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How to Pick Up a New Hobby -- Acrylic Painting For the Non-Artist

Updated on March 13, 2014

My painting setup, with my trusty "assistant" in the background

If you are reading this Hub because you’re thinking -- “just maybe I could be the next Picasso-Monet-Van Gogh prodigy who will forever live on in art history textbooks” – you might want to read a different Hub. If you think painting might be fun, but have always been afraid to try it, please proceed.

This Hub is about painting with acrylics for fun and relaxation; you might be surprised that you don’t suck at painting, and you probably have a lot more artist inside than you realize.

The most important attitude to adopt is that you are not trying to create “artwork;” you are doing this for yourself, and nobody has to see your creations if you really do think they’re awful. This does not mean you won’t get frustrated and face challenges, but I guarantee you will have fun if you keep an open mind.

I love painting with acrylics because it is next to impossible to “ruin” a painting. What could be better than a failure-proof hobby?

I'm no Van Gogh

What Do I Paint?

The long and the short of it is, you can paint whatever you want in any way you choose. You might be the type of person who has a wild imagination and can visualize something in your mind. Then again, you could be the type of person who needs to use a picture or an object as a model. There is no right or wrong; everyone has a different taste and style, and this is what makes artwork so interesting.

Experimenting: The Nature of The Beast

There is no right way to paint, and also no limitations to what you can create. There is an infinite number of color combinations, brush strokes, textures, paint additives, tools, and the list goes on. Everyone has preferences and you will quickly discover your very own unique style (even if you think it sucks).

Be bold. Be daring. You can even try to be eccentric. Get your hands dirty, make a mess, perhaps blast some music, and remember to have fun.

This isn’t a class with a multiple choice exam or a term paper. Experiment with the way paint colors mix both on your palette and on the canvas. Try holding the brush a few different ways, and watch how painting with the tip of the brush produces a different look than painting with the flat side. Try building up different layers of paint to create textures and patterns. Try adding a few drops of water to the paint to thin it out.

Every “screw-up” will teach you a new trick, but only if you keep an open mind and be gentle with yourself. Most of my best paintings resulted from an “accident;” because it forced me to be creative, and that is the whole point of picking up a hobby in the first place! A “ruined” painting will remind you, a year or so from now, how much you have learned simply through trial and error.

Getting Started

In this Hub about acrylic painting, I will not teach you how to paint. You heard me right.

The point of taking up a new hobby is to challenge yourself. What I will help you with is the process of gathering the right materials. After that, it's up to you!

My Paints and Supplies

Painting doesn't need to be expensive
Painting doesn't need to be expensive

Helpful Odds n' Ends

  • Wax paper
  • Old newspaper
  • A few old towels and a roll of paper towels
  • A shoebox (it's easier than using the carton the paints come in)
  • A can or plastic jar (washed well with the label removed)
  • A flat surface, about the size of a hardcover book, that you can cover with wax paper (I use a thin plastic cutting board).

Well, alright... I want you to be creative, but this process isn't supposed to be cruel. Acrylic paint stains everything it touches (oops, did I forget to mention that?) Many, many messes ago, these are some of the things I learned...

Tips and Tricks for Non-Millionaires Who Don't Own an Art Studio

Choose an area and make it mess-proof. A card table or workbench works well. Cover it with newspaper so you can paint without worrying about stains. An old plastic tablecloth works just as well.

Wear stuff that looks good with paint smears. If you are anything like me, you will get paint on your clothes (and your face, and your glasses, and your ipod, etc.)

Pick a sink you will use while painting. Empty it (unless you like the taste of paint water on your dishes). A bathroom sink will work, but I find it more difficult to keep it clean.

Fill your jar/can with lukewarm water, and remember to rinse your brushes often. Change the water every so often, and change it each time you switch to a different set of colors (i.e. from black to yellow). Each time you rinse your brush, rinse it well and then pat it dry.

Use small amounts of paint at a time. One drawback of acrylics is that they dry very quickly. There are a few different mediums you can add to paint that will slow down its drying, but not all of them work well with beginner sets of paints.

When you mix colors, use white first. I was amazed at how much white paint I needed to make purple. Mix paint with the tip of a paintbrush handle, it’s easier than using the bristles and it doesn’t waste paint.

The Only Rule

It is an easy rule to remember, because it is the only one. Never, ever, on no account, and under any circumstances throw away a painting! This is a rule you are not, by any means, allowed to break.

When you feel like a failure, which you will at one point or another, you might be tempted to chuck your half-painted-embarrassing-mess-of-a-canvas in the trash. You might even feel tempted to wait until no one is looking. It happens to everyone.

Always, and I cannot stress this enough, walk away and don’t look at it again until tomorrow. In the morning -- coffee cup in hand and dried paint underneath your fingernails -- you might still cringe and be very tempted take that walk out to the dumpster. Simply give yourself a day off from painting and enjoy your coffee. At some point, you will gumption up the courage to face the mud colored mess. This is where the learning begins

Why Take Up Painting?

Everyone should have a hobby (yes, even you). Painting is not only fun, I believe it is good for the soul. I paint because it's the only time my mind is at peace. I paint because I can express myself, and because I don't need to prove my talent to anyone by myself.

By the way, I never did well in art class. I still cannot draw from an object or a picture. The thought of painting a still life makes me break out in a cold sweat.

Luckily, there is no wrong way to paint. I still can't draw a stick figure, but being good at everything is overrated.

After reading this Hub, are you still terrified at the thought of painting with acrylics?

See results

The Supplies

Princeton Brush-Princeton Series 9000 Brown Handled Brush, Set of 7, for Acrylic, Oil and Watercolor-Mixed Media Paintbrushes
Princeton Brush-Princeton Series 9000 Brown Handled Brush, Set of 7, for Acrylic, Oil and Watercolor-Mixed Media Paintbrushes

I like to use brushes with a long handle, because I can create a wider variety of brush strokes

Darice11-Inch-by-14-Inch Stretched Canvas, 2-Pack
Darice11-Inch-by-14-Inch Stretched Canvas, 2-Pack

Begin with small canvas sizes... It takes a whole lot of paint to cover a canvas!

Loew Cornell 1021075 Simply Art Natural Table Easel
Loew Cornell 1021075 Simply Art Natural Table Easel

A good easel for beginners. I use an easel because it's easier on my neck.

Royal & Langnickel Acrylic Painting Easel Set
Royal & Langnickel Acrylic Painting Easel Set

The whole shebang for those who are more serious



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    • JimTxMiller profile image

      Jim Miller 4 years ago from Wichita Falls, Texas

      It has been years, now, since I picked up a brush other than to paint the garage. I like your emphasis here on doing art for ones' own joy and fulfillment. I seriously doubt Van Gogh set out to be the Bill Gates of the art world.

    • ifeoma obidike profile image

      ifeoma obidike 4 years ago

      that is true

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Enjoyed your tips on finding the artist inside. Recently I've given in to the urge to paint and ended up painting small pictures on 4 x 4 tiles. It's great to get away and just let the creative feelings flow through the brush. I saw a Picasso the other day that had been undiscovered for a number of years, stored away in a boat shed. The estimate of its worth was around $100,000, although it wasn't much to look at. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    • greencha profile image

      greencha 4 years ago from UK

      Inspiring article,thanks,must have another go at that large painting I tried to do of my parrot,I nearly scrapped it..

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