Efficient Interior Painting What should I look for in painting? What Is Paint? Paint is a mixture of four basic ingredients: pigments, resins, solvents, and additives. Pigment is the color, and resin is the binder, or glue. Solvent is the carrier that makes it all liquid and evaporates as the paint dries. Additives provide specific performance characteristics, such as stain-blocking or mold-killing properties. Cheap paints have a higher percentage of solvents per volume than better pains. As a result, there can be up to 50 percent less pigment and resin in a gallon of cheap paint. This means that most of what you are applying with cheap paint is solvent (water or mineral spirits), which just evaporates, leaving little pigment behind. This is why you have to recoat and recoat up to four times with low-quality paint before enough pigment is left behind to cover the color underneath. So learn from the pros, who value their time: buy the best paint you can afford and avoid having to paint more than twice. Look for manufacturers with a good reputation, and check the label looking for products containing about 45 percent pigment and resins per volume. Water-Based vs. Oil-Based Types of Paint All paints basically fall into two solvent categories that define their type: water-based or oil-based. Water-based paint actually has water as a solvent, but just to confuse everyone this paint is most commonly called “latex” even though it does not contain latex. Many water-based paints are made with acrylic and may be called “acrylic latex.” The label “oil-based paint” is equally confusing, because it isn’t actually made with oil; it has a solvent of mineral spirits (also known as paint thinner) or alkyd resin. Alkyd can be thinned with mineral spirits, and latex paint is thinned with water. At the paint store, you’ll be understood if you use the terms latex paint or alkyd or oil-based paint. Expert Advice on How to Look at Paintings No knowledge needed Being able to understand paintings is not a skill you either have or you don’t – it’s something anyone can learn. You don’t need detailed knowledge of art history to enjoy an artwork or develop your own taste. You just have to know how to look at art. With a few tips you can get started and become an art enthusiast yourself. When we look at something, whether this is a work of art or something different, our human brains read it and generate meaning. Different clues make up our understanding of images, often even unconsciously. So when learning to look at art, you basically only have to slow down this process that is already happening in your mind. It only takes three simple yet very effective steps to become conscious about this process. Step 1: Take a look This step may sound very obvious, but it actually isn’t. People often don’t take enough time to look at artworks. In museums, visitors spent only an average of 15 seconds in front of a painting. So let’s start with taking some time to notice what you are looking at. Try to pay attention to the size, colours and material of the artwork. What kind of shapes and lines are shown? What is the composition of the painting like? What textures are visible? All these different visual elements were decided deliberately by the artist, and will therefore determine the overall feel and meaning of the work. Step 2: See what is there Seeing is not the same thing as looking. Whereas looking is about describing what is in front of you, seeing requires applying meaning to a picture. This is called iconography in art history terms. We see symbols in paintings which we can interpret. Step 3: Think The last step is to think about what you have observed. This step is about connecting the first two steps and thinking about possible interpretations. Giving meaning is something relative; it’s not about facts. The broader context of a painting will help make reading the artwork easier. This context can be found through labels and descriptions. They can help you to place the work in a certain time period and relate it to an artist or movement. Maybe you even already have some knowledge about the subject. With all this information you will be able to put the pieces together in your mind and come up with your own interpretation. Common Characteristics of Good Paintings Good painters don’t merely recreate what is in front of them. An experienced artist knows how to create a successful painting, no matter what situation or model he or she is presented with or the materials being worked with. Of course, this often comes after years of practice and experimentation — as well as the development of a unique artistic voice. But there are some basic characteristics that all good paintings have in common. As you are thinking about just how to paint your next composition, keep the following three tips in mind. A Strong Focal Point A focal point is not like the big, bold “X” that marks the spot on a treasure map. It can take on any shape and size. It can be bold but it can also be subtle. A dappling of light, a pop of color, an expression or emphatic gesture — any of these can become a focal point in a composition. Regardless of how it is created, its purpose should be to engage the viewer or act as the culmination of the momentum built in the work. Layers of Color When it comes to painting characteristics, color is key to keep in mind. Color makes a painting tranquil or vibrant, dramatic or stark. And, this comes about not only in your color choices but also how you build passages of color over one another or side by side. Warm and cool colors in a sky create a sense of atmosphere and space more than any one swath of color — no matter how perfectly matched it is to the sky above. Changes in Direction In many great paintings, the image is realistically rendered, but brushstrokes are clearly visible. You are aware of how the painting is painted. Think about how the paint application of Jan van Eyck versus Vincent van Gogh perfectly reflects or resonates with what the artists painted. The way a brush moves paint around makes a statement that should be taken advantage of. You can start by being mindful of your brush’s changes in the direction, literally working on a painting with different strokes and from various angles. Things You Should Give Up to Be a Successful Artist Give up on the “not enough” mind frame Successful artists don’t frame things around “not enough.” There is never enough time, not enough money, not enough confidence, not enough of whatever it is at that moment to make or do what you need to do to be a successful artist. Give up comparisons Here’s the thing about comparisons: you are always going to be better at some things than other people, and worse at other things. Dwelling on either isn’t going to get you anywhere. It can stifle your creativity as an emerging artist to compare yourself to someone who is twenty years into their career, and it can stunt your growth to compare your work to someone who is just starting out. Instead of focusing on how you stack up next to someone else, invest that energy into comparing your recent work with the work you made six months ago, a year ago and five years ago. Have you grown? And where do you want to see yourself six months, a year, and five years in the future? Only compare yourself to yourself. Give up on making excuses If you want to be a successful artist, you have to show up. You have to do the work. If you are like any other artist in the world, you probably have said to yourself at one time something along the lines of, “I can’t go to the studio today because I’m too busy/ too heartbroken/ my family needs me too much/ [insert any excuse here.]” And you know what? It feels good to do that. It feels justified and reasonable and like you are doing the right thing for yourself.