Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Painting! What's Up With That?

Slowmover posted a rather long comment on the trouble he's having when painting a figure.  Let me see if I can address some of the concerns he brought up.

First, do not think that you can produce good results immediately with a technique you're not that familiar with.  I've been painting for over 50 years and I still hit the wall sometimes trying to do something and not having much success with it.  Then again, sometimes I do something that totally surprises me at the result.  Painting the vest is a good example of that.  I had never considered using a tan color for a vest, preferring the darker colors.  However, that tan, the darker shading and then the lighter highlights actually take on the look of leather.  A new lesson learned!

As for washes over solid paint just remember....once you dip your brush into water and then into paint it's a wash of some kind or other.  Some are light while some are heavy but they're all washes.  The only difference with my technique is that I wet the surface of the wood so my washes soak into the wood instead of flowing over it and that is a BIG difference.  The colors take on the color of the wood which makes them appear much warmer than they would the other way.  And I like the way the wood absorbs the color unevenly over the various surfaces of the wood.  That just adds another touch to the technique.  If there is a spot where I don't want that to happen I can always add more paint to even things out.

I think a lot of problems come from trying to copy something to closely.  My suggestion would be to read the book or watch the video a couple of times then put  those things away. That's the way THEY paint not the way YOU want to paint.  Next, get familiar with what you plan on painting.  You can't paint something that you know nothing about.  Say you're going to paint Jeans.  Go put on that pair of worn out pants hiding in the bottom of the drawer.  Now look at all the folds and creases, the worn areas, the holes, the grass or dirt stained areas around the knees. Doing this will show you what you're after and will teach you much more than any photo or video will.  The same goes for hats or horses, boots or biscuits, pick it up, feel it, pet it, maybe even taste it. If you know it you can paint it!

And here's the best advice of all.....CHILL!  Quit trying so hard.  Relax and have fun. No doubt a few of your figures will go sailing across the room to smash against the wall just like mine have on occasion. Accept the fact that it's going to take a long, long time and tons of practice but you will get there eventually.  If, for some reason you don't make it, you can at least reflect back on a great adventure and the satisfaction of trying and giving it your best shot!

Oh...I forgot the second most important thing after practice...Confidence!  But, fortunately for all of us, this will appear all by itself the more we grow confortable with what we're doing through practice.  I haven't ridden a bicycle in half a century but I KNOW, having done it once pretty good, I can do it again. Painting or carving works the same way.  The more we do it the more comfortable we become and confident that we can do it again.


  1. Lynn,

    Thanks for the posting. I have had so many carving students wonder why they are not as good, after a short period of practice, as their instructor. Many of them have been struggling to get better, but you hit the nail squarely on the head this time. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!!!!
    You cannot say that enough. One adage about mastering something is that it takes anywhere from 10,000-25,000 hours to becoem a master at anything worthwhile. Obviously that does not mean everything. One can learn to ride a bike after only a little practice. But certainly when it comes to mastering something, there has to be a certian amount of practice.
    One local carver, who "burst" on the scene several years ago, joked that he had only been carving for a few years, and now the story goes that he started with his wife's butcher knives and produced winning masterpieces. He will gladly tell the truth that in reality, he had been carving for nearly 20 years befroe he found the success he enjoys.
    Some folks believe that after watching someone do something, or reading a technique book, they should be masters. It takes practice!!! There is no shortcut or substitute for practicing. To be good at carving (painting, music, etc.), it is going to take a lot of practice. Even after lots of practice, everyone should find their own way of doing their craft. Copying someone exactly will always result in a second-rate version of the original.
    Thanks for the comments and letting me weigh in with my two cents worth.

    Eric Owens

  2. Good explanation. I'm like Slow I want to know how immediately of course that never happens. Like Eric said Practice is the only way. I for one learn something new each time I pick up a piece of wood and a knife. Learn something new each time I watch one of your videos. That's why we keep coming back time after time. I download each video and refer to them often. Many many thanks. Ginny

  3. I didn't really mean that I should be a master in a few weeks...I guess I was just voicing the hope that I had enough life left to get somewhere closer to good than I am now. Thanks for addressing my concerns. I will try and "un-stress", but it is just that I want to be better and I know I am not there yet. Thanks for all you guy and your support and friendship

  4. Great subject Lynne. My first 5 carvings or so went unpainted as I couldn't muster the confidence to commit paint to wood for fear of 'ruining' the carving.

    The painting process is actually , dare I say, enjoyable now. I'm learning more each day which builds my confidence and allows me to experiment more.

    Practice, practice, practice.