Starting an Acrylic Painting

Before I start a project, I usually have a spark of inspiration. For my new painting, the “spark” came from my breakfast! I cut an apple in half and thought, “That would make a cool painting!” I’ve painted fruit before. One of my favorites is of oranges. The inspiration came from a painting I saw on Modern Family. It hangs in Gloria and Jay’s house. After that, I painted limes, which I don’t love half as much as the oranges.

orange limes

I took several photos of my apple, to have for reference. I cropped the photo and added a grid, to help me transfer it to the larger canvas. I often turn the photo and canvas upside down, to make sure I am drawing things correctly. I’ve heard it said, that turning things upside down, uses a different part of your brain. I definitely think it’s easier to dissect something upside down. You see the lines and shapes instead of (in this case) an apple. I think it works especially well with faces and bodies.


Before I draw on the canvas, I cover the canvas with a medium tone that I think will work well when it shows through (other layers of paint). For this painting I used an orange/yellow color. I never really know what color to paint the edges of the canvas, but I paint them at this time. This way they are covered and I can always add paint later.


A while ago, I read an interesting book, “The Acrylic Painter’s Book of Styles and Techniques” by Rachel Wolf. What I liked, about the book, was learning how different people work. Some painters cover the canvas, in one color, first. Some painters draw in detail, before they start painting. A painting class greatly influenced my process. Before the class, I worked mostly in watercolor. I know it sounds silly and basic, but I learned, in that class, how to hold and stroke, with bigger brushes. In watercolor, I was using smaller brushes and it was similar to drawing and holding a pencil. I also learned all about mixing colors. The rest of my “process” is developing as I spend more time painting.

When my base color was dry, I used vine charcoal to sketch out my composition. I tried very hard not to center the apple on the canvas, but no matter what I did, it seemed to fall mostly in the center! I am vowing here and now, not to use charcoal again. My teacher recommended it, but it is messy and hard to get off. I don’t really understand the point of it, if I’m going to erase it! If I don’t erase it, it mixes with the paint. I am probably doing something wrong. After I erased most of the charcoal, I started “sketching” with paint, which worked much better. And, as long as the paint is still wet, I can use a wet brush to “erase” any part of my “sketch.”

orangebase applesketch

After the sketch was completed, I added some of the color. The whole process, not including drying time between steps, was fairly quick – less than two hours. I was pretty happy with what I had accomplished! The next day, I realized, that this is the point, where I usually put the canvas on a shelf and walk away. For some reason it is hard for me to finish. I previously thought it was boredom. I think I am worried about ruining it and am unsure how to proceed. This month, I’ve worked hard to pick up some of these forgotten projects. Doing this, has taught me, that although it is hard to start, within minutes, I’m back “into” the painting. I am committed to finishing the apple!

apple1 apple2 apple3


I have another painting – an abstract painting – that I’ve been trying to decide how to finish. My problem with this painting is, I didn’t have a well thought out plan from the beginning. I’d love your input on how I should finish it – just fill out my online poll!

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