Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Jane's Art Basics - How To Start A Painting?

 Do you get stuck at the blank canvas? Do you want to paint but don't know how to start? As your art practice evolves you will develop your own go-to strategies for beginning, but if you are new at painting, here are a few suggestions.

  • Don't start a painting. Start multiple paintings. 
  • Do start with an inexpensive, low-stakes, substrate such as Bristol or 80# Cheap Drawing Paper
  • Do focus on the practice, the process, not the 'finished' painting.
  • Don't try to finish a painting
  • Do give yourself a time limit if that helps. 

Here is a video on The Five Minute Painting (this is an old one, not great quality):


A group of 9"x12" five-minute paintings

I made these 9"x12" five-minute in one session, which was a total of one hour.

Be assured that there are infinite ways to start a painting, so you can't find the correct way, nor can you start the wrong way, in terms of the first marks you make on the painting surface. You can start with an attitude that will facilitate beginnings. 

Your measure of success is: you showed up and applied paint (or collage or drawing) to a surface. You made marks on a substrate. That's IT. Omit the habitual evaluation and self-criticism. Just leave it out; it is totally irrelevant to this part of a painting practice. 

Let the painting practice be an ongoing inquiry, not a production line. You are discovering what the paint can do, what is in you, who you are as a maker of images. It is a long, slow, ongoing process. A practice. If you set your expectations accordingly it can be extremely engaging and fulfilling. If you begin with the expectation that you will Learn How To Do It Correctly, it can be very frustrating. You will make good paintings - your paintings - when you make a lot of paintings, with attention and focus on process, and with curiosity. Enjoy!

Cat Bennett has several books that are encouraging and helpful for making art as a practice. There are many other books and resources on practicing art, but the real learning is in doing the work. Get the paper out, put some paint on it, pay attention, repeat.


  1. Thank you-this was very helpful for me.

  2. Hi Jane: Ever since i saw the interview you did with Louise, I've been following you and have had your book on my wish list at Amazon. (It keeps getting bumped, but one of these days...) This is really helpful, thanks. I enjoyed the video as well. Keep up the good work, you are an inspiration.

  3. Hi Jane, I've been binge watching you for awhile now and can relate to your process. I work best doing at least 3 at one time, switching back and forth while each layer dries. That way I don't overwork just one. And I have a better chance of having at least one that I really like! Painting and collage for me is just having fun playing with color.


I have had some spam comments lately, advertising of stupid stuff. So I am moderating comments until I can figure out a better way to prevent spam. THANKS!