Have you ever sat in front of a blank canvas or paper and not known where to start? Has your mojo disappeared? Let me help you get it back with a little creative play with your art.
A short fun exercise at the beginning of any painting session can inspire and give you confidence to experiment and try new things. I think we can all agree that the gorgeous Lego is happy to embrace creative play!
It is well documented that the left and right side of the brain perform different functions. The left side of the brain is the organiser, checking lists and clock-watching and it can try to dominate its more creative right partner! How many of us stop after doing a left brain activity and immediately pick up a paintbrush hoping to be able to launch into painting, but end up feeling a bit lost and not knowing where to start?
A sportsperson warms up before exercise. I believe you can help the right side of your brain to be more dominant. Although there are many ‘warm-up’exercises I could suggest, the most striking example of helping your right brain to become more dominant, is the exercise below.
Yes that’s right! The photograph is upside down. Your left brain will want to turn it up the right way. Practical as ever, it wants the photo upright to see the dog. Now here’s the trick, upside down, right brain can become more dominant. As it doesn’t necessarily see a dog as such, right brain now has the freedom to just study shapes, tone and colour.
I have altered the contrast and brightness of the photograph to exaggerate where the darkest darks and lightest lights appear.
1. By looking at shapes and edges, you should be able to sketch what you actually see, not what your left brain says it thinks you should see! Look for the relationship of the lines against the border of the square rather than drawing a dog. If it helps, put a dot in the centre of both the sketch and photograph, this is another point of reference.
2. Now let’s start to paint. Left brain will be gently urging you to turn the paper round. You must try to resist! Paint what you see. Right brain should still be looking at shapes, colours, lines and edges rather than eyes and collar. Use colours from your palette that you can see. I could see Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium Red. Left brain will be getting more insistent, but be strong and stay upside down.
3. Wet the whole paper, except for the areas which are white on the photograph. Mix a bold wash of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna to make grey and apply it to the wet paper where you see ‘grey and black’ on the photograph. Work quickly and remember you are seeing shapes and distances between shapes.
4. While the washes are still wet, right brain will be able to see where to add some really really dark tones from the photograph. Mix up a thicker wash of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna to get the punchy black and apply where you see the dark darks. As the wash begins to dry you will need to know when to stop. Okay left brain is getting fed up now so, as you wait for the painting to dry, you may have to walk away.
5. Return to your upside-down painting to put in a little extra detail in the eye area and nostrils, wet-on-dry. Add a couple of black spots to the collar. Keep it very simple and understated. This is a loose watercolour and a quick example of a creative exercise.
6. And wait for it…………Ta da!
As a busy self employed artist, juggling accounts, marketing and writing, I know it can take a period of ‘warming-up’ to allow the creative right side of the brain to wake up. I can actually now feel it happening. Likewise, at the end of a painting session, it can feel a jolt to the system to suddenly look at the clock and realise you have to become organised again.