It's hard to beat painting as a fun, timeless, (screen-free!) activity for the kids. It can even help them develop their spatial and motor skills. Painting is also a great way for adults to experiment with their artistic side - I still dabble in painting because I feel relaxed when I don't need to think in words - instead I can think in colours, textures, lines and shape. Acrylics are a great medium to start with because they are water-based, quick-drying, and supplies for everything you'll need are so accessible. Being a Kiwi, I usually get my supplies from the Warehouse or Warehouse Stationery but dollar stores would probably also have them. If you want to dip your toe into the world of paint (maybe even literally!) then here are some basic tips:
1. Choose your surface
The surface is the thing that the paint gets slapped onto. I wouldn't recommend standard A4 computer paper or writing paper as this will become soggy. But there are a range of other cheap options that work well with acrylics. The least expensive material to use is what most people would call cartridge paper. It's thicker than computer paper and can be found in 'artist sketch pads'. The only disadvantage is that you'll need more paint to cover the surface as it does tend to absorb into the paper a little.
Another possible surface is a 'Watercolour Pad'. This is similar to cardboard and it's textured so that it almost feels like canvas. Acrylics sit quite well on it, despite it being labelled as a Watercolour surface.
The third option I'd recommend is 'stretched canvas' around a wooden frame ( check the back of the product to see the wooden frame. I would not recommend canvas stretched over board for beginners because it's difficult to hang/display). Look out for sales because the Warehouse Stationery sometimes has up to 60% off canvas prices. These are usually pre-primed and ready to be painted straight away. This surface is ridiculously easy to hang on your wall if you want to display your finished work. Just go to a framer and ask if they can put a string on the back for the cost of a couple of bucks (they will also give you a picture hook) then it's ready to hang; no glass or external framing needed. The three surfaces are pictured left to right below. They can all come in a variety of sizes:
2. Choose your paint and brushes
The same stores that I've mentioned will likely sell Acrylic paint in a variety of colours. If you have a limited budget, just buy the primary colours blue, red and yellow in any brand because, of course, you can create more colours by mixing these (blue and red = purple; yellow and red = orange; yellow and blue = green). White is also essential. Many people think that black is essential but I would beg to differ. I hardly ever use black in my paintings because I find it easily overpowers the picture and you can create a colour that will read as a more subtle 'black' by combining red, blue and yellow paint together (mostly blue combined with slightly less red and just a little yellow - experiment with mixing until you get a very dark brown/blackish/purplish shade). Any paintbrushes from anywhere will be fine. If you decide to do painting more seriously, then look at getting ox or hog hair brushes because these are much easier to clean, re-use, and will distribute the paint in a more precise way.
If you want to do an abstract painting, you probably don't need to draw anything before you paint. Just go for it! There can be great freedom in trying an abstract style. Likewise, if you're painting with small children, then pencilling isn't important. But for older children, or if you're aiming for a more naturalistic or realistic painting yourself (where people can tell what it is they're looking at once the painting is done) then you'll need to pencil your outlines before you paint. Any kind of pencil (except for a very dark pencil) is fine for the surfaces mentioned. You can use an ordinary eraser to rub out mistakes. The outlines you create will be the 'bones' of your painting so be sure to make sure that angles and proportions are as accurate as you can get them. Aim to fill the page or canvas with your subject so that there isn't too much 'empty space'.
Last but not least, crack open those tubes of paint! Sometimes I like to start with the background of the painting, then work on the main subject. Other times, I do it the other way around. Often I think of the painting as a jigsaw puzzle and work on one part at a time (e.g. one petal at a time in the painting I've shown here). I don't believe there are any hard and fast rules but the main mistakes I've seen people making (and I've made myself) would be:
(a) Not using enough paint. Many people (including children) end up with a weird 'dry brush' effect with a lot of fuzziness and no clear lines because they don't put enough paint on the brush to start with. When pushing your brush up to an outline of something, make sure there is enough paint on the brush to form a little blob, then carefully angle the brush so that the paint is sweeping the line that you want to trace.
(b) Overworking the painting. Don't do too much mixing of colours once the paint is on the surface. Mixing and blending too much with a brush could cause muddiness of colour. Being overly perfectionistic will also kill the painting, and kill the fun, in my view, so decide when you'll stop working on it - and stick to that.
5. Finishing touches
When you've filled in the whole painting with colour, let it dry and then consider doing a second coat or touch-ups. A painting will rarely look solid or finished with just one coat of paint so perhaps apply more paint, at least to the areas that you want to be highlights and shadows (the darkest and lightest parts of the painting). This will really give your painting depth, as you can see by the touched-up painting below. As mentioned, you could easily hang a stretched canvas painting once it's done. Paintings done on paper can be framed behind glass, either professionally or you could simply put it in a photo frame.
Happy painting! If you want to check out more of my paintings and read about the personal meanings behind some of them, click on the link and scroll down when you get there: http://paperlamp.weebly.com/be-inspired.html
Alicia Leitch has been a tutor for over ten years, mainly in the subject of English. She has worked extensively with both home educated and school educated students. Alicia is also interested in Art and has her own creative pursuits in writing and painting. She loves encouraging people to reach their creative and expressive potential.