A Simple System For Getting Creative

Sometimes I have so many paintings in my head- until it’s time to paint. Here’s how I get creative without getting side tracked.When I just jump right into painting, I don’t feel settled and don’t focus as well. I also like to set aside three or four consecutive hours.

  1. A Clean Work Space.
    Nothing is more appealing than neatly laid out art supplies, a clean surface, and brushes that are ready to go. It’s also good for clearing your mind and getting excited about what you’re about to do without jumping into the deep end.Being organized as a painter is a challenge but it feels so much better to be busy when there’s not a lot of mental clutter in my space. This is also an invitation for the cat to join in.

    Serious artist at work. This is Phoebe, who has a knack for sitting down as soon as her humans stand up.
    Serious artist at work. This is my creative cat Phoebe, who has a knack for sitting down as soon as her humans stand up.
  2. Burn White Sage or a few candles
    I used to work at a white sage farm which is where I met Jeremy. So I prefer white sage to regular incense, which makes me sneeze. I buy my white sage from Amazon. It creates a pleasant, relaxing environment for painting. Candles are nice, too.
  3. Put on some music
    More often than not my background noise is the television in the other room, so I’ll put on some music or an audiobook or a guided meditation to listen to while I’m painting, so I get the calm happy thoughts into my paintings.
  4. Pour a drink.
    A pot of tea, a glass of juice, a glass of wine, or a cup of coffee; water’s healthy as long as you know which one is paint water and which one is not. Drinking acrylic paint won’t kill you (I’m still alive!) but it tastes terrible.

    saturday night paint and sip
    Saturday night in the artist studio.
  5. Get to work!
    By now my studio area is looking so appealing that it’s easy to let time vanish and create with my paintbrush.

Painting an Impressionist Monet Bridge Over Lilies

This is the second Monet painting in a series that I’m creating to teach at my Paint Nite events. This new one is called “Impressionist Monet Bridge Over Lilies.” You can search the title  + ‘Paint Nite’ to find out if it’s being taught in your area.

See the first one, “Impressionist Monet Water Lilies” here.

paint dark red areas to map out painting
Map out the composition. Using dark red I outlined the three parallel lines on the bridge, the reflection of the bridge in a smile shape, and that scrubby line under the three rainbows is the shoreline. I would make these all a bit thicker when I teach it.
Working from the dark red over to blueish purple, scrub in with the drybrush technique the shadowy areas. While the edges are fuzzy, the shapes should be opaque.
Working from the dark red over to blueish purple, scrub in with the drybrush technique the shadowy areas. While the edges are fuzzy, the shapes should be opaque.
I load my brush with blue and yellow and it mixes to a streaky green right on the canvas. Fill in the pond area around the reddish colored reflection. Its blue with a little teeny bit of white in some areas.
I load my brush with blue and yellow and it mixes to a streaky green right on the canvas. Fill in the pond area around the reddish colored reflection. Its blue with a little teeny bit of white in some areas.
Here you are with the finished emerald green painted pond.
Here you are with the finished emerald green painted pond.
Next up, chartreuse. Its lotsa yellow and a little little bit of blue, and it just piles right on top of the shoreline. Theres a little bit above the bridge but not much. Use vertical brush strokes, let it be streaky.
Next up, chartreuse. Its lotsa yellow and a little little bit of blue, and it just piles right on top of the shoreline. Theres a little bit above the bridge but not much. Use vertical brush strokes, let it be streaky.
Finish the top of the painting with more of that emerald green - teal combo.
Finish the top of the painting with more of that emerald green – teal combo. Use that dark green to add in some grassy texture along the shoreline, too.
Go over those dark red arcs with light blue. Its okay if that dark red shows through. Then add four vertical lines for the posts on the back of the bridge. IT looks good, but its a little flat.
Go over those dark red arcs with light blue. Its okay if that dark red shows through. Then add four vertical lines for the posts on the back of the bridge. It looks good, but it’s a little flat.
Use regular blue to add partial shadows in the bottom of the arcs. You dont have to completely paint over the light blue.
Use regular blue to add partial shadows in the bottom of the arcs. You don’t have to completely paint over the light blue.
Light blue again, but with just a tint of yellow to get seafoam. Put in the front railings of the bridge; four vertical posts and a rainbow overtop. They are above and beside the back railings.
Light blue again, but with just a tint of yellow to get seafoam. Put in the front railings of the bridge; four vertical posts and a rainbow overtop. They are above and beside the back railings.
Use white to highlight the front posts and railings. The white paint will make it pop forward!
Use white to highlight the front posts and railings. The white paint will make it pop forward! You can see this is where I added more paint to the red shadows, but I recommend teaching it this thick to begin with so you don’t have to go back. Every color change takes time.
Now were on the home stretch. Pale green streaks with the round brush begin the lily pads.
Now we are on the home stretch. Pale green streaks with the round brush begin the lily pads.
Layer those lily pads in varying green all the way to the bottom of the canvas.
Layer those lily pads in varying green all the way to the bottom of the canvas.
The lotus flowers are little three petaled Ws joined at the bottom. They are just three little brush strokes pivoting at the bottom.
The lotus flowers are little three petaled Ws joined at the bottom. They are just three little brush strokes pivoting at the bottom.
Add in some more streaky grasses in the shoreline if youve got a few more minutes.
Add in some more streaky grasses in the shoreline if you’ve got a few more minutes.

Painting the City of Angels in Acrylic Paint

I created the City of Angels and it is now licensed to Paint Nite for other Paint Nite artists to teach it across the continent!

Here are the main steps. While I was painting it, I started with a smoggy gray but went back and brightened all the colors near the end (not shown). Learn from my process and paint yours with fully saturated color from the beginning!

paint the background in pale blue acrylic paint
Paint the background in pale blue. I mixed the acrylic paint color on the canvas so that it would streak.
use pthalo blue and titanium white to paint rectangles I use golden acrylics
Using pthalo blue acrylic paint and white (in my home studio I use Titanium white from Golden acrylics), create different shades and layer on many rectangles to create the idea of buildings in the background. It looks grey in this photo but you really want it to pop so use blue.
use black brushstrokes to create the painting ground
Use black acrylic paint to create a fuzzy ground. I start the brushstroke at the bottom of the canvas and let up at the end of the stroke to create blades of grass. Again, this photo is quite desaturated.
palm trees painting
Place your palm trees with blue-black lumps.
paint palm tree trunks in acrylic paint
Pull the acrylic paint in downward brush strokes to create the ragged ends of the palm trees, than use horizontal brushstrokes to create the tree trunks. They can bend and wobble as they grow.
Use green and yellow paint to add the highlights into the grass and the treetops
I missed a few photos adding the green and brightening the blue. Hopefully you didn’t use any black in the background so you didn’t have to adjust it later. Once you’ve got the shadow parts of thee palm trees in, use green and yellow to fluff up the tops of the trees and brighten the grass.

How to Paint Water Lilies like Claude Monet

I created this version of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies to teach at Paint Nite. It’s called “Impressionist Monet Water Lilies.” Click here to find it on the Paint Nite schedule near you.

I’m providing the steps for other Paint Nite master artists to teach their own version, or for you to have a sneak preview of how easy it is to follow along at Paint Nite.

View more of the paintings I teach on Pinterest!

Step one pthalo blue green white acrylic paint
The first step is starting with pthalo blue ragged streaks across the top of the canvas, than green, than white. Then light blue to the bottom of the canvas. The more ragged and streaked the better, so you don’t need to wash your brush between colors. Use lots of paint so it stays wet.
How to paint reflective water
While the paint from the last step is still wet, sweep your brush back and forth across the canvas to drag the paint back and forth and flatten the reflections.
How to paint water lilies
How to paint the water lilies: Using blue white and yellow, mixed, dab ovals in groupings across the canvas. Mix up the paint in different quantities so some are darker and some are lighter and some are brighter!
Dabbing color on the lilies
Start adding blue and yellow dabs on top of the lilies.
Paint lotus flowers
Add red and white W’s wherever you want to paint the lotus flowers.
Paint nite tickets
Your completed water lily painting. If you’d like more instruction and all your painting supplies provided, look for this painting on the Paint Nite website – use code SEATTLE for $25 tickets!