It can be a common question to ask oneself ‘what to paint’? It is hard to keep a constant flow of ideas going all the time. Once in a while one does hit on something that brings forth a series of works, but these cases can be few and far in between. Especially if one is just starting out in painting.
In this post I will not be presenting specific painting ideas to ‘copy’. Rather, want to bring forth ideas and inspiration so you can get more ideas of what to paint. So that you can spend more time painting and less time thinking about what to paint.
Take inspiration from your own environment
One can easily take ones own surroundings for granted. You see it every day and it might at first appear normal or perhaps even boring to you. Or maybe you are very inspired by your surroundings! Either way, their is always a wealth of material to draw from right where you live.
Consider this painting of pears on a pink napkin by Diarmuid Kelley. It is a scene that anyone could very well just happen upon in their own home. The motif is ordinary but the way it is painted is extraordinary. Keep in mind as you paint that what you paint is much less important than HOW you paint something. Again, take a look at the piece below by Diarmuid Kelley. What makes it so striking to us are the beautiful color combinations and the composition – it makes you look at pears differently. At least it has this effect on me.
So, take a walk around your kitchen or other parts of your living space. You might surprise yourself at what you might find interest in to paint (or draw!).
Also, consider this painting by Gwen John of a view into a living room. This one alone clearly shows how many painting ideas can be gathered from around us.
Look at the Landscapes in Your Area
Take yourself on a joy ride into the country area where you live. Unless, of course you live in the inner city and going out into the country would mean more of a day trip like expedition. Even if driving out to the countryside is more difficult – there are so many interesting motifs to be found in a city!
However, if you are able, take a little drive with a sketchbook and or your painting supplies if you can. Try to find some landscapes that you might enjoy painting. This can be helpful especially if you have been painting inside for a while. There is something about working outside and switching up your routine that can do wonders! Look at the painting above by Edwin Dickinson – even a grey day can provide beautiful imagery to work with.
I also find it helpful to search online for nearby parks. You can sometimes get a general idea of what a park looks like by checking the photos of it that come up under google images. Just make sure that the images are indeed of the same park you are searching about! There are most likely multiple parks in the world with the same name.
Ask your friends to sit for you
Ask a good friend to sit for you. Just make sure that you won’t be worried or concerned about making your painting/ drawing look like your model. That is why it is important to ask someone you feel very comfortable around. You can offer them home made cookies as a thank you!
Bringing another individual into your studio and creative process can be invigorating. Painting is a very solitary activity as it involves being by oneself most of the time. So, having another individual in your studio can be a good way to switch things up and find more ideas.
Below you will see a painting by Nicolas Uribe. He often paints people in everyday environments. You can even have your model read or watch a movie as you paint them.
Here is an intimate portrait by Helene Schjerfbeck. Consider different angles and placements. You can walk around your model to consider all points of view.
Some More Inspiration
If there were just one book I could recommend on painting it would be Hawthorne on Painting. Reading this will not just inspire you to paint but also improve your painting. This book will transform your mind to think like a painter.
Velazquez has been the painters painter for hundreds of years. Looking at his work and learning from him is one of the most enriching things you can do for your painting! This complete volume of his works by Taschen is the best available on the market today!
Antonio Lopez Garcia is one of the supreme master of painting alive today. Having a volume of his work is a must have for any library.
Do you want to some help with color mixing?
I hope this post was helpful for you and provided some new ideas for you to paint! If you have any questions or thoughts just comment below. I will be happy to answer.