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How I Start A Painting

People often ask me how I decide what I'm going to paint. Do I start with a photo or a drawing? Do I have something in mind before I start?

A lovely group of ladies come to my studio each week to paint and they are always bringing photos or pictures they've cut out from magazines to use as inspiration for their paintings. It's really interesting to see what gets their creative juices flowing. Two of them are very much into animals and have a seemingly endless supply of images. I love listening to their excitement over 'what they are going to paint next!'

I too love to cut out images that inspire me, take photos and trawl through Pinterest and Instagram and the like. What Ive realised is that this tends to be as far as I go, I very rarely go back and look at those images again.

I've recently completed a rather in depth on line art course and one of the first exercises was to create an inspiration board. This is something I'd never taken the time to do, probably because it had never crossed my mind that it might be something useful. I tried not to overthink the exercise while I sat sipping coffee, tearing out pages from a pile of magazines, writing words and phrases on my board. After I finished, what struck me most was that my board was not filled with objects as such (e.g a landscape or animals or people), it was predominantly filled with characteristics. I'm inspired by lines, shapes, colour, texture, pattern.

So that is how I start a painting.

The beginning is all about building up layers of paint, creating interesting marks and textures, letting shapes emerge. Its a process of investigation and discovery, asking 'what if I do this?' or 'what if I mix this colour with this colour?' or 'what sort of mark can I make with this tool?' It takes time to build the layers and there is always an urge to hurry up and get to the end so you can see the final result. I have to stop myself, take the time to enjoy this period and reflect on what is happening. I know that its this depth and history that give a painting its uniqueness because it's this part of the process that cant be repeated exactly the same again.

So where does your inspiration come from and how do you start your painting?

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Unknown member
Nov 13, 2019

Traceyann, what a great basis to start from! Im sure you will bring your own unique traits to your painting. Sit back and enjoy the ride!


My inspiration usually comes from a place of recent and distant memory of colours, textures and experiences that evoke my interest in nature. For me, spontaneity flows from patterns in nature. Digital images I have captured also reflect this, as well light, reflection, angle, colour, focus and shape symmetry. I hope I can bring these into my painting.


Making marks that look like something is completely Ok. There are no rules. We all have our unique way of looking and responding to things which makes everyone’s art unique. Thanks for taking the time to comment.


I find it very hard not to try and make marks that look like something and I’m really enjoying reading about your thought processes in creating your lovely spontaneous art.

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