How to Become a Painter
Getting Started as a Painter
An Early Art Form
Painting, certainly of the finger variety, is arguably the most ancient of art forms. The oldest known paintings are thought to be around 32,000 years-old. Today this medium is comprised of paint brushes, assorted tools, and a myriad of types and colors of paint. Tens of thousands of years ago the animals and abstract human figures that were pictured on cave walls were usually first engraved with a sharp rock and then painted using red ochre. Red ochre is a pigment dug out of the earth that is made up of hydrated iron and that has a color range from yellow to deep orange and brown. Also, there was a black pigment available that was derived from carbon and was often utilized for outlining and shadowing. Though certainly crude in some respects, many of these cave paintings are quite elegant, beautiful in their gesture, and surprisingly sophisticated considering those who drew them were hunter/gatherer troglodytes.
The oldest discovered evidence of painting was found in rock-shelters in a remote part of northern Australia. Here, archeologists found used pieces of ochre that are believed to be at least 60,000 years-old! One can find ancient cave paintings all around the globe, from China and India to France, Spain, and Portugal, to the Western Hemisphere and including, of course, Australia.
What is a Painter?
When one applies some kind of color to any of virtually unlimited types of surfaces, one can be deemed a painter. Paint, typically water, oil, or acrylic based, is applied to a surface, usually canvas or paper, using a brush, or perhaps a blade, a sponge, fingers, or, of late, airbrushes and spray cans.
Painting is both that which the artist does, and it is also a noun designating the end result of the artist’s effort. Fine art painting is differentiated from what a blue collar tradesman might do when sprucing up a client’s home. As opposed to “art”, what contractors do is more aptly termed a trade craft.
Paintings can be naturalistic and representational, as exemplified in portraiture, landscapes, and still-life work and can also be abstract or stylized. Paintings can tell stories, provide symbolism, express and induce emotion, or be utilized as propaganda and/or be political in their message.
A great deal of painting has been inspired by religious belief and ranges from depictions of holy figures in both Western and Eastern faiths, to myth and legends, to scenes from the sacred texts of the world.
It is a painter’s job to take an idea and imaginatively represent the concept so as to be recognizable and, preferably, impactful to the viewer. In order to be commercially successful as a painter, it is important to keep in mind that what sells are works that are distinctly unique from what is already out there, work that embodies a signature style. When one ponders such greats as Van Gogh, Picasso, Renoir, Georges Seurat, Warhol or Banksy, one instantly can associate their work with their names.
This is how you, the painter, can more effectively monetize your creative output- and, again, this is by being instantly recognizable and memorable through your work. This is what drives art lovers to seek you out and to collect what you offer. Develop your skills, create a signature style, promote yourself strategically, create momentum, and then you may just have a shot at becoming a self-sustaining and even successful painter.
Think and act like a business person as well as being an artist, and you just might sell enough of your work to live comfortably. This is when you can then know yourself to be a true “professional”.
Art and Making a Living
It is important to note that when one ponders a life of being a “professional” painter, he or she should keep in mind that very few who set out to become commercially successful ever reach that destination. As with all art, if you are absolutely drawn to it, passionately inspired by it, can hardly ever wait to get back to dipping a brush, and could never imagine doing anything else, then, assuming you have talent and technical skill, you might have the potential to do what you love for a living. Once you have committed to taking this big leap, there are a few ways in which to monetize your art work, ranging from public art commissions to galleries to selling your work on internet sites like Etsy or eBay.
See the infographic below for some statistics about this creative industry.