Painting classes are happening all over Toronto, and for good reason. Torontonians love art - there are fewer things more relaxing than creating art indoors on a cold winter day or capturing a bustling city scene on canvas on a summer afternoon. After a long day of working and commuting, painting is the perfect way to channel your creative energy.
Aspiring Toronto artists are spoiled for choice when it comes to learning new painting skills. From studio classes to paint nights to online instruction, the options for learning are endless. To help you narrow down your choices, let’s look at some of the factors to consider when picking the right painting class.
Choosing a Painting Class Toronto
You might picture yourself swirling new colours in paint-splattered smocks on your first day of art class, but good painting composition actually begins with basic drawing skills. While it’s not necessary to take drawing classes to be a great painter, it is important to continually develop sketching and drawing abilities.
Drawing and painting are interconnected skills, so it’s a great idea to keep a sketchbook on hand to practice figure drawing or simple sketching before starting any art class. Keeping a sketchbook will also help you to capture ideas on the fly during those moments inspiration suddenly hits.
When you feel confident you’ve acquired some basic landscape and life drawing skills, you should think about what type of art medium you want to work in. Below are some of the most common forms of painting you might encounter in painting classes.
A favourite for students and experts, acrylic paints are composed of pigments mixed with a water-based solution. You will probably encounter acrylics in your first painting course because they are easy to work with and are less toxic than other paints.
Perhaps surprisingly, acrylic paint is relatively new and was invented in the mid 1900s. Many contemporary artists use acrylics in their work because they are so versatile and work well in everything landscape to portrait painting.
Oil paint can be challenging to handle so you’ll probably want to take art lessons if it’s your medium of choice. Oil paint is pigment mixed with oil, which makes it slow to dry, compared to fast drying acrylic.
Oil paint has been used for hundreds of years: the world’s oldest oil paintings date back to the 7th century in Afghanistan. So many masterpieces have been done in oil paint due to its versatility and durability.
Using oil paint can also be challenging to use because substances like turpentine must be used to thin it out. It’s also comparatively expensive and composed of more volatile compounds, which often makes it a difficult medium to begin with. You’ll likely find more advanced painters in oil-painting classes.
Watercolour is the oldest medium, and can be found in some of the earliest cave paintings. Ancient humans mixed natural pigments with water to create the earliest watercolours. Despite being simple to make, some of the most historically significant works of art - like the Sistine Chapel - are done in watercolour.
Watercolour continues to be one of the most popular and accessible mediums in the world. You probably have memories of using watercolour palettes as a child with a cup of water on the side and a small plastic brush in hand. Watercolour is typically non-toxic and inexpensive, making it a favourite in schools and homes.
Canadian artists like the famous Group of Seven used watercolour in their work, so be sure to check their paintings out if you are thinking of taking a watercolour class.
Basic Painting Techniques
It’s useful to familiarise yourself with basic painting techniques and tips before plunging into that first class. Start by acquainting yourself with the colour wheel, which provides a fundamental set of guidelines for seeing and mixing colours. An understanding of primary, secondary, and tertiary colours will guide your choice and usage of paint.
Whether you are painting a portrait, still life, or abstract piece, every canvas normally undergoes a process of priming or underpainting. This technique is when a layer of primer is applied on canvas to enhance colour, prevent uneven absorption, and ensure the paint adheres to the canvas after it dries.
With a basic understanding of colour and primer in mind, let’s learn some of the most common techniques for using acrylic, oil, and watercolour paints.
Acrylic painting techniques are often analogous to the techniques used with other paint mediums. Dry brush is a method of applying paint exactly the way it sounds: putting paint on a dry brush and painting directly on to dry canvas.
In contrast, washing is a technique that involves thinning out acrylic paint with water. The amount of water you use will correlate to the kind of colour and texture you’re looking for. Mixing enough water with acrylic will give you a watercolour effect with a much faster drying time.
Stippling is a method that involves applying the tip of your brush repeatedly to the canvas surface to create the effect of small dots. This technique was used by famous artists like Georges Seurat, and can give way to incredible detailing.
Scumbling is the oil paint version of dry brush. The technique involves applying oil paint onto a previously painted surface, rendering a hazy or unfocused atmosphere in a painting.
Alla prima is the wet on wet technique of oil painting. This means that you will have to apply the paint on the first layer without letting it dry. This tends to give the painting more texture.
Flat wash is an essential watercolour technique used frequently by artists. Moisten your paintbrush with water, dip it into the paint cake to pick up some colour, then place the colour you have gathered in a dish or palette. Mix with water until you get the colour you want, and use your brush in horizontal strokes onto dry canvas or paper surface until the desired area is covered.
Wet on wet, however, is a technique that means moistening a segment of the paper first and then applying a flat wash onto it. This creates a dreamier effect typically found in watercolour paintings.
Painting Materials and Art Supplies
While creativity is at the heart of artistic creation, you will need to buy some basic materials and supplies in order to make your vision a reality. Whether you take part in studio classes or are part of a college painting course, it is important that you investigate what kind of materials will be available for you to borrow, especially if you are on a budget.
For example, many instructors tend to have an extra palette or brushes that they won’t mind letting students use if they’re strapped for cash. Art studios and Paint Night sessions are likely to supply the materials that will be used.
If you are taking part in a beginners course, you will likely need to get some basic colours of acrylic paint and supplies. Stores like Curry’s or Above Ground have a great selection of supplies and brands to choose from. Your instructor or the people at the art supply store will be able to give you some recommendations on what colours will be necessary for you to be successful in the course.
If you’re learning watercolour painting, the paper which you will be painting on is equally as important as the paints your choose. Because watercolour is normally done on paper and not canvas, the type of watercolour painting you'll be doing will affect the thickness of the paper you will need. A good practice is to purchase several sheets of paper in a range of thicknesses to experiment with.
Oil painting courses will require a bit more investment. If you’re a beginner, only buy the colours required of your course as oil paint can get expensive. As you advance in your skills, you may find yourself looking into easels and lighting for your own personal studio.
Where to Find Art Classes in Toronto
Toronto has a huge arts community, making it easy for aspiring artists to find classes for students of all ages and levels of expertise. From single evening Paint Night classes, seniors classes, kids art courses, to finding an open studio - finding the type of art instruction you're looking for is just a click away.
Many boutique studios in Toronto, like the Toronto School of Art or Articulations, focus on everything from drawing classes to painting. If you're looking for institutions that offer evening courses, the Art Gallery of Ontario offers both classes in studio art, drawing skills, and sculpture. Finding tutors from these organisations, or from the many Superprof tutors available to you online, will enable you to develop your artwork at your own pace.
Another great option for people living in the city is not necessarily to enrol in an art school, but to take advantage of the Paint Nights that pop up around the city, all year long. Sources like Paint Nite and Eventbrite can help you find an upcoming painting event close to where you live.
If you're simply looking for places to develop your own self-practice, consider renting a part of or a whole art studio in the city. Many artists, in fact, choose to share a space with other artists as a way of both expanding their supplies and having a space to store all of their materials.
Other than that, practicing in parks like Trinity-Bellwoods or High Park can be a great opportunity to practice open air painting. The only downside being, of course, our long season of wintry weather!
No matter where in Toronto you live, you can find a painting tutor with Superprof.