5 Artist Mistakes (That You Shouldn't Make)

5 Artist Mistakes (That You Shouldn't Make)

Here are 5 mistakes I see amateur artists make all the time. In an effort to educate everyone on some of the common issues I see, here they are:

1. Using Cheap Paint. Lots of cheap artists use cheap paint. If you're on a fixed income and cannot afford artist quality paint, I understand. If that's not the case however, you should use the best paint that you can afford. Many of you buy what's on sale at the local big box store  (which is always tremendously overpriced) instead of experimenting with different quality paints to see what you like the best.

I am referring to cheap paint as student grade paint. Student grade paint is comprised mostly of fillers and only a small amount of pigment, rendering the colors dull, drab and sometimes muddy. By contrast, professional quality paint is 100% pigment with no fillers, only an acrylic medium as a binder. The colors are bright and bold and clear. By using professional quality paint, your paintings will look fresher, more alive and more beautiful than ever. Give them a try.

2. Not Using Enough Paint. Cheap artists also don't use enough paint. These artists think they can put out lots of dime-sized dabs of paint on a palette and make a painting - WRONG! If you don't have enough paint on the palette you will never have it on the canvas. You'll then ask me at a workshop why your paint isn't covering the canvas - it's simply because you aren't using enough paint. I always encourage my students to purchase paint in jars so that any remaining paint on the palette can be placed back in the jar to minimize waste. If you're using paint in tubes guess what? That extra paint isn't going back in the tube (although I have seen cheap artists try to put it back!).

3. Using Non-Archival Materials. I have seen on social media quite a few artists using drywall mud on their paintings - I assume this is to develop surface texture. I cannot emphasize enough how detrimental this can be on a painting. And of course you'll say, "I put such and such sealant over it, blah, blah, blah..." Look folks, drywall mud is for drywall, not paintings. It is not archival, it is not meant to be on canvases, it is not flexible once it hardens. It will crack and degrade over time. If you want to develop a similar texture, use flexible, acrylic modeling paste which is archival and specifically designed to be used on painting surfaces. Is it more expensive than drywall mud? Yes, but don't those who buy your work deserve the best materials? Do they deserve to have problems with your paintings a few years after they purchase them? No, they do not.

Sell a few of those paintings you have laying around your studio so you can afford some professional quality, archival materials. Your customers deserve it.

4. Painting Directly From a Photograph. Before you place lots of nasty comments about this one, hear me out. I have talked about this before and received the nastiest comments you can imagine. Use the photograph as a reference only to develop a painting composition and value study. Once those are complete, put the photo away. By using this process, you are not directly copying the photograph. You are only use it as a reference to develop a composition. This is the same process that I used for 15 years to develop my compositions for watercolor paintings. Some of the best painters in the world employ this process and you should too.

5. Overworking a Painting. I see over and over in EVERY workshop I teach, students who have a beautiful, fresh painting begin to murder it by overworking. You will beat every ounce of life, color, freshness and vitality right out of it.

I believe part of the issue is artists don't take the time to look at the painting to really see it. They simply want to keep "working on it" regardless of whether it needs more work or not. Or they want to fill the allotted painting time. As artists, we have to be able to see and analyze what we are painting to make sure we don't kill it before it has a chance to live. When you think you're finished, you should have stopped 30 minutes before.

Overworking kills more paintings than bad color choices and poor compositions. Keep it light and fresh and vital and your paintings will be better for it.

If you'd like to learn to more about abstract painting, then please join me for a painting workshop: (You can view a list of 2018 and 2019 workshops HERE)

  • August 23-25 Franciscan Life Process Center, Lowell, MI. For more information and registration Click Here.
  • September 6-8 Live Your Art Studio, Carlsbad, CA. For more information and registration Click Here.
  • September 10-12 Merced Art Center, Merced, CA. To register contact Bo Petty 209-388-1090.
  • September 21-23 New Braunfels Art League, New Braunfels, TX. For more information and registration Click Here
  • October 11-13 Binders Art, Atlanta, GA. For more information and registration Click Here.
  • October 19-21 Eastern Shore Art Center, Fairhope, AL. For more information and registration Click Here.
  • October 25-27 Painting Miles, Raleigh, NC. For more information and registration Click Here.
  • November 10-11 Art of the Carolinas, Raleigh, NC. For more information and registration Click Here.
  • November 14-16 David M. Kessler Fine Art Studio, Winston-Salem, NC. For information and registration Click Here.

As always, thanks so much for your support!


P.S. If you you'd like to learn how to paint abstracts in the comfort of your home or studio, Abstract Painting Academy is my online course:

Abstract Painting Academy is the next best thing to a live workshop event. You can find out more by Clicking Here.