I get impatient whenever I have to let a painting dry. So, I always have five or six paintings going on at once. This also keeps me unattached to the outcome, so the process is playful. That way, while one background dries, I can start another. Or when I mess up one face, I can start on another and try again. Then when I find a color combination I like or a fun technique, I repeat it.
For me, it takes many paintings and many happy accidents to get to something I like.
Here are 5 Ways to Overcome Blank Canvas Roadblocks:
Fingerpaint – My favorite way to cover up a blank canvas is to fingerpaint. There can never be a wrong way and it’s so fun to smoosh paint around. I squeeze out 2-3 colors right into my painting surface, smudge them together and add extra fingerprints to see what happens. I usually begin with colors I’ve bought but don’t love or never use, since my first layers generally get covered up. It’s a fun way to uncover new color combinations and keeps me less attached to the outcome.
Create a landscape – I’m always taking photos of vast skylines, open fields and farmlands, so I often keep these landscapes in mind when covering up the white space. I’ll squeeze 3 colors right onto my painting surface (maybe cobalt teal and titanium white acrylic paints, then a spill of fluorescent green acrylic ink) and, using a wide or foam brush, I spread the color back and forth horizontally until I come up with a soft, very imperfect sky, horizon line and ground. This is fun to do with a beach landscape in mind too (using coral, pink and yellow sunset hues).
Add Ink – Right now, I’m especially loving the look of many thin layers to get a stained glass effect. If I don’t like the color of something, I’ll brush my favorite color if India, Caligraphy or acrylic ink on top (once the other layers have dried).
Layer different supplies – It’s fun to layer lots of inks and acrylics, then let them dry before adding a bit of soft pastel, water and titanium white on top. As it all dries, the colors really intensify.
Paint circles – For a while I felt like all of my backgrounds were looking the same. Sure, my first layers generally get covered up, but they still initially inspire my character. So I got inspired my floral wallpaper. Since I like to keep my backgrounds loose and free, I started creating my floral pattern with circles. I choose three colors – one color for a pattern of circles, one color for an outline around each circle, and one color to fill in any leftover white space.
No matter which of these techniques I use to cover a blank surface, my intention is always to play and have fun covering up the blank canvas in my first layers before I add my whimsical characters, so my process remains loose and free, focused on experimenting and having fun. It all reminds me there’s no right or wrong way.
I hope that helps to keep you inspired!