I don’t know what to paint…

I believe that this comes across every ones’ mind at some point in their creative careers, it certainly has in mine. You could be just starting out, maybe you just went and picked up your first paint set, and you are wondering where to start. Maybe you have been a painter for a while and just ran out of ideas. Point is, it happens to all of us, you sit back one day and say to your self “I don’t know what to paint”. I had this same feeling this week, I just had no idea of I wanted to paint, so I figured I would take you through what I do when I get to this point with my art.

Where to begin

Starting is sometimes the hardest part when it comes to creating. Where do you begin if you don’t have an idea? When I get to this point, I have to remind myself, that I do this because I love to do it. Not to always be the best at it, but just to have fun with it. Some of my best works of art had come from just having fun and seeing where it takes me. One of the funnest things I can do while painting is sometimes just mixing colors and seeing how I can blend them together as I go, and that is what I did with this piece.

What I used:

  • 8×10 white stretched canvas
  • Liquitex basics modeling paste
  • Liquitex basics white acrylic paint
  • U.S art supply cerulean blue
  • U.S art supply scarlet red
  • U.S art supply cobalt blue
  • U.S art supply phthalocyanine blue

Mix it up

When I don’t know what to do, I like to just start mixing paint and see where it takes me. I just started by putting a bit of modeling paste with each of my colors. Then start by just throwing some of my cobalt blue on the bottom of my canvas. Now just by throwing one color up, it isn’t like an idea just instantly came to me, no it took putting up almost all the colors before anything started to click just a bit for me.

As I was adding colors, I noticed what I was doing without trying. I was putting my darker blues up top, and my lighters at the bottom. Then I had this red I new I wanted to mix to get some kind of purple, to do this, I slapped this right in the middle of everything and started blending it in with the surrounding colors. It was a bit too dark for me at first, making me add the white to it, giving me a more noticeable purple.

At this point I also noticed that I was naturally doing everything in more of a diagonal line across the canvas. In the process of mixing the colors, I started to see colors pop up that I was starting to really like. This normally happens when I do one of my, no direction, paintings.

Ideas emerge

Even if you don’t get an idea right away, or mix paint till you can’t mix anymore, do not worry! I had gotten this nice mix of paint on canvas, and wasn’t sure what to do with it, till I had an accident with the brush. I went the wrong direction. Or did I?

An accident can occasionally be the best thing to happen, so embrace them! With my little accident I ran with it. I had a small vertical line going that I pulled down more, and started to make little branches off of. I knew right away this wasn’t going to be a tree, I did not want that, but a branch looking thing. I wasn’t sure still but I was having fun, and that’s the whole point of it in the first place!

In my fun, I am staring at this branch, wondering, what will make this better? Then it hit me! DOTS! not like actual dots, but dotting my paint brush in some of my white, and blue ( a little on each side of the brush, not mixed) and dot it around the “branches”. I did one just first to see how it looked, and I liked it. It looked good, and in a way reminded me of a blue bonnet. Since the bluebonnet is the Texas state flower, I figured, it is about time I have something that kinda sorta resembles my states flower in my house.

Out come

Now for not spending much time on this painting, and without having an idea at the beginning, I would say it came out pretty well, but as always, I will let you be the judge of that.

What I like so much about this painting is the texture and how the modeling paste adds a little extra to it.

Also instead of doing normal photos with my phone camera, I figured I would start breaking out the old camera and getting some natural light pictures for you backdrop and all.


Since I started painting, five years ago, one thing I have always heard from other people, watching or that see the finished products, is that they wanted to do the same thing, but are worried how other people would think of it, or that it wouldn’t be that great. What I always say to that is, if you enjoy doing something, do not worry about the outcome or what other people think. The focus every time should be that you enjoy yourself. When I started out, I was not instantly putting out paintings that were just fantastic, no, it took time before I started to figure out what I really enjoyed to paint, and what I needed to work at more. Never be too hard on your self, because it is true what they say, you are your biggest critic. Some paintings I have done, I hated, but others wanted to buy for themselves. You never know what could happen when you start a painting for yourself, so all I am saying, is try to see where it takes you, and even if you don’t like it, you can always go over it with something else later. Lord knows I do cover-ups all the time and its not a big deal.

Let me know if this helps you, or just what you think in the comments. I love to hear feed back from my readers.

If you ever have any ideas or stories you want to share with others, send me an e-mail to mckenzie@paintatrocity.com and we can write up your own story to share here with everyone as a featured artist.

Thank you for reading and happy painting!

2 thoughts on “I don’t know what to paint…”

  1. Hi, I will be honest, that I  cannot paint and draw at all 🙂 It does not mean, that I cannot enjoy others work. I am looking at your paintings and I am surprised how nice it is. When you describe the process it looks so easy, but I know it is not. You should think about selling your masterpieces. Did you think about it? 

    1. Hello there! I am so glad you enjoyed it, and that is okay if you don’t draw or paint. Having an appreciation for art is just as amazing as creating it. I am glad it looks easy though, you’re right, it isn’t all easy, but their are some painting processes that could surprise you. Like paint pours, nothing is easier than pouring paint over canvas. 

      I have actually thought about selling my art, I have had a little success so far, but am still working on getting it out there. Hopefully this year I will be able to roll it out faster. My art room is becoming over run with finished pieces at the moment.  

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