If you live in Birmingham, chances are you have received some form of art education without even trying. Whether that’s been through visiting the Birmingham Museum of Art, or casually passing by the various art exhibitions in the city – it can seem like artistic expression is always around the corner.
This is especially true when taken on a global scale. In fact, art has been a way of expressing personal and political struggles throughout history, and continues today. What is a bit harder to come by is advice on how to get started in becoming a painting master yourself.
Luckily, the best way to start is by understanding the different types of painting courses near me that you are likely to encounter both in Birmingham and in general. Here are the three most common painting mediums that are involved in everything from artwork in galleries to murals in churches.
How to Choose a Painting Class
If you’re interested in learning to paint, your first experience in picking up a brush probably came by way of watercolor. The advantages of using watercolor as a medium are found not only in their affordability, but also in the fact that they are great for all skill levels.
For these reasons, watercolor is a great class for beginners – especially if you’re on the lookout for some type of art instruction. If you’re looking for some inspiration, famous painters like Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keeffe have a diverse range of watercolor art.
Like watercolor, acrylic paint is a water based paint and only needs water to be used as a solvent. It is also likely that you will find this medium, as a beginner, to be one of the easiest to handle. While only having been in use since the mid-1900s, acrylic painting is one of the most popular types of paint for both beginners and professionals.
If you want to learn to paint with acrylics, the good news is that you won’t have to look to hard to find an acrylic based painting class. Finding inspiration isn’t difficult either, as many of the famous contemporary works you’ve probably already seen, like Lichtenstein’s Pop Art, was done in acrylic.
Oil painting is an entirely different beast – in terms of its price, what its made of, and the materials you will need. Because of these reasons, it isn’t typically taught as a beginners course and generally necessitates some kind of background knowledge in painting beforehand. If you’d like to try out oil painting straight away, however, oil painting courses for beginners are common.
Oil paint, like the name implies, is an oil based medium. If you’ve ever tried to mix oil and water, you’ll understand why other liquids, like turpentine, are used as solvents for this type of paint. Finding out more on what these types of paintings look like is as simple as recalling images of the Mona Lisa or Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” In fact, many of the world’s greatest masterpieces have been done predominantly in oil paint.
While embarking on learning or refining artistic skill shouldn’t be hindered by things like previous experience and financial status, it is important to remember that improving your skills are super important to developing artistic ability.
Drawing and painting are especially linked, which is why you could also consider taking up basic drawing courses before or in tandem with your painting classes. Practicing your drawing skills by yourself, however, should be enough – just make sure to sketch at least once a week to make sure your progress continues.
Five Important Painting Techniques
Being a beginner can often mean navigating the difficulties of encountering a slew of new terms involved with painting techniques and methods. It can be overwhelming to start getting acquainted with terms like color mixing or learning about the shading involved in painting the human figure. Here are some of the most common painting techniques associated with the three mediums we’ve been discussing.
Underpainting and glazing are some of the most important techniques involved in both oil and acrylic painting, and both techniques are easy to remember because of the fact that they are, essentially, exactly what they sound.
Underpainting is the method utilized when painters spread a thin layer of paint, usually a neutral color, on their canvas before setting to work on painting their subject. This can be as simple as painting your canvas in one color to also adding, on top of this initial layer, a sketch of your subject in monochromatic tones of that same color.
Glazing, on the other hand, is performed at the end of the painting process and involves spreading a transparent layer of paint over the finished product. While we can think of underpainting as preparing the canvas and giving paintings deeper texture and shading, glazing is geared more towards enhancing your paintings’ color as a whole while also acting as a protective layer.
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While they can go by different names in all three of these mediums, some of the most popular painting techniques are virtually the same regardless of what you’re using to paint. The first example can be found in the technique known as stippling.
While it may sound a bit complicated, stippling is no more than the process of stabbing your canvas with a brush and it can be utilized with every medium. With that in mind, there are various reasons why stippling is employed and the types of qualities it can lend to a painting range from rudimentary to dreamy.
Take, for example, the famous French painter Georges Seurat and his post-impressionist painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” which is made up of a painstaking series of colored dots. In other words, stippling in action.
Impasto, another popular technique employed by both oil and acrylic painting, involves using a tool called a palette knife to spread thick amounts of paint over a canvas. This technique was famously used by Vincent van Gogh and is an effective way of adding both texture and intense color to your painting.
Watercolor is the oldest painting medium on the planet, having been found in caves older than most of the world's countries. There are a wide variety of techniques that can be employed to paint in watercolor, and can be used regardless of whether you’re painting a still life, portrait, or simply sketching a landscape.
Wet on wet, a technique that can also be utilized when painting with acrylics and oil paints, refers to using wet painting material on a wet paper. To do this, the painter simply has to spread a thin layer of water onto their canvas and apply paint mixed with water on top of it.
Similarly, wet on dry refers to taking paint mixed with a solvent and painting on a dry canvas. Whether it’s your first time picking up a brush or you haven’t had a chance to branch out in terms of your painting techniques, it can be useful to try experimenting with both of these techniques while not forgetting to try out some of your own.
Art Supplies and Materials
While understanding techniques and methods like color theory and chiaroscuro can be important, its impossible to practice and express your creativity without actual painting materials. While many workshops and even some professors can provide you with some basic materials like an easel, palette or brushes, having material of your own will be essential to progress your skills.
Needless to say, purchasing basic brushes, paint and canvases will probably be necessary. If you have the financial ability, the more of a variety you have in terms of art supplies the better.
For example, before you start your art school or workshop, it will be best if you start by assembling brushes with at leas three different heads. While you can always ask your instructor which types will be best, we recommend going with small, wide and medium brushes.
When it comes to either acrylic paint or oil paint and watercolor, a beginner will be best prepared with at least four or five different basic colors. White and black are the most important to start with, as they will be essential to shading or illuminating your paintings.
Canvases, on the other hand, can range from cardboard boxes all the way to expensive linen or cotton canvases. You’ll have to decide what will be best for both your budget, length of practice, and the subject you will be painting.
Where to Find Art Classes and Workshops in Birmingham
There are many different ways for young artists to get started learning to paint. While Birmingham is more famous for its quality universities and food, there are also many opportunities for an open studio, art center and more. Here are some ways you can start taking painting classes in Birmingham.
Finding an instructor online is one popular method. Whether you're looking for kids art courses or adults art lessons, finding an instructor online can be both fast and rewarding. Art Courses Birmingham, located in the Jewelry Quarter, offers courses that you can sign up for online like studio art, life drawing and more. If you're looking for a more hands-on approach to your progression, check out some of the tutors on Superprof.
Some other options for people wanting to learn to paint in the Birmingham area are:
- Art workshops
- Plein air painting
- Taking a university course