The UK is no stranger to creative expression, a fact that can be seen by a quick look at its history. With scores of famous contemporary painters like David Hockney, Banksy and Francis Bacon, its hard not to come into contact with the UK’s artistic legacy even without visiting art galleries.
If you’re interested in learning how to paint, the best way to start is by first understanding the different mediums that you will encounter as well as their history. The three most common mediums you’re likely to encounter are watercolor, oil painting and acrylic.
Choosing a Painting Class
Starting with watercolor, this type of paint is water based and uses water as a solvent. The world’s oldest paintings have been done in watercolor, as the paint itself involves basic and widely available substances – a fact that continues to make watercolor one of the most popular mediums today. For that reason, if you’re a beginner and are interested in finding art instruction for watercolor, you’re in luck.
If you’re wondering what type of paintings can be done in watercolor, and in any other medium for that matter, the answer is: every kind. Artwork done in watercolor ranges from beginners’ paintings done in sketchbooks to the murals found in churches.
If you want to learn to paint using oil paints, on the other hand, taking part in a painting class might not be as easy as for watercolor painting. While oil paints have had a long history, their use having been popularized during the Renaissance, they tend to be more expensive and unwieldy to use than their counterparts.
Because oil paint is oil-based, it means that it cannot be mixed with water in both color mixing and thinning out its consistency. Turpentine is the most commonly used solvent, and if you’ve ever had the chance to smell it, you can understand why oil paints tend to be found in more advanced segments of art education.
Needless to say, if you want to start painting with oil paint, you should try to develop your drawing and painting skills along with your oil painting courses or self-practice. Understanding basic drawing can go a long way in improving your paintings, so make sure to continue to practice these drawing skills while you undertake oil painting.
Acrylic, in contrast to watercolor, is a young medium. Developed in the mid-1900s, it has quickly become a favorite amongst both amateurs and professional painters. This can be due to its relative affordability and accessibility, but the reason can also be found in the fact that it lends itself to a lot of what we consider to be modern thought.
If you’d like to start taking painting courses near me that utilize acrylic paints, you can find inspiration in many contemporary paintings ranging from the styles of Pop Art to figurative painting. Finding an artist that you can be inspired by is a great way to start learning how to paint and can pave the way to finding the painting style you enjoy the best.
Painting Techniques and How to Use Them
While it might be tempting to start assessing your painting skills right away by putting brush to canvas, it might be helpful to learn some of the important terms and techniques behind what you will be practicing in your painting classes. One of the most important things you will need to understand to have in your arsenal if you want to be a good painter is something called color theory.
Regardless of whether you’re painting a human figure, still life, or cartooning – understanding color theory will be the basis of any work you do in color. This theory has been most popularly depicted in what is known as the color wheel.
Even thought many have seen it or even used it before, it remains vital that you understand concepts like complementary and supplementary colors in order to begin to improve your color mixing and composition skills.
With regards to some of the most common painting techniques, here are the ones you are likely to find within each different medium that you can get the chance to work with.
Beginning with acrylic painting techniques, it is important to note that many of the techniques used in certain mediums can be applied to other ones, often times under a different name. One such technique is called dry brush, which involves using unmixed acrylic paint and applying it onto an equally dry canvas.
Another method that can be used with other mediums is called stippling. This method involves taking a brush full of paint and dabbing your canvas. This technique is the painting equivalent to creating one large image out of hundreds of smaller images and can give your painting a dreamy effect.
Similar to acrylic paint, oil paint also has its version of dry brush, only it is called scumbling. This process involves applying oil paint, un-altered, onto a canvas that is equally as “dry.” The affect is the same as with acrylic, lending a hazy atmosphere to the painting.
Normally, the wet on wet technique involves painting onto a wet canvas with paint that has been thinned by some kind of solvent. With oil paint, called alla prima, it actually refers to the method in which you paint on top of a layer of paint that hasn’t completely dried yet. This technique is often employed to give a painting more texture.
While at first glance watercolors can seemingly have only one technique, it also has an endless amount of ways in which you can paint. One of the most common techniques is called flat wash, and it involves wetting the watercolor paint before applying it to a canvas. Wet on dry, in contrast, is when you apply a layer of flat wash over an already dried layer of flat wash.
Whether you only understand these core concepts, or use them to move onto more advanced one like underpainting and glazing, the quality of your paintings will improve tremendously. If you’re interested in creating a portrait, sketching and shading with paint, or creating landscapes – practicing these techniques is important.
Materials and Art Supplies to Buy
Understanding the basics is the crucial first step in your painting journey – knowing what kind of painting materials you will be needing is the next one. While you should only need creativity and inspiration to propel your artistic endeavors, buying new materials is equally as important.
If you’re a beginner, buying art supplies can seem like a major financial strain. If there’s anyone who will understand this, it will be your art instructor, which is why they normally often have an extra palette or easel you can borrow and why workshops normally supply materials for the participants.
Practicing painting, however, is like learning how to paint an instrument – while it can be done on borrowed materials, there will come a time when having your own will become important to your progression. This is why it is important to outline a realistic budget before you even walk into an art supply store.
With that in mind, buying a variety of small, wide and medium sized brushes can be helpful. Buying three or four types of brushes with different tips is important for an array of different reasons.
To give an example, imagine having to cover a large portion of your canvas with a tiny brush – yes, it is possible but is both impractical and time consuming. The same thing would go for attempting to depict precise, small detail with a flat, wide brush.
Depending on the type of paint you will use and the type of hair it has, the aftercare of these brushes will be different. However, it is imperative to clean them properly after every use if you want to prevent having to buy brushes regularly.
Next is identifying what type of paint you will be needing in your art school or workshop. While buying canvases based on the type of paint you buy will be important, the colors you will need to even make your creations should be your first concern. Whether you’re dealing with acrylic paint, oil paint or watercolor, make sure you get enough colors that will allow you to practice important concepts such as shading, color mixing and sketching.
If you’re interested in taking painting on as a lifetime hobby, you’ll want to consider investing from time to time into both quality products, tools and perhaps even an art studio.
Where to Find Art Classes and Workshops in Manchester
Whether you're looking for an opportunity to practice in an open studio, art center or more - Manchester is the perfect place to start to learn how to paint. Most people find painting classes by searching and singing up for courses online - which can be done with sites like Creative Courses or Superprof.
If you're looking for upcoming art workshops or events for adult plein air painting, check out websites like Obby and Eventbrite. There, you'll be able to take a hands-on approach to your development while not having to make the financial and time commitment of regular classes. You can even one of the many artists starting their unique group of art events.
If you're interested in taking courses from a university, be sure to check out the Manchester Metropolitan University. If you're interested in pursuing a degree in art, the UK is one of the best places to do so - try looking at some of the best universities to study art and design.
Try a painting class in Edinburgh too!