Painting Exploration One: The Puzzle Tree

The next series here at MarlaneDesign is
called Painting Explorations, and will cover the ways that someone who does not consider themselves an artist in the “I do paintings” kind of way can begin to explore canvas and paint. These will not be technical tutorials, but suggestions for opening up a new creative outlet!

One of my favorite paintings is called The Puzzle Tree, a tiny tree on rough canvas that I did when I was 17.The design resulted from having only several shades of green and brown paint to use and not much else. I like to think of it as an example of just using what you have and seeing what comes of it. It’s also an example of how playing around with paint when you’re first starting out can result in some fun things that don’t require much technical skill. There was little precision in creating this piece!

To do it yourself, try playing with a limited number colors inspired by a room in your house, using a cheap canvas. I got this one at a garage sale and painted over the unfinished sketch that was there, but you can get tiny canvases at art stores for as little as a dollar. Make it no pressure. Put on some music that you love or an episode from a fave talk radio program (I am fond of This American Life!) I recommend starting with acrylic paints, since they dry faster. Play with shapes and brushstrokes that are interesting to you, taking inspiration from a chair or statue that you love. Don’t try to plan what you’re going to do, just let your mind respond to the strokes that end up on the canvas, creating vignettes and maybe even stories. Look at every “mistake” as an opportunity to go a different direction. If you find that you’re painting a landscape, start doing the detail by going from the image that is the farthest in back (in this case, the sky) to the image closest to you (the tree). You might just end up with something that compliments your decor for years to come!

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