curiosity and interests. What I mean by that is, paint the things that you love. Paint the things that fascinate you. Paint the things that you’re interested in because your passion around that subject is going to come through in what you do with it.

If you paint things that you don’t remotely find interesting, why in the world would you think the viewer would find it interesting? Not only that. You’ll begin to bore yourself and then you’ll stop painting. So, paint the things that you’re interested in and that will come through in your painting. It will inspire you to paint more.

Recap

Let’s go through those quickly again, just so that you can remember what those five tips are. Number one, experience, experiment, rather, and explore. Try lots of different techniques and options. Number two, practice your craft regularly. In other words, get in front of the easel, on preferably a daily basis, but at least on a regular basis. Develop the painting habit. Number three, look at other art. Look at the work of other artists. Feed your imagination. Get inspired. Number four is to focus on painting. Get some help, get into a critique group, get into a group of other artists. And number five is to follow your curiosity and interests.

I hope this has been helpful. And remember that it is absolutely possible to develop your own style. It happens quite naturally through the process of painting.

If this has been at all helpful, I’d love for you to share it with a friend and hope to see you again soon. Share your work with us over in the free Facebook group, over at ART+WORK+LIVING. Happy painting everybody! Bye-bye for now.

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How I Learned to Paint Water

How I Learned to Paint Water

| High Tide, Winter | Oil on panel, 9 x 12”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

| High Tide, Winter | Oil on panel, 9 x 12”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

As an artist who paints the coast, water is one of my sources of inspiration. I love being close to it and the changing tides.

The way it changes with the light is mesmerizing, and I’m always looking for better ways to capture that in paint.

But like lots of artists I used to get caught up in some really common mistakes like using the same blue or grey color for the whole area of the water.

And not thinking about the effects of the land and sky on the values and reflections in the water.

Two things got me past all that.

The first is relatively easy but takes time, and that’s observing water so that you understand how it works.

Steamboat Landing, Edisto Island

Steamboat Landing, Edisto Island

I spend a lot of time watching water in all its forms in all kinds of weather.

But what if you’d like to speed that process up?

The second step I took was one a former professor suggested a long time ago. He said for any problem we faced as artists we could find the solution to it in the work of past artists.

To shorten that learning process, look at how other artists in the past have dealt with the problem of creating the illusion of water.

So here are the three key things I’ve learned from artists like Winslow Homer. These three are the most important to translating paint into the illusion of moving liquid.

Winslow Homer,

Winslow Homer, “The Gulf Stream”, ca. 1899, oil on canvas

Flow & Movement

  • The movement in water is determined by the direction of it’s flow
  • The faster the movement, the more ripples and white water there will be and fewer reflections
  • Less movement equals a more reflective surface
Winslow Homer,

Winslow Homer, “Sunset”, ca. 1875, oil on canvas

Reflections

  • Reflections have lower contrast than what they’re reflecting.
  • Reflections are impacted by perspective
  • Paint reflections down from the source

Color & Value

  • Look for the overall value pattern in the water, the big shapes, and realize they’re connected to the land
  • Include the colors used in the sky and land in the water as well

So where am I now on painting water?

“Spanish Hammock, Summer Storm”, oil, 18 x 24”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

“Spanish Hammock, Summer Storm”, oil, 18 x 24”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

Being in the Lowcountry gives me lots of opportunities to watch and paint the water, from the ocean to meandering rivers, creeks and still swamps.

But looking at how other artists have dealt with those same challenges certainly gave me a head start.

If you’d like to speed up your own skill in capturing the many moods of water, sky and land, I'd love for you to join me in my upcoming live virtual workshop, CLOUD, SKY, LAND & WATER January 27-30. You can check it out by clicking here.

Clouds,-Sky,-Land-&-Water-web

Clouds, Sky, Land & Water: Painting the Southern Coast

4 Steps to Paint Skies More Effectively

4 Steps to Paint Skies More Effectively

“Congaree, Clouds and Fields, detail”, 8 x 10″, oil on archival panel

How to paint the skies doesn’t have to be that complicated or challenging.

The sky can be what really draws us to a painting subject.

But sometimes we can lose track of that along the way as we’re painting. And instead of focusing on the sky as something that can create a really dramatic element in the painting, something that is a critical part of the composition, we treated as an afterthought.

And when that happens, we’re not really taking full advantage of that thing that drew us to the subject in the first place.

I’ve got several steps right here to help you make it way more simple. Let’s dive right on in.

Number one, consider the sky as part of the overall composition.

“Winter Evening”, oil on panel, 5 x 7″

Think about the big shapes, the overall relationship of those shapes in the sky, to the composition as a whole pay attention to that overall pattern to the overall relationship of the cloud and sky for.

Number two is to be bold with your mark making.

“Congaree, Clouds and Fields”, oil on panel, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

Don’t be afraid to think about treating the sky as an area that can be part of creating strong visual interest.

Use your largest brushes or knives.

Think about using thin versus thick paint.

Number three, study the colors, particularly the hues and the values that you see in the sky.

Variations in blue paint

Variations in blue paint

Practice observation.

What do I mean by that? Spend a good deal of time, looking in fact as much time looking as you do painting, the more you actually see, the more, you will see. Don’t let what you think, override what your eyeballs sees.

Vary the blues of a clear blue sky. There are lots of blues present in the sky and it changes from top to bottom and left to right. That’s based on where the sun is.

Use more than one blue as you’re mixing your colors. Don’t rely on one single tube of paint to try to create all the blues of your sky.

And remember that a clear blues or a clear sky isn’t always blue. Sometimes it’s orange. Sometimes it’s yellow. Sometimes it’s pink, sometimes violet and yes, it actually can be a pale green as well, depending on the atmosphere, conditions, the lighting, the time of day and the time of year. Also remember, look at the sky in relationship to the value of the lane.

The two things are connected. We have a tendency to automatically assume that the sky is always going to be like, Than the land. This is not always true. It’s usually true, but not always, for example, here, when we look at that photograph in black and white, we can tell that the clear blue sky at the top of the picture plane is significantly darker than the blue.

That’s close to the horizon, and it’s significantly darker than a chunk of the land. Trust your eye, not what your brain tells you. It already knows.

And then in our last tip, I want you to think about using atmospheric perspective.

Atmospheric perspective

Atmospheric perspective

Not the over-simplified form, that a lot of people recite by. But true atmospheric perspective, understanding that the impact of the atmosphere on color shape, form and edges is going to be dependent on where the sun is in relationship to where you’re looking.

If you’re looking away from the light, as in this image, Then you’re going to have diminishing contrast as you move towards the background. If you are looking towards the light as in this, oops, as in this photograph or this painting, then you’re going to have more contrast in the background than in the foreground, because you’re looking directly towards the.

And it’s going to create a silhouetting effect along the horizon line. Make sure you understand atmosphere perspective. Not real sure about it. I’ve got a link for you right here where you can dive into it a little bit more deeply.

Let’s review these four steps. One last time to wrap up here.

Number one, think about the sky as part of the overall composition. Not as an afterthought to the rest of your painting, make it a key component of it.

Number two is to be bold with your mark making. It’s going to add so much more visual interest to your composition.

Number three, pay close attention to the values and the Hughes and trust your eyeball and what you’ve observed last but not least.

Number four. Use atmospheric perspective. Think about where the light’s coming from.

If you’d like to speed up your own skill in capturing the many moods of water, sky and land, I'd love for you to join me in my upcoming live virtual workshop, CLOUD, SKY, LAND & WATER January 27-30. You can check it out by clicking here.

Clouds,-Sky,-Land-&-Water-web

Clouds, Sky, Land & Water: Painting the Southern Coast

How to Paint Clouds

How to Paint Clouds

Have you ever found painting clouds a challenge, or been unsure how to approach painting them? This episode’s for you.

Clouds and sky are just as important as land in a landscape painting. The two are integrally connected with what happens in the sky impacting the value pattern on the landscape below.

In this episode I want to share four things to help you see the clouds and sky, capture them on your paper or canvas, and use them to enhance your composition.

  • Seeing and Creating Form
  • Using Lost and Found Edges
  • Catching the Color and Light
  • Making Clouds Part of the Composition
“Clearing after Storms”, oil, 5 x 7”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

“Clearing after Storms”, oil, 5 x 7”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

Seeing and Creating Form

Clouds are forms, very much like foliage masses. If you can begin to look at the overall forms of those clouds, it becomes so much easier to paint them.

Look for the basic shapes, the forms created by the planes of the clouds. I like to call it the “shoe box”. Think of the cloud form as a stack of shoe boxes with a different value for each plane.

Let’s look at this in one of John Constable’s cloud studies.

Constable_cloud_study

John Constable, 1776–1837, British, Cloud Study, 1822 Collection of the Yale Center for British Art (CC0 1.0 – Public Domain)

constable-study-with-box-web

John Constable, 1776–1837, British, Detail, Cloud Study, 1822 Collection of the Yale Center for British Art (CC0 1.0 – Public Domain)

Using Lost and Found Edges

Paying attention to edges is crucial with clouds. Be sure to include both soft and hard edges, but mainly soft ones. Clouds aren’t solid matter. They’re ephemeral and composed of particles of dust and moisture. So if you make all of your edges hard, your cloud will appear as a heavy, solid mass.

constable_cloud_detail_web

John Constable, 1776–1837, British, Detail, Cloud Study, 1822 Collection of the Yale Center for British Art (CC0 1.0 – Public Domain)

Catching the Color and Light

The key to capturing form and light in your clouds is how you use color. Avoid relying on black and white as the only colors you mix. Use a contrast in value (to create form) and temperature (to create light).

“Clearing after Storms”, oil, 5 x 7”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

“Clearing after Storms”, oil, 5 x 7”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

Making Clouds Part of the Composition

One of the challenges lots of artists face is paying a great deal of attention to the land and looking at the sky almost as an afterthought.

I want to encourage you to think of the sky as being just as important as the land and make it a crucial part of your composition.

You can do that in two different ways. Clouds can be the main focus of your composition or painting, or simply play a more supportive role. In either case they help to create a mood or sense of atmosphere.

cloud-photo-w-crop

Cloud reference photo with cropped version

Summary

  • Look for the basic forms and shapes in the clouds, and their overall pattern in the sky.
  • Use lost and found edges to capture the ephemeral quality of clouds.
  • Use value and temperature to create a sense of form and light.
  • Integrate the overall pattern shapes and values in the sky into your overall composition.

Thanks for being here!

Feel free to share this with friends. And if you’d like to dive deeper into the principles on composition, color, and light, check out my online course.

If you’d like to speed up your own skill in capturing the many moods of water, sky and land, I'd love for you to join me in my upcoming live virtual workshop, CLOUD, SKY, LAND & WATER January 27-30. You can check it out by clicking here.

Clouds,-Sky,-Land-&-Water-web

Clouds, Sky, Land & Water: Painting the Southern Coast

Spanish Hammock, Summer Storm

Spanish Hammock, Summer Storm

“Spanish Hammock, Summer Storm”, framed in a white floater, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

Inspired by a small plein air painting done on Tybee Island last year, “Spanish Hammock, Summer Storm” is a bit bigger studio painting, 18 x 24”.

“Spanish Hammock, Tybee”, oil, 4 x 6”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

I kept coming back to the memory of racing clouds casting huge moving patterns of light and shadows across both Spanish Hammock and the distant marsh on the back of Tybee Island.

“Spanish Hammock, Summer Storm”, oil, 18 x 24”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

“Spanish Hammock, Summer Storm”, oil, 18 x 24”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

But it was the clouds themselves I found most fascinating.

All that big movement that comes in the sky just before a storm blows in.

And the edge of the marsh is the perfect place to watch those forming weather patterns, with the wide open canvas of the marsh below to reflect back what’s happening above.