Best practical painting advice I’ve received

I got the two following pieces of advice from Ashley Picanco’s lovely blog. To experienced / academically trained painters, I’m sure this is common knowledge. But to someone like me, this was revolutionary to my painting practice.

The best practical painting advice I’ve received is to never paint onto a pure white canvas / paper. This distorts your perception of colour by making all your colours look gloomy by comparison. It becomes incredibly difficult to judge colour relations with the commanding interference of stark white. It is best to begin with a colour wash, called a ‘ground’ in any colour (beige, grey, green, pink, blue … you get the idea) except white. I have wasted much paint and time trying to paint straight onto white paper, only to have the white thwart all my attempts at seeing colour in life-like context.

The second-best painting advice I’ve received is to always lower the saturation of my colours. Very few colours you encounter day to day are highly saturated, so when used in a painting, they make it look like …. a painting, and an unrealistic one at that. It goes without saying that both these pieces of advice apply to traditional representational art styles, ie. if you want your painting to look like a scene from real life seen with the naked human eye. I don’t really think or talk about modern / abstract art since I don’t consider it a discipline per say, I like to think of most but not all modern art as ‘background noise’.

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