Canada has a strong reputation in the arts, with painters capturing everything from its majestic landscapes to its diverse cultural identity. Famous painters like the Lawren Harris and AJ Casson of the prolific Group of Seven are some of the first artists that come to mind when considering Canadian art, and any art history fan will recognize Norval Morriseau’s vibrant masterpieces. While Canadian Art History is relatively young by international standards, it’s easy to see in any Canadian art museum that cultural output is flourishing.
If you’re inspired by Canadian artists, masters like Picasso, or simply looking for a new creative outlet, learning how to paint is a great way to start exploring your artistic potential. Understanding the different paint mediums you will encounter in your search for art instruction will give you a context for embarking on your journey as a visual artist.
Let’s take a closer look at classes and techniques associated with the three most common mediums:
Choosing a Painting Class Calgary
You’ll find a lot of painting classes in a large city like Calgary, so it’s good to start by deciding which paint medium you will want to work with. It’s also important to note that drawing skills are essential to developing your abilities as a painter. Always try to keep an artist’s sketchbook on hand for basic drawing and sketching practice: having good drawing skills will go a long way in improving your painting skills.
Watercolour, as the name suggests, is a water based paint that uses water as a solvent. The oldest paintings in the world were done in watercolour. Watercolour paint is composed of some of the most basic and widely available substances, making the medium one of the most popular today. Because of its widespread popularity, there is no shortage of art instruction centred on using watercolour as its medium.
Beautiful watercolour paintings can be found on anything from paper to the walls of a church. It’s a popular medium among beginners and seasoned art professionals, so if this is the paint you want to work in you’ll be in good company.
Oil painting classes are not nearly as commonplace as watercolour, so finding the right class can be more of a challenge. Oil painting was popularized during the Renaissance, and was used by some of the finest painters in the world. These paintings have endured over hundreds of years and still sell for millions. However, oil paint tends to be more expensive than its watercolour and acrylic counterparts and can be somewhat unwieldy to use.
Since oil paint is oil based, it cannot be combined with water when colour mixing or attempting to change its consistency. Turpentine is a commonly used solvent, and its volatile smell will help you to quickly understand why oil paint is mainly used by more experienced artists.
Compared to watercolour and oil paints, acrylic paint is a young medium. Acrylics were developed in the mid-1900s, and swiftly became a favourite among amateur and professional painters. It’s affordable, accessible, and lends itself well to a modern aesthetic.
If taking acrylic painting classes interests you, take a closer look at the numerous contemporary Pop Art and abstract paintings that use acrylics. Finding artists that serve as personal inspiration is a great way to kickstart your painting journey and will help you develop your own style.
Painting Techniques and How to Use Them
Though you are probably eager to get your paintbrush moving on the canvas, it will be helpful to familiarise yourself with commonly used painting terms and techniques you will hear in your painting classes. One of the most fundamental concepts you will want to learn early on is colour theory because it will likely inform any painting you create.
Whether you are painting a live human figure, a still life painting of a bowl of fruit, or even cartooning - colour theory will likely come into play. Colour theory explains how we perceive colour, and how colours mix to create new colours. The most popular depiction of this theory is seen through the colour wheel.
Even if you’ve learned about the colour wheel in elementary school, it’s a good idea to review concepts like complementary and supplementary colours in order to develop and improve your colour mixing and composition skills.
Here is a quick summary of some of the most common painting techniques you’ll likely run into in any acrylic, oil, or watercolour painting class.
It’s important to note that many techniques associated with one medium can be applied to another, but it may be called a different name. One example is known as dry brush: with this technique, the painter uses unmixed acrylic paint and applies it onto a dry canvas.
Another popular method commonly used in acrylic painting (as well as the other mediums) is called stippling. Stippling involves dabbing your canvas with the brush to create a series of dots that create a larger image. The technique creates depth and texture and also produces a dreamy effect.
Oil paint also has a version of the dry brush technique called scumbling. Scumbling involves applying a thin layer of oil paint onto a dry, previously painted surface using a dry brush. The technique enables colour below to show through, and can evoke a hazy atmosphere in the painting.
With acrylics, the wet on wet technique typically involves painting a wet canvas with paint that has been thinned out with a solvent. In the context of oil painting, the method is known as alla prima and refers to the act of painting on top of another wet layer of paint. This technique adds texture to the painting.
Watercolour painting is deceptively simple, and yet there are numerous ways you can use this medium. One classic technique is called flat wash, which means mixing the watercolour paint with water until you have the desired amount and painting the colour over a large surface. In contrast , wet on dry technique involves applying a layer of flat wash over another layer of flat wash that has already dried.
Understanding core painting techniques will help you improve the quality of your work. Once you have mastered the basics, you can start experimenting with new techniques and develop your own methods. With time and practice, you’ll start producing portraiture, abstraction, and landscapes you’ll be excited to hang on your living room wall.
Art Materials and Supplies
Learning the basics of painting is an important first step in starting your artistic career - knowing which supplies and materials you will need is next. Remember, these are the tools that are necessary to expressing your creative visions, so invest in materials you will truly enjoy using.
Buying art supplies can feel like a financial strain when you are starting up and also paying for your classes. However, your art instructor likely understands this: they will normally have extra palettes and easels you can borrow if they are not included as part of the course.
Becoming a more serious artist, however, will likely mean that you will have to purchase your own painting materials. When you do get to this point, it will be important to establish a realistic budget before you walk into an art supply store. Keeping this in mind, seriously consider buying a selection of small, wide, and medium sized brushes.
Having three or four types of brushes on hand is important as each type of brush serves a different purpose. A flat, wide brush, for example, is essential for covering large portions of a canvas. Trying to achieve the same task would be time consuming and tedious. Of course, smaller brushes are needed to depict finer details and shading.
To ensure you get the most out of your investment, make sure you clean your brushes properly after every use. How you clean your brushes will likely depend on the type of hair they have and the medium you are working in. In any event, taking care of your brushes will prevent having to shop regularly.
Finally, you will need to identify what kind of paint you will need in your classes. Your first priority is likely to get the right colours to make your creations. Make sure you have black and white as they are essential for mixing. Then consider what you will be painting and what kind of palette you will need to achieve the look you want. A starter kit may be right for you if you are overwhelmed by the process of selecting colours.
If you start to see yourself painting over the long term, you’ll want to consider investing more money into quality products, tools, and possibly even your own home art studio or a rental in a larger space.
Where to Find An Art Class or Workshop in Calgary
With its close proximity to dramatic mountain terrain and bustling city centre, Calgary is the perfect place to start painting. A quick search will give you plenty of options for classes, skill levels, and schedules online. Superprof, for example, will connect you with plenty of instructors.
If casual evening painting sessions or meet-ups are what you are after, check websites like Eventbrite or Vin Gogh for “paint and sip” events. These events are great for delving into painting and having fun without making major financial or time commitments, even if you have no experience.
If a more serious approach is what you are after, check out Calgary’s galleries and arts studios to sign up for adult classes taught by a local artist or art teacher. Grasby Art Studio and the North Mount Pleasant Art Centre are just a couple of places that offer options for painting enthusiasts. Looking for a class for your kids? Young artists will find lots of weekend and after school options at community centres or art schools.
If an art degree is what you are after, Alberta University of the Arts offers programs in painting among other art forms. Alberta has top rated universities to study art and design and you will likely be spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting a program that is right for you.