I started painting when I was 13 years old, shortly after moving in with my grandmother. She lived in a small town and thought taking a local art class would be a good way to make some new friends. Growing up, crafting was the norm, but I hadn’t really been exposed to any fine art before, at least none I can remember. I also suspect my grandmother felt I should learn some sort of reputable hobby. I had already been an abject failure at knitting and sewing, and despite her best efforts, I just couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to learn to Hula as she would have liked.
Oil painting was my first medium and it turned out to be the gateway drug I needed to explore other art medium. Some say oil painting is hard for a beginner, but I would argue I still find oil painting to be one of the most forgiving medium out there. I began painting landscapes in the beginning, though I would eventually branch out to prefer portraits much, much later.
After a few years of oil painting, with a secret wish to become the next Bob Ross, I took a break from creating art for for almost a decade.
I returned home from my time serving in the military and while trying to figure out what to do in life, I passed through the art section at a local Walmart. Probably cutting through to get to the restroom or something. I saw they had a beginner acrylic paint set for $19.99. It came with everything. Paint, brushes, a couple of canvas boards, and a small paint tray. On a whim, I decided to buy it. That would turn out to be the moment I fell back into the rabbit hole of artistic self discovery. The very expensive, often frustrating, but ultimately rewarding rabbit hole I continue to tumble down today.
I started out wanting to paint landscapes and flora. The more I struggled with picking up a brush after so long, I decided it would be best to concentrate on abstract pieces so I could get to know the medium better. Wouldn’t you know, acrylic paint doesn’t blend in the same way oil paint does. It didn’t take me long to figure it out but it took me a long time to figure out how it was supposed to work, and to think about my approach to projects differently. You know what they say, “use the right tool for the right job.” Now I think about art projects and I consider which medium is the right tool for the piece I want to create.
Watercolor and Gouache Painting
Here’s the thing. When painting using oil or acrylic, it is beneficial to begin with your darkest colors and work your way to lighter colors. If you mess something up, you can almost always cover it up by painting it over. Literally none of that applies to painting with watercolor or gouache. To say it has been quite the learning curve to make the transition to this medium would be the understatement of the year.
If I wasn’t such a stubborn ass, I would have chucked every single one of my water color paints and brushes into a field and set them on fire already. At this point it is about pride and not accepting defeat, not about an appreciation for the medium. The only reasons I keep pushing forward in this mess. For those of you who are adept in this medium, I good for you!
After finally admitting to myself I needed to seriously work on my drawing skills if I wanted to paint more than landscapes, I decided to experiment with colored pencils. Colored pencils are a tedious and VERY slow medium to work in. Its all about building up slow layers. Though I appreciate colored pencils. They travel WAY lighter than paints, they don’t need to dry in a safe corner somewhere, and I am forced to focus more on my drawing and on my values. There is a little more wiggle room for error with colored pencils, compared to say, watercolor spawn of Satan. But not so much leeway as oil or acrylic paints. This means you still have to pay close attention, but your confidence grows much faster here.
Pastels were kind of a curve ball in my artistic journey. I really wanted to play with using mixed medium to create art. Which really means I was looking for anything that could help make my watercolor catastrophes look better. I learned of several artists using watercolor and colored pencils. Then I found artists using colored pencils and pastels together. I decided that sounded better, as no watercolors were involved. I started with chalk pastels, eventually trying oil pastels. This led me to dump dusty chalk pastels all together. I still occasionally break them out. But generally only after it has been so long I have forgotten how messy they are. I prefer oil pastels. I like to rock them on sanded paper. You can really blend them to filth with all of that tooth in the paper.
If only I had stopped there, but alas, it isn’t in my nature to accept I may not be able to learn absolutely everything in my lifetime. Both in between and during my exploration into the medium I have already listed, I managed to slide in some work with charcoal, India ink, alcohol ink, alcohol markers, airbrushing, pepakura, digital design, and some light pottery work. I have not yet tried encaustic painting. It is still on my list of things to try, but it looks quite messy and I am still counting my blessings I have not yet ruined any carpets, floors, or furniture in my art journey.
Resources and Recommendations
If you made it this far, I congratulate you and thank you for hanging in there. For your trouble, the least I can do is give you some links to some of my favorite artists. I hope you find some inspiration to start, or maybe continue, your own art journey.
Favorite Medium and Brands:Old Holland Oil Paint, Golden Acrylic Paint (High Flow, Liquid, and Open), Caran D’Ache/Faber & Castell/Lyra Colored Pencils, Staedler Mars Lumograph Pencils, Sennelier Oil Pastels, Sakura Pigma Sensei Markers
Favorite Art YouTubers: