Oil Painter's Rookie Mistakes


Although a painting is a surprise even to the artist, sometimes the surprises aren't pleasant. I painted more bad paintings than good and have discovered a few things the bad ones have in common. 

Rookie Mistake #1: Failure to Plan


Planning a painting involves a live or photo reference, a strong drawing and a color plan. It's about deciding which details to leave in and which to delete. It's deciding how you will interpret, suggest and reveal what you find most important and beautiful.

My well-planned paintings start with sketches (either tiny paintings or sketchbook drawings), a black and white copy of my reference (to see values better) and a color palette (follow my Pinterest board)

Rookie Mistake #2: Insecure Brushstrokes


The brushstroke is extremely important in painting. It should be decisive, broad and bold. If you need to paint slower so you can have confidence with teach stroke, then do so. It's better than achieving a shape with 20 small, insecure strokes that muddy the color and edges you were hoping for. 

To get confident brushstrokes, I paint with a brush bigger than what I am comfortable with on a canvas smaller than I like. I try to get a whole flower or a whole petal in one stroke, loading my brush and twisting and lifting.

Strokes carry a message whether you will it or not. The stroke is just like the artist at the time he makes it. All the certainties, all the uncertainties, all the bigness of his spirit and the littlenesses are in it. (Robert Henri)

Rookie Mistake #3: Overpainting

If a carefully laid brushstroke is okay, I leave it! It takes more discipline and restraint to leave a brushstroke than to second-guess yourself and keep painting, as if more painting will make it look better. It won't!

I take breaks and paint upside down to keep my perspective fresh. When the canvas is complete and I've fixed the things that really bug me, I say "it's done!". I don't want to cover up the glowing transparent under-layer or the spontaneous brushstrokes and bright color. These are the things that give my paintings energy and joy. I sign it while it is still wet and accept it as progress.

Rookie Mistake #4: Critical Attitude 

So what do you do with the painting you don't like? Keep it to look back on and be encouraged by your progress. If you paint small and often, it won't be a big deal if a painting or two turns out badly. Your next one will be magnificent!

   Face to Face   18x24 oil on canvas. Collection Mr. & Mrs. Huber

Face to Face 18x24 oil on canvas. Collection Mr. & Mrs. Huber