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How do artists choose the colors they'll be using for a new watercolor painting? What can I do to keep my color mixtures better organized on my mixing palette throughout the painting process and steer clear of accidentally creating mud? Why is it important to invest time in planning the colors we'll be using before starting a new painting?
In this blog post, I'll be sharing three reasons why I love using a limited amount of colors (usually 3-7) to create my watercolor paintings and how this practice has helped me make deeper, faster progress as a painter.
Color is an Element of Art that plays a huge role in making a visual composition look harmonious and cohesive. As with all other Art Fundamentals, use of color is something that most skilled artists continue learning about and improving upon throughout their journeys.
It's absolutely essential for the beginner starting with any kind of painting medium, to learn about Color Theory and the Color Wheel, as this knowledge enables us to not only create successful color mixtures throughout the painting process, but also to plan great color schemes that work for the piece on hand.
Because skilled artists know how important color and value are, they take time to prepare for a new piece via the creation of thumbnails, swatching colors, and thinking of how they'll be creating the color mixtures needed for a new painting prior to actually starting.
Either this, or they've already prepared a custom color palette to work from that has all of the colors they love and know they're going to need. They know exactly what's going to happen when two or three of those colors get mixed together.
Artists know that making time to think about color before starting to paint will enable them to move forward more smoothly and will lead to an outcome that is impactful, harmonious, and also communicates their message more clearly.
And how each artist goes about selecting his/her colors is completely dependent on the artist's personal creative process.
Artists who are looking for very high-levels of realism often go by specific colors they see in their reference pictures or in the subjects they have in front of them when working from direct observation. They make time to observe and put in the work to ensure their colors/color mixtures match what they actually see.
Others work from references loosely and manipulate color to bring a certain level of expression, contrast, etc. into the picture. Sometimes they change specific colors altogether or alter some of them to bring their style in.
And others, such as abstract artists, at times start their paintings based on a specific color scheme they found inspiring, designing an entire visual composition around it. Or they create their own color schemes that are meant to transmit a specific message or emotion (putting Color Psychology to use).
Of course, there are tried-and-true color schemes that have been used by artists throughout history that will always lead to very visually pleasing results.
In lots of Van Gogh's work, you'll see use of Complementary Colors, in Monet's you'll see use of Analogous Colors, etc.
Some artists take hours preparing the colors they'll be using for a new painting and others take minutes, but they always bring in their knowledge of the Color Wheel and Color Theory.
It doesn't really matter how you do it. The more you paint, the more your own personal style and creative process will become clearer.
The point here is to make it a habit to start thinking about color before starting to paint.
Color is a huge, complex topic and I believe it's important for beginners to build upon a solid base of knowledge and take their learning a step-at-a-time, as this helps avoid overwhelm and keeps their art journey enjoyable.
This will help them stay consistent, which is key in making significant artistic progress.
By the way, of you haven't checked out my free Drawing and Watercolor for the Total Beginner Mini-Courses , make sure to become an art email insider to get access to them ASAP.
These courses are absolutely jam-packed with all of the information I wish I knew when I was first getting started.
If you enjoyed this video, make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel! I share new videos every-single-week with art tips, drawing and painting tutorials and encouragement for aspiring artists.
3 Reasons Why Limited Color Schemes Are Awesome
Even as a more experienced painter, I absolutely love using limited color schemes because of the points I'm going to be sharing next.
This said, keeping things simple can do wonders for beginners and can help them make much faster progress than being drowned and overwhelmed with a wide array of different colors, and even paper and paintbrushes.
*We're not getting into paper and paintbrushes today, but I highly recommend checking out my blog post titled Watercolor Supplies for Beginners and Things You Must Know if you'd like more in-depth information on watercolor painting supplies.
1. They help us get comfortable with color mixing
By taking time to plan and prepare a limited amount of colors, we'll be putting our knowledge of color to the test, as this forces us to give thought to how we'll be creating our different color mixtures with the least amount of colors possible.
A couple of quick examples of how to work with a less amount of colors:
-If you've already selected a yellow and a red for a new painting, and all of the sudden realize you're going to need an orange color, why not use a mixture of your yellow and red instead of reaching for an orange?
-If you've already selected your Ultramarine Blue and your Burnt Umber for certain areas of your painting, why not use a mixture of these two to create your dark gray, instead of reaching for another gray?
In my many years teaching art, I've found lots of beginners are afraid to mix their own colors and are looking for instructors to provide very specific "recipes" and even color-to-color ratios for their mixtures.
Also, lots of beginners feel they need the specific color that the artist in the tutorial they are following is using.
By learning about the Color Wheel, Color Temperature, etc., and making time to play with color (intentionally of course), they'd be able to create any needed color without much guidance at all.
Make time to learn the basics. Don't skip over them because they'll improve everything you choose to do in the future.
Make time to explore and get comfortable with your medium, before attempting to create a polished masterpiece.
As beginners, it's important to keep things simple.
Most often than not, keeping things intentionally limited will help us make faster progress than jumping between a bunch of different things and overwhelming ourselves with lots of supplies.
2. They lead to harmonious paintings
When we're just getting started, most of us are anxious to begin with the painting process. We tend to skip over any sort of preparation and move forward randomly picking colors.
I did this when I was first getting started in my painting journey and was so confused as to why my paintings always ended up looking amateurish and incohesive.
Unless we have a very colorful art style or are going for this look intentionally, randomly picking colors throughout the painting process is a surefire way of ending up with a painting that is very overwhelming to look at or that is "all-over-the-place" in terms of the message it's transmitting to the viewer.
By limiting our colors and repeating colors as we're creating our different paint mixtures, we'll end up with much more harmonious results. Our color mixtures look like they belong together and are working in unison to transmit one same message.
It's similar to the "Mother Color" method that some artists working with oils and acrylics use to unify and provide color harmony in their paintings. What they do is choose one color to be the "Mother", which is going to be added (in a small degree) to every color mixture. This makes the different colors look like they belong together.
All part of one same "whole".
And this is what we want when we're designing a visual composition. We want the different parts to work together as one "whole".
The "Mother Color" method doesn't quite apply the same way when we're working with watercolor, as the color mixing process when using this medium is a lot more organic and free-flowing.
We're constantly shifting color ratios, paint to water ratios, etc. as we move along, but the principle of re-using the same colors in our different color mixtures in order to unify the overall outcome still applies.
Give thought to how you can use this idea in your own work to both make your paintings more cohesive and also to transmit your message/emotion/idea in a more powerful way.
3. They help us stay organized throughout the painting process
When working with watercolor, it can be very easy for our colors to start mixing together due to the amount of water we're using throughout the process, which can certainly be frustrating! *This paint mixing palette has certainly helped me in this department.
Loosing control of our color mixtures on our paint mixing palettes can lead to creating mud (brownish/grayish/desaturated colors that we weren't actually going for).
By having made the time to actually test out our color mixtures on scrap pieces of watercolor paper prior to starting with the painting process, we'll be avoiding undesired colors.
Also, by limiting the amount of colors we're using and knowing exactly which colors we're using throughout our painting (at least in loose terms), we'll be making things a lot easier for ourselves along the way.
It takes out all of the guesswork as we'll know exactly which color to reach for whenever we need to create more of any specific mixture.
I don't know about you, but it's very easy for me to start accidentally dipping my paintbrush into a paint pan I wasn't intending to use during the painting process (especially when I'm using a larger paint set that includes several different blues, reds, browns, etc.).
To make things easier for myself, I often love removing the paint pans I have selected from my watercolor set and only have those with me as I'm working.
Over on Patreon, I share step-by-step watercolor painting tutorials in which I explain everything, starting from how I select my paint colors and create my color mixtures, to how I develop my color, values and details in layers.
Watercolor supplies used in video:
I hope you found this post helpful, and wish you tons of progress and enjoyment in your artistic journey!
Is going to art school a waste of time and money? Can a person even make a stable living with an art degree? What paths can an art major open up for us?
No to the first (depending on the school you go to). Yes to the second (I'm living proof of it!). Whichever path you desire would be my answer to the third, as long as art is truly your passion, and you're willing to step out of your comfort zone consistently and work really hard.
*Most of the time while holding a regular job that will enable you to pay your bills and put food on the table while investing in art supplies, developing your skills and building your name/audience.
In today's guest post, emerging freelance writer Ruby Clarkson who's written for Jackson's Art and is absolutely obsessed with writing, theatre and visual arts, will help shed some light on the many paths an art degree can help open up.
But, before getting into her article, I'd like to share a few things with you.
The myth of the 'starving artist' totally irks me.
So does the myth of the crazy/depressed artist and the myth that artists create their best work from a place of pain and misery.
I create my best work when I'm in a calm, positive state of mind. And, like I shared in this blog post, I believe in taking care of myself mentally and physically because this enables me to consistently make forward progress.
But I digress.
If you want to make a living as an artist in the future, know that it's possible, whether you decide to go to art school or not.
Today more than ever. There are lots of people doing it all around the world.
This said, even artists who do spend years building up those solid bases in art school know that they have to keep learning and improving their skills/knowledge continuously throughout their journeys.
Not only when it comes to cold artistic skills, but also in terms of business, marketing and personal development.
We're incredibly lucky that, with the Internet, we're able to connect with artists who're further ahead in their journeys, join communities of like-minded people looking to share and encourage each other, and get access to valuable courses created by skilled artists that will boost our knowledge at very low costs.
My advice? Take advantage of these tools and opportunities! Because, the reality is, you're only going to get so far holed up in your studio and following free tutorials.
Though the Internet is full of information, it's a vast place full of contradicting advice and lots of people just getting started skip over fundamentals or simply don't know where to start based on their current skill level.
To grow at a professional level, we need to invest in ourselves, connect with others, get feedback from people who are knowledgable in art, step out of our comfort zones, talk about our work, etc.
In past blog posts, I've shared how I was lucky to have had the opportunity to attend art school on scholarship and graduated with a BA in Graphic Design.
I'm thankful to have had that chance, as there's nothing like being surrounded by other artists and creatives consistently, learning about Art Fundamentals through-and-through, getting comfortable talking about art, obtaining useful feedback from professors who have been in the field for years, and getting used to meeting deadlines.
All of these are things that helped me tremendously in all the 9-5 jobs I held after having graduated and have made starting my own business a lot easier. I still had to invest in business courses and complementary creative classes, though.
Let's get into Ruby's article!
What Can You Do With an Art Degree?
One of the most persistent myths about a fine arts or design degree is that it’s difficult to find lucrative employment once you graduate. In fact, there are countless opportunities for talented creatives out there, it just takes, funnily enough, a little creativity in exploiting those possibilities!
If you’re considering enrolling for an art degree but are worried about your future prospects, read on for seven career paths you might not have considered before.
If you have a natural eye for color, harmony and proportion, and can work with the latest home décor trends, you might enjoy being an interior designer.
But it’s not all just picking out scatter cushions – several exciting niches exist, including office or educational space design, textile, furniture and product design, and even styling and planning bespoke kitchens for luxury homes.
Illustration and Multimedia Art
Whether it’s children’s cartoons, TV and film animations for advertising, special effects or fashion drawings, a career as an illustrator is bound to be rewarding. You can work independently or as part of an in-house creative team for corporate.
Creating compelling and original images for merchandising like t-shirts, calendars and product packaging is also a field with plenty of potential.
If you possess the right balance of artistic expertise and business savvy, you might do well in the art gallery world. Working with artists, art dealers and the general public, you’ll need to wear many hats to make sure that exhibitions are properly organized and profitable.
You’ll need to know your industry inside and out, but sales, marketing and networking will also be a big part of your daily life.
Graphic design is an exciting and competitive area, but one in which it’s more than possible to distinguish yourself. You’ll work with a range of clients to bring their design briefs to life, using classic fine art media, a host of design software and plenty of marketing acumen.
This line of work offers the possibility of freelancing or remote work, as well as the option to design in-house for big brands – a more niche but likely more profitable line of work.
Lecturing or Teaching
Of course, you could teach art and design as a subject at any level, which is a great option for those who enjoy working with people and might appreciate the more predictable schedule. Bring your love for the arts to secondary schools or sixth form colleges, or consider applying to teach a course at university.
Another option is to offer more informal painting, drawing, decorating or design courses at your local community college or privately.
You don’t necessarily have to use your art skills directly.
Art therapists use visual arts media to help people communicate or work through their issues non-verbally. Artistic expression can be incredibly healing – if you’re artistic but also have a lot of empathy, patience and a desire to use art for good, this role could prove extremely gratifying.
After further training, you can specialize more in psychotherapy, work with children, social work or even nursing contexts.
Fine Artist, Sculpting or Mixed-Media Art
If you have a knack for creating beautiful items that people want to own, consider doing it independently via local art fairs, galleries or online stores, and selling your hand-crafted wares directly to art collectors.
Many people are happy to buy and gift art objects that are unique, custom made, locally produced or simply beautiful to look at.
But what if I can’t get into art school?
For many, earning a degree in art and design is a far-off dream they can’t imagine actually achieving for themselves. But even if you think that certain options may not be open to you, bear in mind that art education is more accessible now than ever.
Consider an apprenticeship, or a bridging or foundation course to prepare you for higher education. Thankfully, there are many options for those who want to work up to a higher degree in art and design, and plenty of ways to finance your choice.
Chat to your chosen university to discuss funding options and possible scholarships, or directly contact funding bodies who seek out and reward upcoming talent.
While it’s true that careers in art and design are not as “cut-and-paste” as other more conventional occupations, there is still enormous scope for a talented creative to make a rewarding living doing what they love.
It might take a little planning and thinking ahead, but the world always needs people with strong aesthetics, no matter how they apply their talents.
I'd like to thank Ruby for sharing all of this helpful information with us and inspiring us to work towards building a fulfilling life around our passions.
To get in touch with her, you can email her here.
I hope you found this post helpful and thanks so much for reading!
Is there a specific process to follow when using watercolor pencils? What things should I do to ensure a better outcome when using this medium? What are some good watercolor pencil options for beginners just getting started?
In this blog post, I'll be providing five key tips that will help make the learning process less frustrating and enable you to create amazing artwork as soon as possible. In the video included here, I'll also be sharing how I personally use watercolor pencils by painting a yellow rose.
Watercolor pencils are not only an extremely versatile art medium, as they are simultaneously a drawing and a painting tool, but their practicality makes them ideal for many beginners that are short on time and space.
They also allow for much more control when compared to regular watercolor paint and can help us start getting a feel for what it's like to work with watercolors without having to master water control.
Watercolor pencils are basically watercolor pigment that has been encased in wood, in the form of a pencil.
They can and can be used either with or without water to create different effects, which can range from a heavily-textured colored pencil look, to a smooth and painterly watercolor paint look.
To create marks and colored pencil textures, we simply use them right on our paper, which can be completely bone dry or pre-wetted with clean water.
Of course, the type of paper used has a great impact on the amount of texture created. Smoother paper will lead to smoother effects, while rougher paper will create more texturized effects, as the pigment isn't evenly distributed throughout the tooth of the paper.
On the other hand, to create painterly effects, we lay down our color on our paper just as if we were using regular colored pencils and then smooth it out by going in with a dampened paintbrush. There's no need to use heaps of water for this. *You can also use the impromptu paint mixing palette method I demonstrate in the video included below.
When using quality watercolor pencils, water really activates the pigment and makes the color look a lot brighter and bolder.
These techniques can be used alone or in combination. For example, if you were painting a landscape, you could use more painterly techniques for your background, and more textured/detailing techniques for layers in your foreground.
There is no specific process to follow when using this medium. It's use is going to depend on the specific style and effects you are personally going for with the piece on hand, which is why it's important to give thought to the overall look you want to create before starting.
All this said, many of the regular watercolor "rules" (if they can even be called rules) apply.
In the following video you'll see how, even though my general method is different to what I would do when I paint with regular watercolor paint, I still protect my highlights throughout the process, work from light and translucent to dark and saturated, and allow my paper to dry in between layers.
In this past blog post/YouTube video, I do a comparison between regular watercolor paint and watercolor pencils, and share a complete demo in which I paint the same apple using both mediums. They are very similar, but very different at the same time!
Watercolor Pencil Tips for Beginners
Using regular printer paper for watercolor or watercolor pencil work will most likely lead to frustration during the process, as well as undesired results. Not to mention, the learning phase will last longer, as the beginner artist isn't actually able to get a sense for what the medium is like.
This said, I don't believe in necessarily going for the highest quality watercolor paper right-off-the-bat (if you have the budget- then by all means go for it).
I'd much rather you practice consistently on decent quality (and accessibly priced) student-grade paper, as opposed to not creating art because you're afraid of wasting your supplies.
Check out my blog post/YouTube video titled Watercolor Supplies for Beginners and Things You Must Know to learn more about my opinions and suggestions on specific watercolor painting supplies.
I always recommend working with watercolor paper that is at least 140 lbs. or thicker/heavier in weight, so that it's able to take a bit of a beating. Thinner paper not only warps a lot more easily, but it doesn't allow for layering and scrubbing techniques and is very easy to damage.
And when we're just getting started (with any medium), most of us tend to overwork things, often damaging our substrate and/or tools.
Stay mindful throughout your painting process in order to ensure that you're not scratching your paper with your sharp watercolor pencils and that you're allowing layers of paint to dry in between if you're using a dampened paintbrush to smooth out your color.
Lay down your colors gently and patiently, without pressing down to hard (this will create scratches and burnish the paper-creating an uneven sheen/finish).
2. Create your preliminary sketch lightly
One of the main characteristics that sets watercolors apart from other painting mediums such as acrylics, oils and gouache, is its translucency.
Because of this, if we create a preliminary sketch prior to starting with our painting process that's not very light, it will likely show through our paint.
There are lots of watercolor artists out there who like their line work to show through their paint, but if you don't want this to happen, it's important to make sure that you're outline sketch is created lightly. I usually use an HB pencil for this phase of the process and make sure I'm not exerting much pressure at all.
Being light-handed when creating your preliminary sketch will also help ensure that the graphite left behind on your watercolor paper won't dirty up the colors you start placing on top. You want your colors vibrant and fresh.
Something you can also do, is use a light colored watercolor pencil to create your preliminary sketch. This way, once you start using water, your line work will disappear completely as you go!
3. Plan the colors you'll be using before starting to paint
It's incredibly important for people starting on their painting journeys, to look into the color wheel and Color Theory.
Color is an Element of Art that not only plays a huge role in making an artwork look harmonious and cohesive, but knowledge about the color wheel enables us to create color mixtures effectively throughout the art-making process.
Over at my Patreon site, I offer sequential classes that cover all must-know Art Fundamentals. You can also get immediate access to my Drawing and Watercolor for the Total Beginner Mini-Courses by becoming an art email insider here (the third class in the watercolor course is all about color).
Instead of randomly picking colors throughout the painting process, take five minutes to observe your reference picture and pick out the specific watercolor pencil colors you'll be using. Take them out of your package and place them beside you as you prepare for your new piece.
Don't only think about the colors of the subject in and of itself (ex. if I'm painting a gray cat I'm not only looking for different grays), but also think about what colors you'll be adding in to create your darkest values, cast shadows and background colors.
Take time to swatch your colors on a scrap piece of watercolor paper, as they really tend to look different once they are applied vs. the color shown on the pencil. Test any color mixtures you're planning on using.
Keep things limited and as simple as possible.
I promise, it'll make a huge difference in terms of both your organization during the process, as well as the outcome.
4. Use a good reference photo
If you're looking to create higher levels of realism, make sure you're stemming from a good reference photo (or have your subject in front of you in good lighting).
Not only will a good reference photo enable you to see details and the tiny nuances that will make your drawing or painting more realistic, but it will also provide you much needed information in terms of light behavior and locations of highlights, midtones and darks.
Remember, it's these different values (highlights, midtones and darks), that make drawings and paintings look three-dimensional. If you're unable to locate them in a photo reference, you'll have lots of trouble trying to recreate them.
Always make sure your reference photos have a great resolution that will enable you to see details and zoom in (if necessary), and that they show good lighting.
You'll know a photo has good lighting if it shows a good play between lights and darks. *Photos taken with flash are usually washed out and make everything look very flat, which makes the drawing and painting process a lot harder.
If you don't have a good reference to work from, you're basically guessing at what things look like and have to make your own conclusions in regards to where highlights, midtones and darks are located.
Unless you've been drawing or painting a specific subject for years, you're drawing or painting it the way you think that subject looks like, and not what it actually looks like in real life.
Learning to observe and learn all we can about the subjects we're interested in improving at by actually taking in all sorts of references (photos, life subjects, videos, etc.), is so important, as artists!
And, remember, just because you're using a reference, it doesn't mean you can't bring in your own creativity into your work.
5. Give thought to what kinds of effects you want to use in each area of your painting
Because watercolor pencils allow for so many different types of techniques, it can be very easy to get lost during the process and end up with effects we weren't intending to create.
Give thought to the specific techniques you'll be using, as well as when and where you'll be using each, throughout the painting process. This will make it much more likely that you'll end up with an outcome you'll love.
Think of how you can combine different techniques to create impactful and contrasting effects in your different layers (foreground, middleground, background), as well as how you can use them to bring more attention to your focal point.
There are so many ways you can go with watercolor pencils!
Explore, have fun and don't forget to bring in a bit of yourself into everything that you create. :)
Great watercolor pencil options for beginners:
Why is Instagram such a great online platform for artists? What are some essential tips for working artists starting on Instagram? Why is it important to build up a following if we're intending to make a consistent income from our work and how does one even go about starting to grow one from scratch?
I sincerely believe that there's never been a better time to be an artist.
With the Internet and so many online platforms/tools available to us, it's easy to both connect with other artists and start getting our work known by possible collectors all over the world.
We can literally set up our own website or online shop in a matter of minutes and start making our work or services available for visitors.
This said, something I quickly came to realize after having left my last 'normal' full-time position and starting my own online business is that, it's one thing to have and use all of these amazing tools and it's quite another to actually make them work for your career as a professional artist.
As I shared in this past blog post, there's a lot to learn and start implementing in your online efforts. There's a strategy involved, and it's not just about mindlessly posting your work.
While we're building up our artistic skills and finding our voice, we need to be learning about marketing and actually putting to use these strategies we learn about.
It's only through actually experimenting for ourselves over a certain period of time, that we can conclude whether strategies are working for our specific artistic goals or not.
For most of us, it can not only take time to see sales coming in, but the process can be frustrating and quite overwhelming, as there's so much to learn about and so many options.
This is especially the case when we're just getting started.
Over at my YouTube channel, I've shared videos in which I'm very honest about what it has taken for me to get to the point I'm at, and have provided lots of practical advice for aspiring artists.
With my innermost group over on Patreon, I'm even more candid about my life as an artist and share the inside tips that have worked for me as I continue building my income online.
As I've mentioned in past blog posts and videos, as artists we are creative entrepreneurs. We're business owners.
It's important to understand that we're looking to sell products. Meaningful, unique products. But products nonetheless.
And just like any other business out there, it's essential to build up our brand and work on a message that is meaningful and unique to us.
To succeed as an artist, we must build up an audience (whether it's online, offline or both is completely up to you and your goals). We want to create connections with people who resonate with our work, our story and our message.
You may be able to sell a piece or two here and there out of luck, but it's these people who resonate with us deeply, who'll be not only cheering us on, but will also be coming back for more when we release new artwork.
I really believe that, the sooner we ease into marketing and sales, and actually see them as a fun, creative part of our work, the more successful we'll be.
Katherine Belle, who works as special contributor for Enjoy Canvas, will be sharing several essential tips that will help us make our Instagram account a success.
Katherine is obsessed with interior design, and is a pro at creating and sharing content online that is valuable for readers.
Let's get into her article!
5 Tips for Marketing and Selling Your Art on Instagram Like a Pro
Instagram has completely changed the way people buy and sell products (and services).
Literally, anyone can start selling via the Internet now-a-days. This is awesome because this means we don't have to sit through endless days wondering how we can grow our art business and sell more work.
It's all about how you market yourself and your art, which requires you actually interact with people and grow an engaged online community (your audience).
As long as you focus on sharing valuable (inspiring, educational, entertaining) content for your audience, stay consistent, and apply a few key tips, your account will grow.
And though this may take time, the opportunities that can come from your efforts are definitely worth it.
Instagram is one of the best social media platforms for artists due to its highly visual nature and it's ability to display a curated portfolio of your work to your visitors.
Over the years, it has become the ideal social media platform for artists, right next to Pinterest.
Transforming Your Instagram Feed into a Source of Revenue
You worked hard on it. You poured your heart and soul into your artwork, and now it's time to reap the benefits that you deserve.
When it comes to marketing on Instagram to sell your brand and your artwork, it all boils down to growing an engaged fanbase and consistently networking within the art community (your followers, other artists and brands, etc.).
Remember the social aspect of social media and don't just post or try to sell and leave, but focus on asking questions, leaving valuable comments and creating connections.
You can pick up many more tricks of the trade along the way. But for starters, consider these crucial tips to apply once you have your Instagram account up and running.
1. Develop Your Brand
Branding has taken on so many meanings and contexts over time.
For artists looking to build their brand on Instagram, it's all about posting meaningful and inspiring content, while staying consistent both in terms of posting frequency, as well as the kind of content that's been shared.
Basically, you need to think of a theme that'll unify your posts, which can be related to your artistic style, the message that you want to share with the world, or other aspects pertaining to your artistic life.
It's a given that people's attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, and there's lots of competition online. This is why its essential to start developing a unique brand that transmits who you are as an artist.
Try browsing across Instagram through notable people in the art community. Study each of their feeds and their brand's look and feel. Take notes.
Pay attention to how they construct their bio, make their contact information available for possible costumers, and to the quality of content they share.
Notice how most of them make it a point to share content that their fanbase will find valuable in some shape, way or form. And how it's always related to what they're passionate about and are offering to the world.
You don't always have to share finished pieces! Share inspirational quotes from famous artists, pictures of your work in progress or your working area, sneak peeks of your drawings or paintings, your favorite supplies...
The possibilities are endless!
2. Put a Bit of Soul Into Your Captions
For the most part, your followers already know that you're on Instagram to sell your art, apart from sharing it with the world. But you must remember that simply posting a picture of your work with its name and price, and expecting people to buy isn't going to get you anywhere.
It's not creative. There's no hook.
You're not giving people a good reason to purchase your artwork. There's no story or connection with you, the creator of the piece.
And though, you might get lucky at some point and sell a piece to a customer just because he/she thinks it's beautiful, your true collectors (those who'll want to buy your work time-and-time-again), buy because they connect with you and your personal story.
Don't like writing or feel that you don't write well? You don't need to write a long novella to transmit a story. A few sentences and your own heartfelt feelings are more than enough.
Let people know about your process, your inspiration. Tell them the story of how this particular piece came to be.
People connect to emotions, and by getting good at sharing your story and message from the heart, you'll start attracting the right people.
Yes, you need to transmit that your work is up for sale, but never forget to bring your creativity into it and actually transmit your passion for what you do.
3. Use Hashtags Strategically
In digital marketing, hashtags double as maps and street directions.
Hashtags are what make it possible for others to find your posts. They make the content you upload discoverable, which is an absolute must in an already saturated platform.
By using hashtags strategically and implementing best practices, you'll keep growing your audience consistently. Never forget them in your posts!
You'll want to stay up-to-date with tips and recommendations from Instagram specialists like Alex Tooby and Vanessa Lau, as algorithms change as months go by, but here are a few key tips to get you started:
- Use the Instagram search bar to find hashtags that are related to the type of art you share.
-Try to be specific. Instead of doing #watercolor, add #watercolorlandscape or #watercolorportrait, depending on what you're sharing.
- Find other artists who have large followings and take note of how they use their hashtags. How many do they use? Where do they place them within their post? Do you see any hashtags that are used repeatedly?
- Create a list of the best hashtags you find over time, but don't always use the same group of hashtags in all your posts. Switch them around, add or subtract to them, depending on what it is you're sharing.
- Only use hashtags that are actually relevant to your post.
And lastly, create your own brand-specific hashtag! Make sure to use it frequently and encourage your loyal followers to do so as well whenever they're talking about your brand on Instagram.
4. Think of Ways to Make Your Feed Engaging and Dynamic
Though all social media platforms are different and the things that work well in one might not work well in the other, there's one thing that is essential in all of them in order to make your account a success.
And this is engagement.
Constantly give thought to ways that you can use the tools Instagram provides, such as Story features (stickers, questions, polls, etc.), Instagram TV, and create engaging content in regular posts so that your audience can participate.
Think outside of the box and make it easy for them to relate and be able to respond.
Ever tried doing art challenges such as sharing a new piece every day?
What about sticking to a particular style or subject for a month or a whole year and consistently bring people into your process and artistic progress?
Let people into your artistic journey!
Whatever you do, don't forget to keep things positive, fresh and fun.
People are looking for positivity and are more likely to want to see more from you if you keep things inspiring for them.
Give them a reason to keep coming back.
Never underestimate the power of creative content, whether that's on your IG feed or on Instagram Stories.
5. Track and Monitor Your Progress
Because you'll be using your Instagram account to promote your artwork and grow your art business, it's important to switch to a business account.
Don't worry! Switching from a normal to business account on Instagram is easy (and can also be easily reverted).
By switching to this type of account, you'll be able to have special insights into your analytics.
This means you'll be able to learn about the demographics of the people who are following you (age, location, gender, etc.), how your interactions are growing over time, the amount of clickthroughs to your website or shop, what times and days your audience is most active on the platform, and more!
This will allow you to objectively implement new strategies and shift away from what's not working, which will lead to faster growth.
Remember, your art business on Instagram is as much a display of your passion as it is a way to make a living. And because of this, it's important to make strategic efforts and continuously assess whether what you're currently doing is working.
Before posting anything, ask yourself if you'd find that content valuable. Also, always consider if your efforts contribute to your end-goal of growing your audience and making a living from your work.
On a final note...
Instagram can do wonders for launching your artistic career and getting rid of the need for galleries or big-name critics to tell you whether you can succeed or not.
But most of all, it's helping artists develop meaningful connections with possible customers and other people of their profession as well.
Instagram is, indeed, a beneficial tool and can be an incredibly effective marketing weapon. All it needs is knowledge on how to wield it.
Now it's your time to build your brand and become the successful artist you were always meant to be.
I'd like to send out a huge thank you to Katherine for so generously providing all of this helpful information for us and inspiring us to get our work out there!
Visit enjoycanvas.com for tons of ideas on interior decor and transforming spaces with art.
Also, follow them on social media to find out when news and more resources are released:
Twitter : https://twitter.com/EnjoyCanvas
Thanks so much for reading!
Why is it that abstract art looks so easy to do and when I try my hand at it, I always end up disappointed with my results? How can I become looser and more expressive when painting with watercolor? Does one have to prepare before starting a painting that's more on the abstract side of the art spectrum?
When I first saw abstract artists at work, back when I was very young, I remember thinking just how easy it must be to create that kind of painting (or drawing). I saw how intuitively and spontaneously they moved along the process, and concluded there was no prep work involved or specific process to follow.
I wasn't entirely wrong.
However, the thing I failed to realize back then is, those artists that seemed to be creating magic on canvas in a matter of minutes and without any struggle at all, had a ton of knowledge about art and Art Fundamentals, and had full control over their preferred mediums.
They had already devoted lots of time to learning, exploring, messing up and finding their voice to the point that they could now easily express emotions and ideas via marks, colors, shapes and textures.
They had full knowledge of Elements and Principles of Art, and were masters at choosing color schemes, creating interesting and balanced compositions, harmony, contrast, and everything that makes an artwork look impactful, cohesive and have the ability to effectively communicate an idea or emotion.
Because they had already gained a certain level of mastery through their first-hand experience, they were able to move through the creative process with confidence and ease.
And confidence, in my opinion, is key to abstracts as it's what truly allows us to let go and be able to work more intuitively.
Not to mention, these artists had already gone through the long process of finding themselves artistically and preparing their specific tools (and colors) of choice. They know the message they want to transmit and how they want to transmit it.
So yes, they may be going along the creation of an abstract painting intuitively now, and they may or may not have prepared or practiced before starting a specific piece (this depends on each artist's creative process), but they have years of practice under their belts.
When we're just getting started (and we're serious about improving our skills), it's important to realize that there is a lot to learn and that we need to explore and practice first-handedly consistently and intentionally, in order to make the progress we're after.
As I shared in my past blog post, 5 Tips for the (Serious) Self-Taught Artist, learning about Art Fundamentals can make the biggest different in your artistic journey.
Not only in your ability to create original and impactful drawings or paintings, but also in your ability to analyze and talk about art. This knowledge helps you communicate your ideas about your work, and the work of others, which is so important when your goal is to become a professional artist.
By learning about Art Fundamentals and applying this knowledge consciously in the beginning, as well as taking a few minutes to do a bit of planning prior to starting a new piece (whether it's abstract or not), you'll develop your eye for composition and later be able to tell if something works or not, pretty darn fast.
Not to mention, knowledge of Art Fundamentals is what allows us to create original and visually pleasing artworks from scratch, all on our own, and without having to constantly rely on inspiration from other artists.
This means you won't have to spend hours scrolling Instagram or Pinterest until you arrive at something that you want to replicate, because you'll have the ability to take ideas you already have inside of you and turn them into an actual visual composition.
Join the Becoming Artists community on Patreon for live classes on Art Fundamentals, exclusive real-time drawing and watercolor tutorials that I don't share anywhere else (complete with downloadables), sketchbook prompts sent to you every week designed to help you stay consistent, feedback from me on your work and much more! *Click to learn more.
Next. I'll be sharing three key tips that will help ensure a much smoother process and a more effective outcome when creating looser watercolor paintings.
3 Tips for Beautiful Watercolor Abstracts
1. Plan your colors
Color is an essential part behind making a visual composition (whether simple or complex) look harmonious and cohesive. Because of this, giving thought to what specific colors you'll be using prior to starting with the painting process can be extremely helpful, especially when we're just getting started with painting.
When we're creating an artwork, we have to consider the whole, or the global picture. A composition is meant to be seen in its entirety, which is why artists have to become masters at making use of (and manipulating) the different Elements and Principles of Art so that everything included works together to transmit the message, emotion or mood that they are intending to transmit.
No element included in the piece is an island, as they all interact with each other to communicate the story, message or feeling to the viewer.
Therefore, it's smart to give thought to how the different parts we'll be including in our artwork will be working in conjunction, prior to starting with the painting process.
In relation to color, it's also helpful to remember that the way we see each hue is affected by the colors around it.
Randomly picking colors throughout the painting process is a huge no-no, especially when we're just starting on our painting journeys. This will often result in struggling with muddy colors throughout the process, as well as finished products that don't look cohesive.
Have in mind that, when we come across a video online where we're seeing a pro who knows color and has been painting for a long time, they've already most likely prepared specific colors on their palettes that they love and know will work well for the mixtures they'll be needing.
In other words, they've already prepared their colors and aren't working with a color set that has been pre-made for them.
They also know the color wheel like the back of their hand. This knowledge enables them to not only create color mixtures effectively, but also select color schemes that look integrated and impactful, and know exactly which colors to reach out for (or stay away from) when a new color mixture is needed.
Learn more about the Color Wheel and Color Theory by joining over 3,000 art e-mail insiders and getting immediate access to my *free* Watercolor for the Total Beginner Mini-Course! The third class is all about color. :)
Something I love doing when preparing for a new piece is to think about the overall mood I want it to transmit to the viewer and how I can play with color to enhance my focal points, as well as create a sense of contrast to really make my painting pop.
*Most of my viewers over on YouTube also know that I love keeping things simple and using a limited amount of colors when painting.
Keeping things as simple as possible, and limiting the amount of colors that I'll be using, allows me to stay better organized throughout the process, which keeps muddy colors at bay, and leads to my paintings looking a lot more unified at the end.
2. Give thought to your compositional arrangement
Though many abstract artists make this work seem easy, something important to understand as beginners is that an impactful, harmonious and balanced composition rarely happens by accident.
As an outsider looking in, it might look like what skilled abstract artists are doing is completely free-flowing and spontaneous.
However, as I mentioned before, they have the knowledge and skills they need to create impactful work almost unconsciously and have the confidence that allows them to trust in their tools and in their own decisions/movements.
It's incredibly helpful, for both beginners as well as more experienced artists, to sketch out a few quick thumbnails to roughly plan the location of focal point(s), as well as the balance that will be created between positive and negative spaces (areas which contain the subjects vs. empty areas), before getting started with the painting process.
If you're using a reference photo, give thought to cropping and manipulating the size of different elements included, as well as removing those which may be detracting from the focal point or the balance you're looking to create.
By learning about Art Fundamentals you'll become knowledgable on how to play with Elements of Art in order to manipulate their characteristics, as well as their placement within your space, to pull the viewers' attention towards your focal point(s) and keep their eyes moving throughout the piece.
Not to mention, you'll also be able to stay away from making your drawings or paintings too overwhelming, which can be a huge problem when creating abstract art.
Two "rules" or guides that I learned in art school which really helped me develop my eye for balanced yet interesting compositions, were the Rule of Thirds and the 60/40 (or 70/30) Rule (also referred to as the "Less is More" rule).
The Rule of Thirds is used by photographers and even cinematographers all the time, and it helps us create interesting, asymmetrically balanced artwork that transmits a story.
Using it is very simple. We basically divide our space into 9 equal squares or rectangles using horizontal and vertical lines and, using this grid, we decide the location of our focal point, as well as the placement of the secondary and tertiary elements.
The Rule of Thirds tells us to never place our focal point right in the center of our space, or within the center of any of the squares or rectangles. It tells us to pick one of the points where the horizontal or vertical lines intersect (see red dots in image below). We can also place our focal elements along one of the lines.
This guideline helps us create visual compositions that keep the viewer's eyes moving throughout the piece, instead of staying stagnant, which we definitely want to stay away from.
It's not completely black and white, and you'll be able to find many examples of masterpieces created throughout history in which the Rule of Thirds has been deliberately used, and other in which it's used a bit more loosely.
Check out this beautiful painting created by Renoir in 1873. The viewer's attention immediately gets called towards the lady in the white dress.
The artist not only placed the focal point along one of the lines in the Rule of Thirds grid, but also emphasized the main subject by creating contrast using color and value, as well as rendering higher levels of detail within her when compared to the elements around her. We get a sense of this lady being directly hit by sunlight, while everything else in her proximity is in shadows.
Now check out this painting created by Van Gogh in 1888. He's also made use of this same idea when he decided to place the group of boats off-center and closer to the left side.
The viewer's attention not only gets immediately pulled towards the red boat (which falls right in the intersection where one of the vertical and horizontal lines meet in the grid), but our eyes then keep traveling towards the boats behind it, and then to the boats that are heading out towards the horizon.
In this piece, though, the horizon line was placed almost halfway down the composition, which is what the Rule of Thirds tells us to stay away from. This nearly perfect central placement of the horizon line usually "cuts" landscapes right in half, when we're usually looking asymmetrical balance.
However, this piece has so much movement and depth created by the placement of elements in the foreground, middleground and background, and such an interesting overall use of Principles of Art, that the horizon line doesn't really take away from it.
The 60/40 or 70/30 Rule basically tells us that the areas of interest (or our focal points) should take up a much smaller amount of space than areas of lower interest. It also propels us to think about how we're going to be making use of different Principles of Art inside our areas of interest when compared to outside of them, in order to create contrast, bring attention to our focal point, and transmit our message more clearly.
I don't know about you, but when I'm creating an abstract piece, I find it really easy to go overboard and start adding more and more (paint, marks, etc.) to the point that the focal point is lost and I end up with a painting that is overwhelming for the viewer.
This is a big no-no, unless of course, this is intentionally the style your going for.
I suggest taking breaks and stepping back from your work every few minutes and, once again, observing the global picture.
Think about whether more is truly necessary.
These two "rules" are by no means the only way to go about creating an artwork or the only helpful guidelines that exist out there, but they really helped me develop my eye for composition, as well as my knowledge on what goes behind creating a successful artwork when I was first getting started.
For more on Composition pertaining to abstract art, check out this awesome video shared by artist David M. Kessler over at his YouTube channel.
3. Think about how you'll be doing your layering (especially if you're using mixed media)
What makes so many abstract pieces so appealing is the richness artists are able to achieve via their layering processes, which I suggest giving thought to whether you're only using one medium to create your piece (the way I did with watercolor in the video included above), or are combining a variety of mediums.
This will not only ensure a better outcome, but will also help your piece last a lot longer in good condition.
Depending on the mediums that you're using, you'll want to do research and even do quick explorations to see if your initial layers will directly affect both the look and durability of the layers you place on top, and vice versa.
You'll want to look into factors such as drying times between layers and final varnishing, as well.
As opposed to representational art, in which a large part of the story or message is told via instantly recognizable subjects, abstract artists make use of the Elements of Art in their purest form (color, shape, line, texture, etc.).
Playing around with how to layer these different elements, as well as defining what tools, mediums and/or techniques will be used throughout different parts of the process, we'll be able to create a much more impactful piece.
Not to mention, we'll be able to keep some level of organization in our chaos. :)
Keep in mind that an interesting and impactful composition usually has some sort of play between less and more, dark and light, etc. There are many ways in which we can create contrast, including making use of light vs. dark values, cool vs. warm colors, small vs. large sizes, heavy vs. light visual or tactile textures, highly detailed vs. less detailed, etc.
*Bonus Tip: Just keep moving!
Once you've started with the painting process, don't allow yourself to stay stuck in one place. Move past small mistakes and embrace imperfection!
Trust in the plan and prep work you've done and keep moving forward. This quicker pace of working will lead to much more expressive results.
If you don't feel ready to start on the actual piece that's meant to be finalized, warm up with smaller explorations! This never fails to help me, no matter what I'm doing.
A while back I shared a blog post titled 5 Tips to Loosen Up and Create More Expressive Art which contains helpful tips that I apply myself.
Watercolor painting supplies used in this video:
I hope this blog post was helpful! If you have any questions or tips to share, make sure to leave a comment below.
Thanks so much for reading!
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