If you live in Vancouver, you have probably learned a lot about art without even trying.
Whether you’ve taken a stroll through the Vancouver Art Gallery or simply passed by some of the incredible murals on the city’s buildings during the Vancouver Mural Festival - it’s not hard to see that the local art scene is bursting with talented new artists.
Given Vancouver’s intense natural beauty and passionate cultural scene, it should be easy to see why local artists continue to flourish despite the rising costs of living and urban gentrification. Artists in British Columbia paint everything from forest scenes to vibrant self-portraits, inspiring any amateur artist to start their own practice. With so many ideas to draw from, you may be seeking advice on how to get started in becoming a painter yourself.
The best way to find your place in Vancouver’s art scene is to understand the different types of painting courses that you are likely to encounter in the city. Let’s have a look at the three most common painting mediums that are prevalent in everything from artwork you’d see in a gallery to mural on a downtown street.
How to Choose a Painting Class in Vancouver
Choosing a painting class typically involves considering the type of medium you want to work in. If you have no experience in painting, pick a medium that will be the easiest for you to access. The most common paint options available are watercolour, acrylic, and oil.
It’s important to note that painting skills are fundamentally connected to other artistic abilities. Drawing is especially linked to painting, so you may also want to seriously consider taking drawing classes before or at the same time as your painting coursework. If drawing courses are not in your budget, practicing your drawing skills independently can go a long way - make sure you are sketching at least once every week to make sure your progress continues.
Let’s take a look at the main types of painting classes you will likely encounter as you learn how to paint.
Watercolour painting was probably the first experience you had in picking up a brush to create your first painting as a child. This popular medium has a lot of advantages: watercolours are not only affordable but great for all skill levels.
Watercolour painting is an excellent class for beginners looking for some type of art instruction. If you’re looking for classes for kids, many neighbourhood studios will offer watercolour instruction for young artists as the medium is generally non toxic and easy to clean.
Don’t worry, watercolour painting isn’t simply for rookie painters: famous artists like Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keeffe used this medium throughout their careers.
Acrylic paint is water-based and simply needs water to be used as a solvent. Beginner painters find this medium the easiest to handle. Despite having relatively modern origins in the mid 1900s, acrylic painting is one of the most popular types of paint for both students and professionals.
Almost any art studio or art centre in Vancouver offers classes in acrylics, so you are in luck if this is the medium you want to work in. You can even find plenty of single evening options for a teambuilding event or a bachelorette if you are planning a special event - because of the consistency and affordability of acrylics, it’s a fun medium to use and you’ll instantly feel like Picasso!
If you’re looking for some fine art inspiration, you will be spoiled for choice. Contemporary works like Lichtenstein’s “Pop Art” and Hockney’s “A Bigger Splash” were done in acrylic. Both of these artists used acrylics to create clean, modern lines in their work.
Oil painting bears a striking contrast to acrylic and watercolour - in terms of cost, composition, and the kinds of additional materials you will need. For these reasons, oil painting isn’t usually taught as a beginners course and will often require background knowledge in painting beforehand. There does exist oil painting courses for beginners if you are determined to start with this challenging medium.
As you may have guessed, oil paint is an oil based medium. You will need to use liquids like turpentine to act as a solvent for oil paint - oil and water simply do not mix. You’ll find plenty of famous artists that used oil paint if you are looking for inspiration. The famous “Mona Lisa” and Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” are just a couple of renowned works done in oil paint; most of the world’s greatest masterpieces were done in this medium.
Essential Painting Techniques
Starting out as a beginner in any field often means navigating new vocabulary and jargon. Painting is no different, and you will find numerous terms to describe painting techniques and methods throughout your art education. When you’re still figuring out what colours to buy or where to find the required reading, it may be overwhelming to learn terms like colour mixing or apply shading techniques when creating a still life painting.
On that note, now is probably the best time to learn some art lingo so you are not completely lost in that first month of classes. Here is a list of some of essential painting techniques associated with oil, watercolour, and acrylic painting.
Underpainting and glazing are two of the most essential techniques involved in oil and acrylic painting, and these techniques are easy to remember because they are exactly what you’d expect them to be.
Underpainting is when painters spread a thin, neutral layer of paint on the canvas before setting to work on actually painting their subject. It involves painting the canvas in a base colour, then adding a sketch of the subject in monochromatic tones of that same colour on top of the initial layer.
In contrast, glazing is performed after the painting process. The painter spreads a transparent layer of special paint over the finished product. One might think of underpainting as preparing the canvas to deepen the painting’s texture and shading, while glazing enhances the painting’s overall colour while also adding a protective layer.
Some of the most common painting techniques go by different names depending on the medium. Stippling is one example of a popular technique used with acrylics, oil, and watercolour.
Though it sounds somewhat complicated, stippling is basically the process of stabbing your canvas with a brush. As strange as that sounds, numerous painters employ this technique to achieve different outcomes. Stippling is used for a variety of reasons, and can create effects that range from looking rudimentary to downright dreamy.
You can see stippling in action by having a look at the work of the renowned French painter Georges Seurat. His post-impressionist painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” is a painstakingly beautiful exercise in stippling (also known as pointilism). A multitude of meticulously placed coloured dots capture a scene of Parisians enjoying a beautiful day on the banks of the Seine.
Impasto is another commonly used technique employed by oil and acrylic painters. Impasto involves utilizing a tool known as a palette knife to spread thick layers of paint over a canvas. Vincent Van Gogh used this technique in some of his best known works and is a high-impact way to add texture and intensity to a painting.
It may surprise you to learn that watercolour is the oldest painting medium: watercolour paintings have been found in caves older than most countries. Numerous techniques can be employed to paint in watercolour whether you are painting a vast landscape, a still life of fruit in a bowl, or a human portrait.
Wet on wet is a technique that refers to painting on a wet surface. It can also be used when painting with acrylics or oil paints. To paint wet on wet, the artist paints wet paint onto an existing layer of wet paint or a wet surface, creating diffuse shapes. Using this method may mean you have to work quickly, as you must paint your subsequent layers before the initial layer of paint dries.
As the name suggests, wet on dry watercolour painting refers to taking paint mixed with a solvent and painting on a dry canvas. The effect is much harder edges and less fading or bleeding of colour. Experimenting with both of these techniques will give you a good feel for watercolour painting and provide you with a starting point for developing your own methods.
Art Materials and Supplies
With an understanding of basic painting methods and techniques, and an awareness of concepts like colour theory and chiaroscuro, it’s time to start considering what kind of painting materials you may actually have to purchase. Though many workshops and instructors may have basic materials like easels, palettes, or brushes to lend, having your own supplies will make you look and feel like a serious artist. You’ll also be able to take your painting practice anywhere you want, whether it is for an afternoon in Stanley Park or a weekend at the cottage.
If it’s within your budget, you can have a blast shopping for brushes, paint, and canvasses. Staff in art supply stores like Opus or DeSerres are often artists themselves that can share first-hand knowledge about the supplies you will be purchasing.
Before starting art school or a workshop, you should make sure you have brushes with three or more different heads. Your instructor should be able to tell you which types will be best for the course, but we recommend going with small, wide, and medium brushes.
When it comes to picking out paint colours, beginners will find it best to be prepared with at least four or five basic colours. White and black are an absolute must-have since they will be required to shade or illuminate your paintings.
There are a huge variety of canvasses to choose from: stores may carry everything from basic cardboard to cotton canvases to expensive linen. Your decision should be primarily driven by purpose, length of practice, budget, and the subject you plan to paint.
Where to Find Art Classes and Workshops in Vancouver
There are so many ways for artists of all ages to get started on their painting journey. Though Vancouver is generally known for its outdoor activities and coastal vibes, the city is packed with opportunities to practice painting in open studios, art centres, and major galleries. Here are some ways you can start taking painting classes in Vancouver.
Searching for an instructor online is one popular method if you are looking for a more one-to-one experience or someone to come to your home and work with your children. Finding the right instructor online can be fast, rewarding, and surprisingly affordable. Check out some of the tutors on Superprof for talented teachers near you.
If you want to take adult classes after work, check out the class schedule of a local art studio or community centre; you will find plenty in Vancouver. Here’s a quick list of some popular local studios that offer classes:
- 4 Cats
- The Artway
- Thrive Art Studio
- Fibre Arts Studio
- The Brush and Wand Studio
Don’t forget to check Eventbrite or Meetup websites for Paint Night sessions if you want to try out painting for a single session over a glass of wine. Your local community centre will also likely offer classes over longer sessions for a low price, and most major galleries host painting events for an unforgettable experience.