Recently, I had someone say, “My issue seems to be “Seeing A Vision” for beginning a painting. Not so much about composition or design or execution or technique. But a plan… an early vision of what the possibilities for even a single painting version might look like. For me, the most interesting thing about Marla’s demo, was looking at her reference photo and trying to understand how and why she made her beginning choices.”

Photo Reference for this Lesson:

I realized that a lot of my students have been struggling with the same thing. So I’ve decided to share this with you and hope you’ll find it helpful.

First of all, I love, love, love this question. It really goes right to the heart of what we are trying to accomplish as painters; we are distilling visual information of one kind or another into what is hopefully a piece of art, a reflection or manifestation of how we feel about that visual information.


So, when I choose what I’m going to use as that reference material, whether it’s a photo or I’m painting en plein air, I always identify what it is that initially attracts me, what enchants me and use that as my compass. I don’t really have a complete “vision” of what the final piece will be. I trust in the process that I use; planning the major shapes and value, creating a thumbnail, drawing, blocking in, adding on, and finally, finishing.

We have to start somewhere and that starting point is just merely that. Sometimes, I veer off in an unexpected direction ( I try to stay open to that possibility), but I still trust the process.

When it comes to making choices such as color, I put something down first. It doesn’t matter so much what that is because on it’s own, one color literally has no meaning whatsoever. It is only in it’s relation to what is around it, that it takes on any meaning. So, we are building relationships. That is all we are doing. That is done incrementally and those relationships reveal themselves and are made clear as we paint. We make adjustments to account for all the relationships, just like we do with people!

What makes painting so very rich and ever challenging for me, is that I don’t know what’s going to happen! Yes, I have a good idea just because I have lots of experience, but truthfully I don’t know what the end result will be. That’s why I paint a lot, so I have lots of chances for success.

I do know that I start out letting myself be enchanted and during the painting process I circle back to that to make sure I’m doing what I intended, that I stayed on track. But even that being said, sometimes the painting has another idea in store for me, so I also listen to that too. Often it’s smarter than I am.

Final Lesson Picture:

With Warmest Regards,

Painting Minilessons
with Marla Baggetta

My free online minilessons in art are a fantastic way to learn more about your craft, regardless of your skill level. There are lessons available on everything from basic drawing techniques to complex painting methods, and no matter what your interests are, you’re sure to find something that appeals to you. Whether you’re a beginner who’s just starting out, or a seasoned artist who wants to brush up on your skills, these minilessons are a great resource. These lessons are available anytime, anywhere. So whether you’re looking for a quick refresher or want to explore something new, be sure to check out some of my minilessons at Painting Lessons with Marla.

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