We’ve all been there. Stuck on a painting that you couldn’t fix to look right.
Before you give up on it, let’s troubleshoot. Take a look at your painting and ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have enough variation in color? (If not, is it intentional?)
- Do you have a dominant value?
- Where is your focal point? Is the focus off-center? (It should be!)
- Does the eye move around, or are you drawn to one area?
- Does your scene continue naturally off the canvas, or are there any items that kiss/end at the edges?
- Is there any contrast?
These cover the 3 main problem areas: Composition, Color, and Value.
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A few more tips
Practice mixing color before you paint something, and document the recipes in your color journal. The more comfortable you are with mixing color, the better you will understand and create variety with value.
Establish your perspective first. The process of painting may be one of discovery, but you’ll want to have an idea of where you’re going to guide the way. You wouldn’t start out on a hike without a trail map, so why leave your painting up to fate?
Create variety with brushstrokes. An easy way to make sure you have enough texture is to switch your brush out as you move across the surface of your painting. Try experimenting with different materials to apply and remove paint, such as a palette knife, toothbrush, rags, or any household item with an interesting texture.
Start over. It happens to every artist: you’ve over-worked your painting and got stuck. So before you scrap the whole thing, try this trick for fixing a whole section of your painting.