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The classical still life is one of the few subjects you can paint which you have almost full control over. You are not vulnerable to changes in the environment or the subject just moving. As a result, still life subjects have allowed artists to really test what is possible in terms of brushwork, color and composition.

In this post I will discuss some of the benefits of still life painting, provide you with some simple ideas for still life subjects to paint and feature some beautiful master paintings.

Vincent van Gogh, Still Life - Vase With Fifteen Sunflowers, 1888
The Benefits Of Still Life Painting

Here are some of the benefits of still life painting:

  • You are able to paint in a controlled environment. You can control the light source, color temperature and composition. You don't need to worry about the light changing, the wind or your subject moving.
  • It is a fantastic way of studying light, color and composition.
  • The darks in still life painting are usually much deeper than what you will find in the landscape due (due to atmospheric perspective and the stronger light from the sun). This allows you to paint with a very wide value range.
Easy Still Life Painting Ideas To Get You Started

Here are some easy still life subjects you should start with before moving on to the more complex arrangements. These subjects are not meant to result in a stunning painting (there is only so much you can do with a box or an egg) but they will give you a great foundation for still life painting.


A box is one of the most basic subjects you could paint, but it is still a useful exercise especially if you are new to painting. It will teach you about how light and shadow is connected with form and how to create the illusion of a three-dimensional object on a flat surface.


Painting an egg is a fantastic exercise to introduce you to still life painting and to study the way light and shadow work. It will also help you learn how to use gradation in your paintings. I suggest you start with just a monochrome palette then incorporate more colors if needed.

Flower Vase (No Flowers)

A flower vase is slightly more complicated due to its shape. I would start with just the flower vase before including flowers in your composition. Flowers are an amazing subject but they tend to be a difficult subject for beginners.

Some Famous Still Life Painters

Here are some famous still life painters for inspiration.

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh created many energetic and vibrant paintings with otherwise bland subjects. In the painting below of leather clogs, van Gogh made clever use of line to create the illusion of form.

Vincent van Gogh, A Pair Of Leather Clogs, 1888

Below is just one of many paintings which van Gogh did featuring sunflowers. It is a stunning display of yellows and oranges. Also notice the interesting positioning of van Gogh's signature. It actually forms part of the subject.

Vincent van Gogh, Still Life - Vase With Fifteen Sunflowers 2, 1888
Claude Monet

Beautiful still life paintings are not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Claude Monet. He clearly preferred to paint the landscape, however he did use his exiting brushwork and color in several still lifes like the one below. This painting is much darker than the high-key landscapes we are used to from Monet.

Claude Monet, Sunflowers, 1881
Paul Cézanne

The still lifes by Paul Cézanne are sombre in comparison to the more vibrant paintings by van Gogh and Monet, but no less beautiful. He was famous for his still lifes like the one below. There is much you can learn in terms of composition from Cézanne's still lifes, particularly his use of shape.

Paul Cézanne, The Basket Of Apples, 1890-1894
Giorgio Morandi

Giorgio Morandi was famous for his somewhat bland still life paintings like the one below. There is a sense of calmness about his paintings due to the lack of color and contrast.

Giorgio Morandi, Natura Morta (Still Life), 1956

This painting was created all the way back in 1599 and demonstrates a very sharp contrast in value due to the almost black darks.

Caravaggio, Basket of Fruit, 1599
Francisco de Zurbaran

The two paintings following both utilize dark backgrounds, unlike the rest of the paintings in this post. This is a very classic still life set-up. What is interesting about the painting below is that it seems to go against many of the "rules" of composition:

  • The three subjects seem to be evenly spaced;
  • The leaves rest right on the top edge of the painting; and
  • The painting is very symmetrical (it does not seem like a natural arrangement).

However, this just goes to show that the "rules" in art should not be taken literally. Sometimes, a broken rule can become a feature of the painting.

Francisco de Zurbaran, Still Life with Lemons, Oranges And A Rose, 1633
Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin

There is a lot going in on this moody painting with there being multiple points of interest (the ray, cat, fish and bottles). The artist made clever use of a dark surrounding and a gradation in lightness to really focus your attention on the important areas in the painting. This is a fantastic example of how to balance multiple subjects in a painting.

Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, The Ray, 1728

I hope you have enjoyed this post on still life painting. There is much to learn from still life painting regardless of your preferred subject to paint. It is a fantastic way to learn about color, light and composition in a controlled environment. So I think that it is important that you incorporate still life painting into your schedule to at least some extent, even if you consider yourself a landscape, seascape or portrait painter.

Thanks For Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you learned something new! If you found the post useful, please share. You might also be interested in the following resources:

Free Guide - Painting For Beginners - Beginners start here.

21 Easy Ways To Improve Your Paintings ebook - Highly effective and actionable painting tips.

Painting Academy - For a complete step-by-step system which will have you creating stunning paintings in no time.

Happy painting!

Draw Paint Academy

The post Still Life Painting Inspiration (Plus 7 Famous Still Life Painters) appeared first on Draw Paint Academy.

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This is a buyer's guide for the best drawing pencils for artists. But before I get into it, you should note that none of these pencils will make you a better artist. You may find some pencils more comfortable to use, but they all do essentially the same thing and they are all capable of producing beautiful art.

Types Of Drawing Pencils

Here is a summary of the different types of pencils used by artists:

Graphite pencils: These are the most common pencils used in art and writing.

Charcoal pencils: Create dark and rough lines, but not as versatile as the other options.

Colored pencils: Similar to normal graphite pencils but in color. You can read about colored pencils for artists here.

Mechanical pencils: Create sharp lines and do not need to be sharpened. However, you are not able to use the thick edge of a mechanical pencil to create bold marks (like you are able to do with normal pencils).

Claude Monet, Caricature Of Leon Manchon
Graphite Versus Charcoal

The two main options you have for drawing are graphite and charcoal pencils. Graphite pencils have a wide range of grades and are useful for sophisticated drawings which require finer detailing.

Charcoal is perfect for sketching and hitting those really dark values, however it is generally much darker and rougher than graphite and more prone to smudging.

Compressed Versus Uncompressed Charcoal Pencils

With charcoal pencils you have the option of using compressed or uncompressed charcoal. Compressed charcoal is much more refined and is harder than uncompressed charcoal, which is essentially just burnt twigs.

Uncompressed charcoal is referred to as "willow" or "vine" charcoal and it can be used to produce very rough and general markings. The issue with uncompressed charcoal is that it tends to smudge easily and can be difficult to control.

Rembdrandt, Old Man Reading A Book
Pencil Grading

There is no universal grading system for pencils, but the following system generally holds true.

Graphite Pencils

Graphite pencils are made from a mix of graphite and clay. The hardness of the pencil will vary depending on the blend of graphite and clay.

More graphite - softer and blacker marks.

More clay - harder and lighter marks.

Here is a full range of grades:

9H, 8H, 7H, 6H, 5H, 4H, 3H, 2H, H, HB, F, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8B, 9B

The "B" gradings are on the soft and black side and the "H" gradings are on the hard and light side. "F" is in-between. "HB" is your standard writing pencil.

Charcoal Pencil Grading

Charcoal pencils are in general much softer than graphite pencils and usually range from HB to 6B. I find that the grades of charcoal pencils are not as consistent as what you get with graphite pencils.

Best Graphite Pencils
Staedtler Premium Quality Drawing Pencil

A high-quality set of 12 finely graded pencils ranging from 6B to 4H which come in a portable metal case. Staedtler is an established and reliable brand.

These pencils are break-resistant and are made from high-quality materials.

  • Break-resistant.
  • The pencils are mixed with carbon instead of pure graphite, so there may be less shine compared to regular graphite pencils.
  • Made with high-quality materials.
  • Sharpen well.
  • Great value for what you pay.
  • Slightly harder to erase than other graphite pencils.
Faber-Castell Pencils

A set of 12 pencils of varying degrees of hardness with smooth lead made from a high-quality mix of clay and graphite.

The lead in these pencils is up there with the best of the brands. With cheap pencils, the lead tends to feel gritty and scratchy, especially in the harder grades. That is certainly not the case with these pencils due to the quality of the materials used.

  • Smooth and consistent.
  • Packaging is small, light and portable.
  • Can be easily sharpened.
  • High-quality materials.
  • Affordable.
  • N/A
Derwent Graphic Drawing Pencils

This set contains pencils ranging from 6B to 4H. The pencils have a hexagonal barrel which can provide a more secure grip. The hard degrees have a 2.2 mm core for sharp lines and the black soft degrees use a 3.5mm core for softer lines.

In my opinion, the quality of these pencils is not as consistent as the Staedtler or Faber-Castell brands.

  • Has a slightly thicker point than many of the other pencils (which may suit some artists).
  • Variety of different set options (you can get sets of 4, 12, or 20 pencils).
  • High-quality materials.
  • Issues with consistency.
  • Not as smooth as other options.
Conte Pencil 1710-2B

This is not the most popular brand on the list but it gets a mention here as it is recommended by Stan Prokopenko, who has a very popular Youtube channel for drawing.

  • Recommended by Stan Prokopenko.
  • High-quality materials.
  • Smooth and consistent markings.
  • Does not come in a set.
  • Not as affordable as the other options.
Best Charcoal Pencils
General Pencil Charcoal Pencils

Includes black and white charcoal pencils, compressed charcoal, accessories and a carbon sketch drawing pencil.

  • Widely considered the best charcoal pencils for artists.
  • Can be easily sharpened.
  • Made from high-quality materials.
  • N/A
Mont Marte Woodless Charcoal Pencils

This is a three-set piece which includes three grades of woodless charcoal pencils - soft, medium and hard.

  • Clean handling.
  • Easy to sharpen.
  • The difference in hardness is not that noticeable.
General Pencil Compressed Charcoal Sticks

High quality compressed charcoal sticks by General Pencil.

  • Perfect for rough sketches.
  • High-quality charcoal.
  • Tends to smudge (though that is not a quality issue, but rather a characteristic of compressed charcoal pencils).
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When you watch some of the top artists paint, you may be wondering how they do it so fast! They seem to make every stroke without hesitation and the canvas quickly takes form and fills with color.

The reason they are able to paint so fast is mostly due to experience. The top artists are able to make quick decisions, which is really what allows them to paint so quickly. It is not because they are making rushed strokes with their brush. In fact, it is usually quite the opposite. They will make a quick decision, then a calm, calculated brush stroke.

Experience cannot be substituted, but there are some practices you can adopt which will help you paint faster and more efficiently. It is also important to stress that by faster, I do not mean recklessly. You should always be calculated and deliberate with your strokes. 

Anyway, here are 5 tips to help you paint faster and more efficiently.

Use Larger Brushes And Palette Knives

You should be doing most of your work with medium to large sized brushes. I like to think of the large filberts and flats as the "workhorses" of the painting process. The smaller brushes are only necessary for the really fine details, depending on your painting style.

Using a large brush achieves a few things:

  • You will be able to cover the canvas quickly.
  • You will be able to create brushmarks which are not possible with smaller brushes.
  • You will learn to treat every stroke with importance and meaning.

I suggest you do a quick assessment of the brushes you most frequently use and determine if you need to start incorporating some larger brushes into your arsenal.

The palette knife can also be an extremely useful tool for creating these bold strokes of color which are not possible with a brush. You can also use a palette knife to quickly scrape away paint from an area which you would like to re-do.

Use More Gestural And Broad Strokes

When you start a painting, you should use very gestural and broad strokes to quickly capture the essence of what you are painting. Once you have the essence on the canvas, you can start building more form and structure.

Try to capture the general flow and movement of the scene you are painting. Even if the scene you are painting is mostly static (like a landscape), you should still be thinking about the gesture of the scene and how everything is connected.

Make sure when you are making these broad strokes that you use the full action of your arm, not just the action of your wrist. The range of movement from your wrist is actually very limited.

Take advantage of the early stages of a painting and really try to get a feel for the subject. You can see Claude Monet was doing this in his unfinished painting below in the lower part of the body.

Claude Monet, Self Portrait In His Atelier, 1884
Simplify The "Noise"

If you try to paint everything in the scene with complete accuracy, then of course the painting will take ages to finish. You should try to identify what is actually important in the scene and simplify the rest.

Think about the areas where your eyes are drawn towards in the scene. These areas will usually be your key features. Everything else can be painted out of focus.

If you are painting from a photo, remember that the photo does not capture what we actually see. A photo will usually capture everything in focus, however when we focus on something in life we tend to tune out all the "noise".

In the painting below by John Singer Sargent, notice how basic the painting is if you take out the main two subjects. The background is literally nothing but a few general shapes and colors. But you don't notice as you should be focused on the two subjects in the middle.

John Singer Sargent, Rosina Ferrara Dancing Tarantella, 1878
Plan Your Painting

I spend a considerable amount of time planning my paintings. Most of the work is done before I actually pick up a brush.

The planning includes:

  • Deciding what to paint
  • Taking appropriate photos (if I am not painting from life)
  • Analyzing the photos and picking an appropriate one to paint from
  • Considering a strategy for the painting
  • Doing quick notan or color studies (sometimes)

The planning stage allows me to paint fluently and usually without interruption once I pick up the brush. It also prevents many mistakes during the painting process.

Paint Less Complicated Subjects

I find complicated subjects to be incredibly demanding on me mentally. They also require so much more time to complete as you need to take so much care with the drawing. Of course, a complicated subject will help you improve in terms of drawing and composition, however, those are only two aspects of painting. There are other elements you can focus on like color, value and brushwork.

Painting a basic subject is not necessarily an easy task. In fact, it can sometimes be more challenging to succeed with as you are not able to rely on the complex nature of the subject to create interest (you must rely more on your use of color, value, brushwork, etc). Your handling of the paint and artistic elements becomes the focus of the painting, rather than the subject itself.

Take a look at the beautiful painting below by Claude Monet. The subject is literally nothing but water lilies on the water. But the stunning use of color and brushwork makes this painting appear incredibly sophisticated.

Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1908

I hope you enjoyed these tips for painting faster and more efficiently. I will reiterate that painting faster does not mean painting recklessly. It just means you are painting without hesitation.

I believe that you must actively try to learn how to paint instinctively. It does not necessarily just come with experience. If you never allow yourself to relax and paint freely, then you may never paint with the instinctive freedom like we see in the master artists.

Thanks For Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you learned something new! If you found the post useful, please share. You might also be interested in the following resources:

Free 5-Part Painting For Beginners Email Course - Beginners start here.

21 Easy Ways To Improve Your Paintings ebook - Highly effective and actionable painting tips.

Painting Academy - For a complete step-by-step system which will have you creating stunning paintings in no time.

Happy painting!

Draw Paint Academy

The post 5 Tips For Painting Faster And More Efficiently appeared first on Draw Paint Academy.

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The background in a painting is by nature out of the spotlight. But that does not mean it is not important!

In fact, the background has the incredibly important role of providing context and contrast for the main subjects. Remember, painting is all relative. Without a dull background, how would your stunning colors and delicate brushwork stand out?

In this post I will run through some of the different ways you can paint the background. I will also take a look at how some famous artists handled the background area.

Mary Cassatt, Lydia At The Tapestry Loom, 1881
What Are The Elements Of A Great Background In A Painting?

In my opinion, a great background in a painting should have two key features:

  1. It is out of the spotlight (most of the time). This does not mean the background area is bland or uninviting by itself. It just means that the background is not a key feature compared to the rest of the painting (unless the background is the key feature - I give some examples later in the post).
  2. It should complement the rest of the painting, not detract from it. This means using relevant colors, brushwork and shapes.
What Are Your Options

There are several different types of backgrounds you can use in your painting. Each type will suit different subjects and styles.

No Background

No background is only really suitable for study pieces or if you have a very strong subject which you want to draw complete attention to. In pretty much every other case you would be better off having at least some kind of background to complement the subject, no matter how simple.

Stained Canvas

The stained canvas is similar to having no background, but you have the benefit of at least having some color and texture.

Partial Background

Sometimes a partial background to give some context and contrast is all that is needed. It can produce a very painterly effect and can be highly effective for focusing the subject in a still life or portrait.

Full Background - Simple

A full and simple background will provide context without drawing attention away from the main subject.

Full Background - Detailed

A detailed background can produce stunning results but is difficult to pull off. At best, you will have an intricate painting which has many interesting parts (kind of like a complex puzzle). But at worst, you will have a confusing painting which lacks focus and coherency.

Master Artist Examples Of Backgrounds (And Why They Work)

To demonstrate the different types of backgrounds in action I am using artworks by two wonderful impressionists, Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas.

Partial Background

In the studies below, Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt utilized partial backgrounds to provide some kind of contrast for the main subjects. Edgar Degas used regular and rigid lines in the backgrounds to contrast against the more organic and curving lines of the subjects.

Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas, Torso Of A Dancer, 1899

In the study below by Mary Cassatt, notice how she used strokes of green to contrast against the vivid red.

Mary Cassatt, Margot In Big Bonnett And Red Dress
Full Background - Simple

Here are some paintings which have full and simple backgrounds. These backgrounds provide context without drawing attention away from the main subjects.

In the painting below, the background is really nothing more than varied tones of gray and blue. But it plays an important role in framing the subject and providing a dull setting for the subtle skin tones.

Mary Cassatt, Moise Dreyfus, 1879

If you were to take the three subjects out of the painting below, you would be left with an extremely basic seascape scene. But, as it is merely the background and the three subjects require so much focus, Mary Cassatt was able to simplify the background to nothing more than a few very basic shapes and colors. The simplified background tends to mimic the way we see and focus in life. This is different from the way a camera works (which usually captures everything in focus). As an artist, it is always important to remember the key advantage we have over cameras - we can paint what we actually see and feel, but a camera cannot.

Mary Cassatt, The Boating Party, 1893-94

The painting below is a fantastic demonstration of how to paint white and how to bring focus to an incredibly delicate subject. When I look at this painting I find myself helplessly drawn towards the center of the painting, where there is this intricate dance between all the soft colors. The dull background plays an important role here in framing the subject and giving the subject all the attention and contrast it needs.

Mary Cassatt, The Reader, 1877

Below is one of my favorite paintings by Edgar Degas. The subject is actually Mary Cassatt.

There is a brilliant use of the background in this painting to frame the subject's face. I'm not sure exactly what the chaotic display of whites and yellows in the background is meant to represent, but it does not seem out of place.

Edgar Degas, Miss Cassatt, Holding The Cards, 1880-1884
Full Background - Medium Detail

Here are some backgrounds which have a medium level of detail.

In the painting below, notice how the darks of the flowers gently blend into the background, whilst the lighter parts of the flowers have a much harder edge. This gives a strong sense of cohesion in the painting as there is this subtle connection between the main subject (the flowers in the vase) and the background (I talk more about linking darks and lights in the Painting Academy).

Mary Cassatt, Lilacs In A Window, 1880

The background below gives a fantastic sense of scale and perspective. There is enough detail to add context to the scene, but not enough to draw all the attention away from the two subjects. Like the flower painting above, Mary Cassatt again created these subtle links between the background and the main subjects through the use of color and lost edges (I talk about edges in this post).

Mary Cassatt, The Loge, 1880
Full Background - High Detail

These paintings have a high level of detail in the background. Notice how the area of focus is much broader than the other paintings in this post. Also notice how many more small points of interest there are. The longer you look at these paintings, the more you see.

Mary Cassatt, Little Girl In A Blue Armchair, 1878
Edgar Degas, The Ballet Class, 1871-1874
Background In Focus

In most cases, the main subject will be in the foreground or middleground in perspective, but in some cases the background is actually the key feature of the painting. This is usually the case in some atmospheric landscapes and seascapes where the sky is the dominant feature. Below are two examples. Notice how the vivid colors draw you towards the background, away from the dull and dark foreground.

Isaac Levitan, Huts After Sunset, 1899
John Atkinson Grimshaw, Sunset From Chilworth Common, Hampshire

I hope you enjoyed this post and learned something about what to do with the background in your paintings. I trust you now understand, if not already, that the background plays an incredibly important role in your painting and should not be overlooked (unless you are just doing studies). It is really what connects all the elements and sets the stage for your key features.

Thanks For Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you learned something new! If you found the post useful, please share. You might also be interested in the following resources:

Free 5-Part Painting For Beginners Email Course - Beginners start here.

21 Easy Ways To Improve Your Paintings ebook - Highly effective and actionable painting tips.

Painting Academy - For a complete step-by-step system which will have you creating stunning paintings in no time.

Happy painting!

Draw Paint Academy

The post How To Create The Perfect Background For Your Painting appeared first on Draw Paint Academy.

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The sad reality of painting is that you will make mistakes, especially if you are just starting out. Things rarely go as planned. The drawing might look slightly awkward, the colors might not work together or you might have just made one too many strokes.

In this post I want to discuss how you can deal with making a mistake in your painting. But before I get into it, I will say that mistakes are certainly not limited to beginners. You will always make mistakes, no matter what your skill level is. However, the difference between a master artist and a beginner artist is that the master will be able to quickly and efficiently resolve mistakes. So try not to get frustrated by mistakes. They are just part of the game.

So let's get into it.

One of my recent paintings, before it all went wrong...
Work Out What The Problem Is

If you think you made a mistake in your painting, the first thing you should do is stop working and identify the problem. You do not want to try and guess your way to a solution. That would often just lead to an overworked mess on the canvas.

If you can identify the problem, then you will have a much greater chance at resolving the problem. In painting, there are few mistakes which cannot be fixed if you identify them early. But you do not have unlimited attempts at fixing a problem. Eventually, your paint on the canvas will get overworked and will not be pleasant to work with. That is why it is important to work efficiently when you are trying to solve a problem in your painting. Trial and error is not a great approach.

When you make a mistake, it is often not clear what the mistake actually is. You will notice that it just looks wrong, but you will not understand why. So, that is why you need to go into problem-solving mode when you think you have made a mistake.

Here are some of the most common areas where mistakes occur:

  • Your drawing is wrong. This is probably the most common mistake.
  • Your values are wrong. This can be a tricky problem to identify, as you might have the right hue but the color is too dark or light.
  • Your edges are wrong. With edges, you have hard, soft and lost edges (I wrote about edges in this post). Edges provide a lot of information about a subject, but if you use the wrong edges, then that may look awkward and confusing. For example, a hard edge may look out of place when used for the horizon line in an overcast seascape painting.
  • You have not painted in accordance with the light source.
  • Your colors are wrong. Color (or more specifically, hue) is the last and least important on this list, as it does not actually provide that much information about a subject. But it is still a common area to make mistakes.

More often than not your problem will sit in one of the areas above. If you can narrow your problem down to one of these areas, then you just need to continue narrowing down until you are very confident in what the issue is.

Problem Solving Tips

Here are some practical tips for problem-solving.


If you think there is an accuracy issue with your drawing, you can place a grid on a photo of your painting and the reference photo to identify any discrepancies and where those discrepancies occur.

Side-by-side photo comparison

If I feel like something is off in my painting, I will sometimes take a photo of it and compare it side-by-side to the reference photo. You can use a website like Canva to do this.

Color checking

You can use a color checker in Photoshop or some other editing program to compare the colors in your painting and the colors of your reference photo. However, I would only do this if there is a serious concern about the colors. You do not want to start relying on editing software.

Claude Monet, Etretat, the cliff and the Porte d Aval Sunset, 1883


When you look at a full-sized image, you are exposed to all the details, no matter how insignificant. As a result, you tend to overlook the "big picture" stuff like color harmony and composition. As the old saying goes....

"It can be difficult to see the forest through the trees."

Isaac Levitan, Oak Grove, Autumn, 1880

Thumbnail images are a great tool for seeing your painting without all the detail.

After I have finished a painting, I will often compare a thumbnail image of the painting to a thumbnail image of the reference to see if there are any glaring differences in composition and color. The thumbnail images reveal the "big picture" issues which I may not be able to see with the full-sized images.

Look at the painting in grayscale

If you take a photo of your painting and convert it to grayscale, you can easily see if there are any glaring issues in terms of value.

Can You Fix The Problem?

Once you have identified that a problem exists and what the problem is, then you need to determine if the problem can be fixed. Unfortunately, not all problems can be fixed. Some mistakes are so fundamental that it would be futile to try and work through them. These kinds of mistakes usually occur early and are not picked up until the later stages of a painting.

What mistakes can be fixed?

  • Mistakes which you have only recently made in the painting can usually be fixed pretty easily.
  • Mistakes which involve minor aspects of the painting. In fact, these mistakes can often be left unchanged if they have little impact on the overall painting.
  • Mistakes regarding colors and edges can be fixed easily if working alla prima.

What mistakes cannot be fixed?

  • Mistakes which occurred early in the painting process and involve a fundamental aspect of the painting.
  • Mistakes which involve the overall composition and color harmony of the painting. These mistakes usually occur before you have even picked up your brush, during the planning and subject selection stage of your painting.
Option 1: Keep Adjusting Until You Are Happy

If the mistake is fixable, you could start making adjustments until you are happy with what is on the canvas. However, you should be very careful before you place brush to canvas here. Have an actual plan for fixing the problem and think very hard before making each stroke.

Remember, every stroke you make could either make your painting better or worse. If you are fixing a problem, then you do not want to keep digging a bigger hole for yourself.

In my painting below, I was not happy with the sunset. At the time it was fixable, so I started making adjustments (but sadly this painting did not work out, as you will see at the end of this post).

Option 2: Get Out Your Palette Knife

If the mistake is more significant, it may be more efficient to just use your palette knife to scrape away the paint from the affected area. This option can save you much frustration in trying to work through the problem.

Just be careful that you only scrape away the affected area and that areas which are fine are left untouched.

Also, you do not need to get rid of all the paint from the canvas. You just need to scape away enough paint so that the canvas is once again responsive (the more paint you have on the canvas, the harder it is to work with).

Option 3: Cut Your Losses, Wipe Down And Start Over

The last and most drastic option is to just cut your losses, wipe the canvas down and start again. Sometimes, the mistake can be so significant that it would just be futile to keep working through it.

I will resort to this option when I just do like where my painting is at and I see no possible way of turning it around. But before I wipe the canvas down, I usually make a few last-ditch efforts to get the painting back on track. There is nothing to lose at this stage so I can take risks I usually would not take. If those efforts do not work out, then I just call it there and start again.

If the painting cannot be fixed, just take a palette knife and scrape away the bulk of the paint. Then you can take a rag plus some solvent and wipe it down further (if you are using oils). If you are planning to work on the same composition, then you might want to keep some kind of remnants of the painting on the canvas to assist with your second attempt.

Below is a painting that just did not work out for me. I may have actually pulled the plug on this one a bit early, but sometimes it feels good to just scrap it and start again. I actually took a risk with this painting by continuing to work on it when I could have just left it where it was.

I would much rather take a risk and screw some paintings up, than only ever take the safe approach. The safe approach would have me never improving. 

Thanks For Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you learned something new! If you found the post useful, please share. You might also be interested in the following resources:

Free 5-Part Painting For Beginners Email Course - Beginners start here.

21 Easy Ways To Improve Your Paintings ebook - Highly effective and actionable painting tips.

Painting Academy - For a complete step-by-step system which will have you creating stunning paintings in no time.

Happy painting!

Draw Paint Academy

The post Oops I Stuffed It – What To Do When You Make A Mistake In Your Painting appeared first on Draw Paint Academy.

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When I ask my readers what their single biggest struggle is in painting the most common answer by far is....

"I want my paintings to look more realistic".

I think it is always important to have some quality of realism to your paintings no matter what style you paint in. Otherwise, people will be left wondering what you have actually painted.

It is also important to note that painting realism does not mean mindlessly copying what you see. You can still use your creative license to change the subject in your painting whilst retaining a quality of realism.

These tips are not intended to help you create perfect recreations of photographs. Rather, these tips will help you create paintings which have a quality of realism but still look like paintings. That is after all what I believe to be true realism.

Anyway, here are 5 tips to help you create more realistic paintings.

John Singer Sargent, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, 1885-1886
Get Your Values Right

Value is the first and most important tip in this post for creating more realistic paintings.

Value is how light or dark a color is and it is widely considered to be one of the most important elements of a painting. If you are able to paint with accurate values, then your painting will have a quality of realism regardless of how accurate your edges, colors, shapes and other elements are. 

Just look at some of the beautiful paintings by Sir Arthur Streeton like the one below. Notice how realistic it appears, without actually having all that much refined detail.

Arthur Streeton, Still Glides The Stream, And Shall For Ever Glide, 1890

If I take color out of the mix, you can see how accurate all the values are.

Streeton's paintings have an almost effortless feel to them. He was able to paint in such a relaxed style whilst retaining such a quality of realism due to his incredibly accurate values.

You should also note that when I say accurate values, I am usually referring to the value relationships (how light/dark a color is compared to the colors which surround it) rather than the actual values which you see in life. The value relationships are what you should really be trying to capture, especially if you are compressing the value range in any way (painting in a high or low key). So instead of looking at a color and asking yourself...

"Where is that color on the value scale?"

... a better question might be:

"How light/dark is that color compared to the surrounding colors?".

Utilize Hard, Soft And Lost Edges

Edge refers to the transition from one shape to another. This edge could be hard, soft or lost.

A hard edge means there is a very crisp transition between the two shapes.

A soft edge has some kind of gradation between the shapes. So the transition is smooth.

A lost edge is one where the edge is so soft that you can barely see it. This usually occurs when there are two shapes next two each other which have the same value.

The image below demonstrates the different types of edges in action:

There is a hard edge to indicate the transition from the dark background to the light building. There is a soft edge to indicate the change in the plane of the building wall. There is a lost edge where the ledge protrudes from the side of the building. Notice how the hard edge provides you with the most information about the subject, the soft edge products you with some information and the lost edge provides you with basically no information.

Edges are incredibly powerful as they can tell you so much about the subject without having to use much detail.

For example, a soft edge might indicate that there is not much visibility. A hard edge might indicate that there is a strong light source pointing directly at the subject or that there is a significant transition from one shape to another.

A common problem I see with beginner painters is that they only use hard edges. This can give a painting a very unnatural appearance, even if you get everything else right.

Focus On The Important Elements And Simplify The Rest

I am a huge fan of simplification in painting. I think the decision to ignore or leave out detail is much harder than to just include every detail you see.

Simplification in painting works in two ways:

1. It can reduce the "noise" in your paintings.

2. It adds emphasis to the elements which are actually important.

My suggestion to this is to identify the few things which most interest you about the subject you are painting. Be extremely specific. It could be the way the light is bouncing off the grass or an interesting shape arrangement. Usually there will only be 1-3 things which really interest you about a subject.

Then, just focus on painting those things. Try to simplify the rest.

If you are able to paint the important elements in your painting with accuracy, then you are 80% of the way to true realism.

If you cannot identify anything in particular which interests you about the subject, then maybe it is time to choose a different subject to paint.

In my painting below all I really wanted to capture was the subtle gradation from saturated yellows in the foreground to dull purples and blues in the background, whilst painting within a narrow value range. So I focused on that. I did not try to render every strand of grass, or perfectly match the blue of the sky.

Take Advantage Of Visible Brushwork

Visible brushwork is one of the most interesting aspects of traditional painting in my opinion. But so many beginners completely ignore it and in some cases try to relentlessly blend and smooth all the beautiful brushwork.

You can use visible brushwork in many ways including:

  • To create physical texture in your painting.
  • The create a sense of movement in your painting by using suggestive brushwork.
  • The create this beautiful broken color effect which looks like a mess of color up close, but as you step back everything just seems to work together. The result can be this stunning vibration of color.

Visible brushwork is what gives a painting that painterly feel.

The painting below by John Singer Sargent is a fantastic demonstration of brushwork. From afar, the painting looks incredibly realistic. But as you look closer at the painting, you can see these surprisingly bold strokes of color and clearly visible brushwork. The painting is certainly not all blended and refined like what many artists think creates realism.

John Singer Sargent, An Artist In His Studio, 1904
Question What You See

Unfortunately, our eyes will often play little tricks on us and what we think we see is not actually what is there. This is most apparent in color and value. For example, in the image below try to identify if square A is lighter/darker/equal in value to square B. The answer may surprise you.

You most likely answered that square A is darker than square B. But in fact they are both the exact same color (see the image below).

If you are seeing square A as being darker than square B, then what is happening is your mind is making an adjustment for the apparent shadow created by the green object. I won't go into more details on this as it is a tricky topic. The point is that what you see is not always what is there.

Also, what you see may be influenced by any preconceived ideas you have about a subject. For example, you might be inclined to paint a tree with a little bit more green than is actually there, or the sky with a little bit more blue, merely because of your preconceived ideas about these subjects. It is also why we tend to draw the head slightly too large in portraits, as we tend to subconsciously place more importance on the head over other parts of the body.

So it is important that you learn how to see like an artist. Break everything down into the basic elements like shape, edge, color and line. For example, instead of painting a crab, paint the shapes, edges, colors and lines which make up that crab:

Vincent van Gogh, Crab On Its Back, 1889
Thanks For Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you learned something new! If you have any questions or want to add something, feel free to leave a comment below. If you found the post useful, please share. Don't forget to grab my free painting guide.

Happy painting!

Draw Paint Academy


Want some highly effective and actionable painting tips? 21 Easy Ways To Improve Your Paintings ebook

Ready to take your paintings to the next level? Painting Academy

The post How To Make Your Paintings Look More Realistic appeared first on Draw Paint Academy.

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So you want to learn oil painting? I prepared this comprehensive guide to help you on your journey.

Oil paints are one of the most popular artistic mediums and for good reason. They are versatile, archival and economical.

But oil painting can be a struggle to pick up. There are some "rules" you need to be aware of and the techniques can take some time to become familiar with.

This guide covers most of the fundamental areas of oil painting to get you started.

Claude Monet, Fishing Boats At Sea, 1868
Why Oil Painting?

Why would you use oil paints over some of the other alternatives like acrylics or watercolors? Here are some reasons:

  • They are versatile. You can vary the drying time and consistency of your paint dramatically using paint thinners and additional oil. This allows you to work with a wide range of painting techniques, including blending, glazing and scumbling.
  • They were favored by the all-time greats of painting. It is hard to argue a downside of using oil paints when so many amazing artists used them to such success.
  • Oil paintings seem to be held in higher regard by art collectors compared to acrylic paintings (there are some exceptions to this of course).

You really cannot go wrong with oil paints. If you are just starting out with painting, I suggest you jump straight into oil painting unless you really want to practice acrylics or watercolors.

If you think oil painting is too complex for you, then I urge you to reconsider. There are really only a few 'rules' which you need to understand in oil painting (discussed later in this post) and the rest is very similar to acrylic painting.

What Is Oil Paint?

Oil paint is comprised of ground-up colored pigment suspended in a drying oil, usually linseed oil. The quality of oil paint varies based on the quality of the pigment used, how fine the pigment is and the medium which is used.

You can make oil paint more fluid by mixing it with more oil, or by adding a solvent, however this also weakens the paint. Oil paint is generally at its most stable form straight from the tube. 

Oil Painting Supplies

Here is a basic set of oil painting supplies and equipment:

  • A range of small to large paint brushes designed for oil painting. Hog hair and decent synthetic brushes are great for oil painting. You should read my guide here on artist paint brushes for more information.
  • An easel.
  • A palette.
  • A basic palette of paints (discussed below).
  • A surface to paint on (discussed below).
  • Odorless solvent.
  • Linseed oil.
  • Paper towel (for wiping your brushes).

I provide some more detail on the oil painting supplies in this post.

Oil Painting Color Palette

With your color palette, I suggest you use as few colors as possible. This will force you to learn how to mix your colors. At a minimum, you should have a red, blue, yellow and white.

Here is my current color palette:

  • Ultramarine blue
  • Cobalt blue
  • Cadmium yellow
  • Cadmium yellow light
  • Yellow ochre
  • Cadmium orange
  • Cadmium red
  • Alizarin crimson
  • Raw umber or burnt sienna
  • Titanium white

You should also check out this post I wrote about the Zorn palette.

In relation to the different brands of oil paint, I have had no issues with any of the top brands (Winsor & Newton, Gamblin, Old Holland, Michael Harding, etc). Just make sure you purchase "artist quality" over "student quality" if possible. There is a notable difference.

Surfaces To Paint On

Canvas became the most popular surface to paint on around the 15th/16th century. Prior to that, wooden panels were used. There are two options with canvas:

Stretched canvas panels: Canvas stretched over a frame. These are what you will probably be doing most of your oil painting on.

Canvas boards: A cheap and sturdy alternative to stretched canvas panels. Canvas boards are usually just canvas attached to a sturdy surface like cardboard. I use these for study works and demonstrations.

You can also paint on other surfaces such as wooden boards, but you need to make sure that the surface you paint on has been primed with a gesso.

Oil Painting "Rules"

In oil painting, there are some "rules" which you should follow to avoid your paint cracking.

Fat over lean: As noted earlier, oil paint is basically colored pigment which is held together by some kind of drying oil. The more oil present, the "fatter" the paint is and the slower it will dry. In general, you want to make sure the top layers of paint are fatter (or oiler) than the lower layers. Otherwise, the layers on top will dry faster than the layers below and the paint will crack.

Thick over thin: The reasoning behind this rule is the same as the above rule. You want to make sure the paint at the top dries slower than the paint at the bottom. Thick paint will usually dry slower than thin paint.

In practice, I will start a painting with thin paint which has been mixed with some odorless solvent. Then I start using paint straight from the tube and take advantage of the paint texture.

TIP: Visible brushwork is a fantastic element of painting, but it is often overlooked by beginners. Below is a close-up of one of my paintings which demonstrates visible brushwork. This kind of visible brushwork is only possible when you use a brush loaded with thick paint.

These rules are only really applicable to the traditional painting approach where you would paint layer on layer using glazes. If you paint alla prima then you do not need to worry as much about these rules. However, it is still important to understand them.

If you want to make sure you never have an issue with the fat over lean rule, then just use paint straight from the tube. This way most of the paint will have a similar drying time and the paint on top should not dry any faster than the paint at the bottom. However, this is not a hard and fast rule as the drying time of paint is influenced by many factors. But you should not have any issues in practice.

Oil Painting Techniques

I discuss the different oil painting techniques in this post. Here are the techniques which I use most frequently:

  • Scumbling - This is a dry-brush technique which involves gently dragging your brush over the canvas to produce a broken color effect.
  • Thin washes with solvent - By mixing oil paint with solvent, you can produce a very thin wash of transparent color which dries fast. This is how I usually start my paintings.
  • Multi-colored brush strokes - If you leave various colors unmixed on your brush, you can create these beautiful multi-colored streaks.

I do not use glazing all that much. I prefer to build up paint on the canvas by using scumbling, as it can produce an interesting broken colored effect.

Sunset Study, Kingfisher Bay, Oil, 10x12 Inches, 2017
Oil Painting Process

Here is my general approach for completing an oil painting:

First, I stain the canvas with a thin wash of paint plus solvent. I generally use some kind of earth tone like raw umber or burnt sienna. This gets rid of any white on the canvas, which can be difficult to paint on top of.

Second, I do a rough sketch of the composition. I will use more detail for more complex subjects.

Third, I quickly block-in the general shapes and colors, trying to establish the structure and color harmony. I do not want to get caught up in the detail just yet.

Forth, I refine what is on the canvas until there are no more problems to solve.

Fifth, I sign the painting and go through my post-painting processes.

What To Do After You Have Finished Your Oil Painting

Here is a summary of what I do after I have finished an oil painting:

  • I leave it on the easel for a few days to see if I am truly happy with the result.
  • I wait for an overcast day to photograph the painting outside.
  • I leave the painting somewhere safe to dry (out of any direct sunlight and preferably away from dust).
  • I write a tutorial about the painting on Draw Paint Academy.
  • I post the painting on any relevant social media platforms.

Further reading:

11 Things To Do After You Finish A Painting

Photographing Your Painting
Oil Painting Books
Oil Painting Videos
Famous Oil Painters

Here are some famous oil painters you should explore:

You can see beautiful close-ups of these paintings on Wikiart.

John Singer Sargent, Rosina Ferrara Dancing Tarantella, 1878
Famous Oil Paintings

There have been many famous oil paintings created, too many to even fathom. Here are just a handful of famous oil paintings from various eras:

Auguste Renoir, Bal du moulin de la Galette
Claude Monet, Woman With A Parasol - Madame Monet And Her Son, 1875
Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night
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As some of you already know, I ventured on the Overland Track in Tasmania recently. The scenery there was stunning and of course I managed to take many reference photos to paint back in the studio.

I recently put the finishing touches on a painting based on the following reference photo. Here is a step-by-step landscape painting tutorial which will walk you through how I went about this painting.

Analyzing The Reference Photo

I love all the dry yellows in this scene and the sense of depth with the mountains in the background. There was some slight cloud-cover so the light was defused. This kind of light is perfect for painting under, as it is not too strong, but strong enough to show all the colors. You will find that under the full strength of the sun on a clear day, the colors will all appear either tinted and washed out in the direct light, or lost into darkness in the shadows.

On first glance, there appears to be a gradual lightening of the scene as you go from the foreground into the background. But it is not actually a gradation in lightness (value), but color saturation. That is, the colors get duller (closer to gray) as you go from the foreground to the background.

This is demonstrated in the following grayscale image of the reference photo. Notice how the mountains in the background are basically the same value as the dominant values in the foreground.

This is why it is so important to understand the individual elements which make up a color. If you incorrectly identified the gradation in this reference as a gradation in value, then you would be making a serious error before you even place brush to canvas.

So the key to painting this scene is to keep all the values for the land within a very tight range, whilst gradually reducing the saturation as you go further into the distance. What appears to be a simple landscape scene at first glance, now appears to have some complex elements to it.

Preparing The Canvas And Sketching The Composition

I stain the canvas with burnt sienna, which is a perfect color to match the earth tones of the landscape. When staining the canvas, you should think about the overall color harmony of your painting. I used burnt sienna rather than raw umber in this case as this painting is in a generally high key and I do not need to hit those really dark values.

Start Painting The Sky And Water With A Dull Blue-Gray

The sky and water in this case are just light bluish-grays. As the water is pretty much just reflecting the color of the sky, I paint both these areas at the same time. However, I make the water about one value darker than the sky.

Block In The Rest Of The Canvas

The color harmony I want to achieve with this painting is a mix of warm yellows and dull purples and blues. I want the foreground to have the most saturated colors, then a gradual move towards dull purples and blues as you go towards the distance. But it is important that I keep all the values for the land within a narrow range.

I'm using a medium sized filbert brush for most of the brushwork here. I save the smaller brushes for later in the painting.

Consolidate Form And Color Harmony

Here I just build on what is already on the canvas and consolidate the form and color harmony. A key thing I am trying to do here is either softening edges or making them harder. Edges are key to making all the elements in your painting work together.

If all your edges are too hard, then nothing will flow. If all your edges are too soft, then there will be no strong form or sense of emphasis.

Finished Painting

Here is the finished painting. I like how it turned out.

On first glance, it is a subtle painting, but if you look closer you can see a complex arrangement of different tones and brush markings. I provide some close-up shots in the section below.

One thing I really wanted to achieve with this painting was to paint within a very narrow value range whilst having a gradation in color saturation (from more saturated colors in the foreground to less saturated colors in the background).

Below is a grayscale photo of the painting. As you can see, the land is all within a very narrow value range (ignoring any dark or light accents). This is surprisingly difficult to achieve and I suggest you try it for yourself.

Painting within a very narrow value range can produce a sophisticated harmony of colors at best, but at worst could appear flat and uninviting.

Close-Up Shots

I absolutely love the appearance of visible brushwork. For me, it is one of the key advantages that traditional painting has over digital art. Of course, you could imitate the brushwork in digital painting, but nothing comes close to the real thing.

Here are some close-ups of the painting which show the subtle brushwork and changes in tone.

Additional Readings
Thanks For Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you learned something new! If you have any questions or want to add something, feel free to leave a comment below. If you found the post useful, please share. 

Happy painting!

Draw Paint Academy


Want some highly effective and actionable painting tips? 21 Easy Ways To Improve Your Paintings ebook

Ready to take your paintings to the next level? Painting Academy

The post Landscape Painting Tutorial – Painting The Overland Track Using Oils appeared first on Draw Paint Academy.

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The seascape is a fantastic and versatile subject for painting. You could paint the glassy water on a calm day, or the crashing waves of the ocean during a storm.

One of the reasons the seascape is such a popular subject is because of the unique way water seems to capture and reflect all the surrounding colors. This can be a challenge to paint, but the outcome can be stunning.

This post will feature some of the top seascape painters and will hopefully provide you with some seascape painting inspiration.

Joaquín Sorolla

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (27 February 1863 – 10 August 1923) was known for his beautifully fluid style of painting. His paintings appear incredibly realistic, yet effortless. This style seems to work well for painting water.

Pictured below are two completely different seascape paintings. The first captures the translucent blue-greens of the calm water. The second captures the crashing waves with the use of dark grays and blues.

Here are some more paintings by Sorolla.

Joaquin Sorolla, San Vicente Cape
Joaquin Sorolla, Seascape, 1904
Albert Bierstadt

Albert Bierstadt (January 7, 1830 – February 18, 1902) was known for his grand and naturalistic landscape paintings of the American West. He also has many stunning paintings of the seascape.

Albert Bierstadt, The Wave, 1880
Albert Bierstadt, Nassau Harbor, 1877
Claude Monet

Claude Monet (14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926) painted pretty much anything to do with the environment. His broken color approach to painting seems to be extremely effective for depicting water. When you look up close at Monet's paintings of water, you can see almost a mess of different greens, blues, yellows and grays. But you step back and it just seems to blend together.

Additional readings regarding Claude Monet:

The Many Paintings Of Water Lilies By Claude Monet

How Claude Monet Documented Light Using The Rouen Cathedral

How Claude Monet Used Haystacks To Demonstrate Light and Color

Quotes by the Impressionist Master Claude Monet

Claude Monet, The Manneport, Reflections Of Water, 1885
Claude Monet, Impression, Sunrise, 1872
Claude Monet, The Cliffs at Etretat, 1855
Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet

Jean Gustave Courbet (10 June 1819 – 31 December 1877) was a French realist painter, but his seascape paintings seem to verge more towards impressionism. In the first painting below, notice in the sky the subtle color changes within a very narrow value range. The painting below that, on the other hand, features a strong contrast between dark clouds and clear blue sky. It is so difficult to imitate the blue of a sky, but Courbet seems to have done a great job in this painting. The blue almost seems to glow.

Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet, Beach at Dieppe, The Fishing Boat
Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet, Eternity
Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky

I could not talk about inspirational seascape paintings without mentioning the great Ivan Aivazovsky (29 July 1817 – 2 May 1900). Ivan Aivazovsky was a Russian Romantic painter who was renowned for his vast seascape paintings.

Ivan Aivazovsky, The Ninth Wave, 1850
Ivan Aivazovsky, Storm At Sea On A Moonlit Night
Ivan Aivazovsky, Seascape
Joseph Mallord William Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner (23 April 1775 – 19 December 1851) was an English Romantic painter who created many atmospheric and almost chaotic marine paintings. Though not all his paintings are like this. Many of his earlier works displayed a much more delicate style.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Snow Storm
Joseph Mallord William Turner, Goldau, 1841
Joseph Mallord William Turner, Rotterdam Ferry-Boat, 1833
Winslow Homer

Winslow Homer (February 24, 1836 – September 29, 1910) was an American painter who was best known for his seascape paintings. His watercolor paintings have a simple elegance to them, whilst his oil paintings appear dramatic and moody. One thing I notice about Winslow Homer's seascape paintings is the overall lack of color. He relied mostly on grays.

Additional reading regarding Winslow Homer:

Inspirational Quotes By Winslow Homer

Winslow Homer, The Herring Net, 1885
Winslow Homer, Fishing Boats, Key West, 1903
Childe Hassam

In stark contrast to Winslow Homer's seascape paintings, Childe Hassam was not hesitant to use vibrant color in his seascapes. In many of his paintings he used a broken color technique to create this beautiful vibration of color (similar to Claude Monet).

Additional readings regarding Childe Hassam:

A Demonstration Of How To Use Color By Childe Hassam

How To Paint In A High Key (Plus Master Painting Examples)

Childe Hassam, The East Headland, Appledore - Isles Of Shoals, 1908
Childe Hassam, Duck Island From Appledore, 1911
Katsushika Hokusai

This is one of the most famous seascape artworks by Katsushika Hokusai named "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa". It is actually a woodblock print, not a painting, but I thought it was worth a mention. It was published sometime between 1829 and 1833.

Hokusai, The Great Wave Off Kanagawa
Thanks For Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you learned something new! If you have any questions or want to add something, feel free to leave a comment below. If you found the post useful, please share. 

Happy painting!

Draw Paint Academy


Want some highly effective and actionable painting tips? 21 Easy Ways To Improve Your Paintings ebook

Ready to take your paintings to the next level? Painting Academy

The post Seascape Painting Inspiration (Plus 9 Famous Seascape Painters) appeared first on Draw Paint Academy.

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The idea of the starving artist is nothing more than a myth. We live in a period when you can monetize literally anything.

I don’t really like talking about money but it is an important topic. Without money, it can be difficult to practice your craft. My thoughts on art and money are this….

Do whatever you can to make enough money to practice your art. That might mean doing art on the side of your full-time job while you build a portfolio, or conducting some art workshops on the side. You just need to make it work.

Your life as an artist does not need to be like one of Vincent van Gogh's early paintings (before he found color).

Vincent van Gogh, The Poor and Money, 1882

To help you out, here are some different ways you can make money as an artist.

Sell your original paintings

This is the most obvious avenue for making money as an artist, but it is also arguably the most difficult. There are a number of places you can sell your own paintings:

  • Physical galleries. This is the most traditional route. If you are accepted by a gallery they will promote you as an artist, for a commission of course.
  • Online galleries. A similar concept to physical galleries, but you will be responsible for promoting yourself. Online galleries take many of the usual responsibilities out of selling your art. For example, I recently sold a painting (pictured below) which I had listed on Blue Thumb, an Australian online gallery. Blue Thumb arranged couriers and collected payment. Overall it as a very smooth transaction. However, I had no contact with the actual buyer. I actually forgot I had any paintings listed on Blue Thumb, so it was a pleasant surprise when I received that "Sold" email.
  • On your own website. This is a great option but it is essential that you promote yourself. Getting traffic to your website is no easy task.
  • By setting up your own art stall at street markets. This option is only really suitable if your art targets the mass population and is affordably priced. For example, naturalistic seascapes in Australia seem to do well at street markets. But you need to consider the value of your time for actually attending the stall. This option is much more hands-on than the other options.
Afternoon In Queenstown, Oil, 16x12 Inches, 2017
Sell fine art prints

The issue with selling original paintings is that many people just cannot afford to buy them. Fine art prints provide a low-cost entry point for your fans who cannot afford to buy your originals.

You also get to extend the value of your original paintings. Instead of just selling an original painting, you could sell the original painting plus a number of fine art prints. Our time is very limited, so you want to make the work you do count.

The issue with selling fine art prints is that you need the numbers to make it worthwhile. I would only consider this option if you are consistently selling your original paintings and there is a strong demand for your work. Otherwise, it is just not worth the effort in setting everything up, in my opinion.

There are many companies now which make selling fine art prints very easy and affordable, but you still need to take high-quality photos and market the prints.

You could also sell limited edition prints if you want to add a scarcity factor to help sales. You will need to personally sign and number each edition (i.e. 1/200, 2/200 and so on). Generally, people limit the prints to 200, but there are no rules with this.

If you want to sell prints of your art, then you should do a Google search for “Fine Art Prints + Your Location”. Alternatively, you could check out some of the big players in the field such as Fine Art America.

Sell merchandise

Prints are not limited to canvas or other fine art surfaces. You could sell prints of your art on t-shirts, greeting cards, mugs, bags, and so on. Redbubble is a popular option for setting this up.

However, you need to be careful not to cheapen the image of your work. If you sell traditional portraits or landscapes to collectors, then having your paintings on mugs will not do you any favors. But if you paint in a very stylistic or illustrator approach, then this might be an option for you. Again, like the fine art prints, you need the numbers here otherwise it is just not worth your time to set up.

Affiliate links for supplies

For those of you who are not aware, affiliate marketing is a form of advertising where you refer a product to others and in return, you receive a small commission on any sales. The key with affiliate marketing is you must believe in the products you refer.

Personally, I am an affiliate for some of the art supplies I use. I refer people to Amazon and if anyone purchases through my link, then I earn a small commission. This just makes a very small dent in my bills, but every bit can help. Amazon has the largest and most reputable affiliate program in the world and anyone can promote through them. You just need to sign up for an affiliate account.

Advertising and sponsorship

If you have a website, you have the option of selling advertisements. These could be in the form of banner ads or sponsored posts.

The most popular option here is Google Adsense. You know those little adverts that you see on a website on the side, or sometimes even in the content? These are generally adverts hosted by Google Adsense.

For Google Adsense, you can allocate areas on your website where you want adverts to be shown. Google will then arrange all the adverts. Whenever someone clicks on those adverts, you receive a small fee.

When you start generating large amounts of traffic to your website, you could also approach large art-based companies and offer direct sponsorship on your website. You can receive a better return with direct sponsorship over Google Adsense.

However, there is always a trade-off. You will be able to easily monetize your readership with advertisements, but at the expense of reader satisfaction. So tread carefully here.

Teach workshops

This is one of the most popular ways of making money for artists. Many artists offer in-person workshops to supplement their income from painting sales and to provide a more predictable source of income.

To conduct in-person workshops, you need to be very confident in your painting ability and have some kind of relative authority. When I say relative authority, I mean you are somewhat qualified to teach to your target audience. You do not need to be a master of the arts, but if you are a beginner then you should not try to teach advanced artists.

The more established you become as an artist, the more you will be able to charge. Some of the top artists in the world charge thousands for their workshops.

Teach online

This is my favorite area. The online space provides artists with so many opportunities to spread their knowledge to others at the fraction of a cost of holding in-person workshops. Some of the options you have to teach online are:

  • Self-publish books on Amazon.
  • Create and sell courses on your own website or on platforms such as Udemy.
  • Provide one-on-one mentoring via email, Skype or video recordings.
  • Teach people via automated email courses.

The options are endless here. The only limitation is your imagination, your knowledge of technology and in some cases, your budget.


I will finish up by saying that you do not need to feel guilty about trying to make money from your craft. You are not selling out. However, some ways of monetization may be more suitable to your situation than others. For example, if you do not like teaching, then you should not venture into art education. If you sell original paintings for many thousands of dollars to sophisticated buyers, then you should not try to sell cheap merchandise.

Your life does not need to be a struggle like van Gogh's life was. We live in a time when anyone can monetize their passion.

Vincent van Gogh, Self Portrait, 1889
Further Readings
Thanks For Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you learned something new! If you have any questions or want to add something, feel free to leave a comment below. If you found the post useful, please share. Don't forget to join my Free Online Painting Course

Happy painting!

Draw Paint Academy


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Affiliate disclosure: There may be affiliate links to recommended products in this post. If you purchase through any affiliate links I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. These funds are used to help grow this website and spread art education to people around the world. Thanks!

The post How To Make Money As An Artist appeared first on Draw Paint Academy.

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