Getting Started: Facing a Blank Canvas

Getting Started: Facing a Blank Canvas

“An artist’s career always begins tomorrow”
James McNeill Whistler, Artist

Starting art is like starting a diet; you buy a new gym kit…your canvas
You sign up for the gym, … your new brushes
You sit down and have a cup of tea and slice of cake because it’s all been too much.
Sound familiar??
If you think you’re the only one struggling, think again…..

What are you scared of?

The biggest stock of art materials are in most people’s cupboards, usually, still wrapped in cellophane.

You’re so excited to create something and know that it is inside you somewhere but the fear of failure is too great even to make the first mark.

Our ability to be creative individuals makes us amazing people but with creativity comes fear and anxiety. Learning to paint is the same as learning to play a musical instrument, or driving a car, and the biggest thing stopping you is the fear of the unknown.

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare,
it is because we do not dare that they are difficult”
, Stoic Philosopher

What if everyone laughs?

Having to face a blank canvas can be overwhelming, putting yourself out there will attract criticism and rejection, laughed at rather than admired.

So here is the dilemma…we want to create, but could do without the creeping worry whenever we begin the creative process.

I’m going to use easy to follow, step-by-step lessons to help you to fulfill your artistic desires.

How to get professional results in simple steps

Even if you do get past the first mark the results are usually disappointing due to lack of preparation, what we’ll start with is a prepared canvas.

Think of this as a warm-up of your art, a runner wouldn’t dream of going for a run without stretching unless to risk injury or in the artist’s case, ending up with a durge of colour and trees that look like sheep.

So what we’re going to do is feel the fear and paint it anyway.

This Post Has 112 Comments

  1. I’m with you so far….:) lots and lots of materials, lots of inspiration, ….but how do I justify spending a whole day doing something I really like? Why do I feel so guilty when I want to fill a canvas?

    1. Hi Ali

      Why is it so hard to paint guilt free?

      Even though I paint professionally, I sometimes suffer from what I call “Homework Painting” this is where where I put off a painting even though I have a client deadline looming, this is usually because:

      I not exactly sure what I’m going to be painting
      I feel I should be doing the accounts
      I’m just being a bit rebellious

      I’ve found the trick is to have a reserve of blank canvas’s.
      To kick start my painting I know I only have one brush, one colour and I don’t have to think about it, and paint a flat ground. It gets the ball rolling and I’m excited the next day to come back to an “already started” painting.

      California psychologist Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says the problem is we are a nation of multi-taskers, we check our emails whilst we are on the phone and chat whilst we watch TV, but how we experience real pleasure is when our attention is wholly engaged in one thing, our attention is pure energy. He calls this “flow”.

      Even though painting can be relaxing you have to treat it like any other professional appointment. You have to invest a set aside time to get the feeling of true satisfaction.
      My advice would be to book it into your diary like a hair appointment and give yourself permission to invest in your creativity!

      You don’t need to put aside a whole day, 1 – 2 hours is best and optimal for keeping your eyes fresh.


      1. Right then. 10 am Monday morning it is then! Thanks Will ! x

  2. Hello Will,

    I’m from Portugal! Once I went to a paintings materials store, which had also some paintings, and I had a sudden feeling that I was capable of creating a simple painting. Then I bought a starter set of acrylics and brushes and I commited the mistake you referred: left it packed for a long time because I really don’t have time because of my job and kids to dedicate to. However the initial feeling never left me and so I searched the net for simple techniques for starters when I found your site. I must tell that you explain things in a very simple and clear way. I must tell you that I have never ever touched a brush or canvas in my whole life, but I will try to do something, even though I will think that my painting will look like one drawing of my kid :).
    I would please ask you to recommend if for start I should use the canvas in a regular horizontal table or if should I use an easel to hold the canvas.
    Thank you and congratulations for your excellent way of teaching.

    1. Hello Pedro!

      So glad to hear you’ve been inspired to get started and the instructions are clear to understand.

      Good question about using the canvas in a regular horizontal table or using an easel to hold the canvas.

      If you are working small, say a canvas under 10 x 7 inches, working at a table will be fine, but I would try to work on a slight angle otherwise you’ll hurt your back and it is hard to see the picture as a whole.
      A table top easel is another option if you feel more comfortable sitting down to paint.

      The benefit of working at an stand up easel is being able to step back from the canvas so you can evaluate the whole painting (the drawbacks of working up too close is sometimes you get too involved in the small details)
      But to use a stand up easel is more expense and you need more space to do this in.

      Whether you stand up or sit down to create your masterpiece have frequent breaks away – usually every hour, to give your eyes a break and when you come back to your painting you’ll see the work afresh.

      The step by step free landscape course would be a good starting point – don’t be scared of the Yellow Ochre underpainting

      Good luck, let me know how you get on,



      1. Thank you so much!
        I would ask another thing. As I love landscapes it will be my first try. I already watched the 4 videos of the fantastic purple colored beach, which explanation was extemelly clear and inspiring for beginners. I would like if possible if you could please give an explanation on how to make a sky degradé, I mean in the top the sky is very blue but as it goes down to the horizon it slowly goes dropping the blue tone. Would you mind to give a small instruction to do that?
        Thanks again!

          1. Again one big thank you!
            I’ll let you know how it went!


      2. Will,
        That was such good advice. I started a painting after years away from it. I’m a novice. I had a beautiful sky and dark background. Then I froze. I painted a bit more and hated it, kept looking at with fear. I read about the yellow ocher and tried it on the bottom half. I came out with a finished painting. Except one black Rock. Determined to start a new project and finis the rock at same time. Looking for a new study this time. Maybe sky’s all on one canvas. Is that crazy, should I just swing into a new landscape.

        1. Hi Claudia, a full sky painting can work really well, often just with a slight indication of a horizon in the foreground to give the painting a sense of scale.

  3. Will,
    I just wanted to thank you for doing your step by step landscape video on youtube. I have painted it twice now and I am so happy with the results. I am 30 and have just picked up painting recently. I look forward to more step by step videos. Thank you for the time you have invested in beginners like myself.

    1. Hi Rach,
      Thanks for your comment. Really pleased to hear you are happy with the results from your paintings, more step-by-step videos are coming soon.


  4. Hello Will,

    Today, I started experimenting with acrylic painting for the first time in my life. (Before, I only drew with pencils.)

    I have some beginner’s questions.

    1) Do you mix water with acrylic paint on a flat surface or in a well on the palette?

    2) Do you use a paint brush or a metal tool to mix water with acrylic paint?

    3) What consistency do you look for? How do you know that you have mixed in enough water? How do you know that you need more water?

    I assume that you ALWAYS add some water to acrylic paint before you apply the paint to the canvas. If this assumption is incorrect, please let me know.


    1. Hi Sam,

      The best place to learn through some basic techniques with acrylics would be to have a look at some of the free video tutorials, this will give you a better understanding of thickness and consistency of paint ( just click the ‘free videos’ tab at the top.)

      To answer your questions:

      1) Do you mix water with acrylic paint on a flat surface or in a well on the palette?

      You can do either, depending on the consistency of the paint. Acrylics can be applied thinly with a watery consistency ( like watercolours) where you can use a well, or thickly like oils where you use a flat surface. I paint in a more classical oil painting style so work on a flat palette.

      2) Do you use a paint brush or a metal tool to mix water with acrylic paint?

      You can use a combination of them both, I usually mix larger quantities of paint using a palette knife, but add water to the paint mixture with a brush as it is more absorbant, so holds more water.

      3) What consistency do you look for? How do you know that you have mixed in enough water? How do you know that you need more water?

      It depends on the effect you are after, I often ‘build up’ a painting in layers so start with a thin, more watery consistency and then finish up using the paint straight from the tube. The consitency will vary depending on the quality and opacity of the paint you are using, and the effect you are after.

      I assume that you ALWAYS add some water to acrylic paint before you apply the paint to the canvas. If this assumption is incorrect, please let me know.

      No, you don’t always have to add water to the acrylics. Have a look at this palette knife painting to see the paint undiluted. You can also buy acrylic pant called ‘fluid acrylic’ that has already been diluted by the paint company, so can be used straight from the pot.

      Hope this helped,


  5. Hello Will,

    I am pleasantly surprised to get your response so fast. Thanks a lot.

    I did watch many of your videos. I watched how you mixed strings of paints (5 row of greens, 5 levels of darkness in each row, etc.) But I did not see any demo video in which you mixed water into paint. That was why I submitted my original question.

    The 2nd reason that I asked about water is because I had problems painting the sky. I took a photo at the California coast. The sky near the horizon is nearly white. The sky near the the top is deep blue. I was after that effect.

    I did not mix paint with water. I painted the white part near the horizon first, using a lot of white paint plus a little Ultramarine Blue. As I worked my way up the sky, I gradually added more Ultramarine Blue. But no matter how quickly I worked, I could not hide the dark blue strokes on top of the light blue base. After I finished, there are a lot of rectangle, horizontal blue stroke marks. Do you think it was because I did not have enough water in the paint?

    Do you have any general tips on painting a gradient (other than water in paint)? (for example, from white to blue in a mid-day sky, from orange to blue in a sunset.)


  6. Hi Will!

    So I just started a sort of “business” thing where I sell paintings and drawings and such. I guess I’m okay at it but I lack technique and I’m dying for a more professional look.

    It’s been pretty easy so far, just simple things. Now this woman wants me to make her a dragonfly piece of art. I’ve asked her what medium and what style and even what colors she would prefer, but she’s been completely indecisive telling me to “do what I please.”

    This is one of the scariest things I’ve ever encountered. I’m not sure whether to do watercolor or acrylic. If I were to do acrylic though, what color would I prepare my canvas with? I need some professional advice.


    1. Hi Alex,
      Great to hear you’re getting to the business wnd with your paintings!

      It’s always very hard to paint a commission when the client says ‘do what you please’ because I’ve found my ‘doing what I please’ can be veey different to a clients!

      I would mock up – either on photoshop, from magazines, or some small sketches, a few of your ideas.

      Try to vary the colours and style, even including ones you may not like. This is key, because then you can ask the client which of these styles most suit them. Often the results can suprise you.

      It’s a little bit more work upfront on your part, but will save hours of anxiety when painting the commission if you keep asking yourself ‘is this what they want?’

      Try to think it like buying a car, you wouldn’t expect a client to go to a showroom and ask the dealer to ‘do what they please’ they might end up with a sports car when what they really wanted was a family runaround.

      So perservere with the questioning! This way they’ll get exactly what they want, and you’ll enjoy the whole process.

      Regarding the coloured ground, just alter it depending on the feel of the piece. If it’s a muted view go with a raw umber and white neutral, if they want a more vivid image, you could start with a light blue.

      Hope this helps,

      Let me know how you get on,


  7. Hi Mr. Kemp!

    I am so happy to find your site which I can learn everything about painting. I am really in love with colors and paintings and art though I can say that I’m not really good at doing those but I’m always trying and learning. It’s so so nice that you have videos for us to learn. I like painting as a hobby so much. Now I don’t have to learn it from a teacher in front of me…énchante et merci beaucoup! I will look forward to your blogs and lesson…I like your site a lot!


    1. Hi Cristina, thanks for the kind comments, so pleased you’re enjoying the videos.


  8. Hi Will,
    great site – thank you for all the advice & inspiration especially with regard to wonderful contrasty black… makes me think of the striking effect of the darkness in Caravaggio.
    Can you tell me how you get your initial sketch onto canvas…do you use pencils and if so, what kind? Squaring up to a canvas with a face ready to go onto it. A sketch of a face. Not an actual face. That would be weird and painful I imagine ;)
    Thank you! – Tara

    1. Hi Tara,

      Thanks for dropping by, and pleased you’ve been feeling inspired! I usually use a 3B pencil to draw onto the coloured ground. There is a fine line between having your coloured ground too thick or thin, if it’s too thick sometimes it can be hard to see the pencil lines with standard graphite – the paint (acrylics) will form a plastic resist, making it hard to for the pencil to make a mark, or at least one you can easily see.

      You could also try Stabilo special pencilthat doesn’t smudge and can be used on plastic, metal and glass so even if you work on a thicker ground, you will still be able to see your lines.

      They also come in a light colour, so if you’re working on a darker ground, can be very handy so you can see where you’re going!

      Hope this helps,


      1. Thanks very much Will – that’s a great help. I appreciate the speedy reply – Tara

        1. You’re welcome Tara, good luck with your painting!


  9. Hey,
    Loving this site so far. I’ve never had actual art lessons, but my whole life I’ve loved art. I’ve always had a talent when it comes to sketching (or so people tell me), and recently I’ve been doing some pen and ink drawings, but i really want to expand on that and start painting. So far I’ve only done a landscape, but it didn’t really feel as if it was mine persay because I was following a youtube tutorial. But whenever I just want to sit down and paint something, I can never think of what to paint. And even when I know what I want to paint, I can never figure out how to put on the canvas. Any tips?

    1. Hey Sara,
      Thanks for dropping by, the best place to start is with one of the free tutorials. I teach a classical approach to painting where the process is similar depending on whatever the subject is your painting, this way you can build on your drawing skills, develop your colour mixing and your own style will start to develop.


  10. What an amazing website! Thank you so much for such useful and totally valuable advice. I’ve been painting for just over year (didn’t even know how to draw a stick man before that!) And I am loving it. There’s so much to learn from you and I’m really grateful! Thank you Will. What I struggle with is getting ‘copyright free’ references to use. I’ve found a few websites though but its not enough as I am really fond of explosions of colour in my paintings.

    1. Hi Shaz, thanks for dropping by and your kind words. Really pleased you’re finding the website helpful in your painting. You might find this site helpful, although not full of explosions of colour it might just give you a good starting point!


  11. Hello, I am wondering if this technique would also work with Watercolor. And, also, what kind of canvases should I use? Thanks.

    1. Hi Alanna,

      If you’re referring to the toned ground, then yes you can do it with watercolours, but you’d have to work with masking fluid to isolate the lightest lights, before beginning your painting.

      Alternatively you could use Gouache to add the whites,

      Hope the helps,


  12. Hi there! I am so glad I found your online school. I’ve always wanted to paint and was keeping myself from it because I didn’t know how. These pages are like a treasure trove!! I understood the difference between the kinds of paints for the first time today. Thank you so very much for putting out all this info and in such a lovely manner. I hope I’ll start painting real soon :)

    1. Hi Anitha,

      Thanks for your kind comments, so pleased you’re enjoying the art school and learning about the different properties of paint.


  13. Hi Will,
    U have a vry awesome website…itz truly inspiring…i am a beginner in acrylic painting…got inspired from a friends painting and got my self a canvas paints and few brushes… the first try was a disaster… i am not sure of how to start… can i start painting on a canvas right away which is primed or do i need to apply a coat paint to canvas to begin with and then start painting on it. what i found in my first try was the canvas had too many pours and it was rough and paints was not sticking to it..
    waiting for suggestions

  14. Wow. Amazing. I’ve been feeling the same way whenever I’m about to sketch whatever it is in my head. Glad to know this from a professional *scratch that off* an ARTIST.

    Thank You!
    A student from PH

    1. You’re welcome Kiara, thankd foe dropping by.


  15. Thank you Will. I am excited, enthusiastic and nervous but can’t wait to get started. Love your classes. Greta

  16. Greetings Will,
    Your website is just what I need right now. I have had some success as a painter of watercolor art in the past but I haven’t painted anything that is art related in over a decade. A friend of my mother’s made me a gift of an acrylic paint and brush set recently and since I recognize a hint when I see one I’ve decide to get busy with the brushes once more. However, I have never worked with acrylics before but I welcome the challenge. The valuable info that is being provided by you gives me confidence. Words can’t express how much I appreciate it.

    1. Hi Collin, so pleased you’ve found your way back to the easel! And are finding the tutorials helping to give you the confidence. You’ll pick up acrylics in no time, looking forward to hearing how you find them compared to your experience with watercolours.


  17. I’m Christine Silva i just bought my acrylic painting set.
    I’m so excited of painting for the first time that i forgot that i don’t know how to start. So, the first thing i do is go to Google and find some stuffs about painting. I also found this website because of the power of Google, looking for an online art school. That’s how i found you.

    Please guide me to awesomeness,

    1. Hi Christine, thanks for dropping by, and so pleased you’ve stumbled upon the site. Enjoy reading the articles and looking forward to hearing about your new painting creations!


  18. Hi Will, I’m have a question about shadows on a painting. As a beginner, your website is very overwhelming in a good way, I know where to go, and your tips are very clear but as most painters know if you don’t add shadows in paintings it looks very unrealistic. Putting the shadows in the wrong place is also a bad choice. I told myself not to rush ahead and ruin the canvas. Instead I told myself to learn the most facts and tips I can possibly fit into my brain. Shadows are very daunting for me, and I need some help.

    Thanks :)

  19. Hello again. :) I have bought some canvases from the Reject shop so they’re not too expensive and was wondering if this will effect my painting. Because I bought 3 for $10 I’m wondering if that’s a bit too cheap- as they say “You get what you pay for”. Will I be able to get the best results out of these canvases or will they wreck my painting?


    1. They won’t wreck your painting but might not ‘pull’ the paint from your canvas aswell.


  20. Hi! I’m from Brazil and I love your videos! I have written about them on my blog (which has been abandoned for almost a year now).
    This post is a relief! It’s almost like you’re writing about me!
    Not everyone is capable of sharing like you do: it’s a blessing!

    Thank you

    1. Thanks Sheleme, really pleased you’ve been enjoying the tutorials and thanks for the write up on your blog, much appreciated.


  21. Sir , Thanks for The Guidance… your web site is actually a treasure ,trove!! our Tutorials Are Quite Informative , I am still to Start off with the painting , Going through your Web Site to learn the technique’s, Still Scared To Face the canvas , please guide.

    thank you very much indeed


    1. Hi Josh, pleased you’ve been finding the lessons helpful. I would start with one of the free tutorials and just work through the process. The cherry painting gets some fantastic results.



  22. Thanks a million for this tutorial, it’s extremely useful in my case. Had a set of students acrylics which I tried on my first canvas, just a base layering is kinda done. Scared of running out of stock last few patches were little watery. So bought one more set of student quality pack. After going through ur detailed tutorials I realised where have a went wrong with colours to primary coat to layering to colour accuracy.. Hope as I proceed further in right direction and my mistakes are rectified. This morning I rushed to the supplier store and changed my new seal student quality acrylics to winsor and newton. Though turned out expensive and happy as I expect better and worth it results. Thanks to u.. Am extremely excited to begin. Wanna ask u where does pebeo brand stand with comparison to artist quality colours? Pebeo in the store I noticed had all range of colours like oil, silk, acrylics, watercolour, ink… Is it decent quality as compared to winsor n newton and golden brands

    1. Hi Shradha, I personally haven’t used Pebeo that much, but students have created some lovely results with them, I’ve always found an artist quality acrylic paint has a better opacity when you are painting in multiple layers.



  23. Thanks a lot for u response. May I bother u again.. Q1- Can I work with Windsor n newton over students acrylics? Q2- Can I work with watercolour pastels for sharpness and detailing once entire painting is done. If I use watercolour pastel(watercolour crayons) as final stage to finish, will it blur or interupt while applying varnish coat over the painting? Q3 – Does acrylic paintings with artist quality ever cracks if worked on toned background, as oil paintings does after some years?

    1. Hi Shradha, to answer your questions:

      Q1- Can I work with Windsor n newton over students acrylics?

      Q2- Can I work with watercolour pastels for sharpness and detailing once entire painting is done.
      If you want to you can, although you can also achieve the sharpness very easily with acrylics.

      Q3 – Does acrylic paintings with artist quality ever cracks if worked on toned background, as oil paintings does after some years?


      Hope this helps,


  24. Hi Will , thank you for this website ,
    You said all what I have in my mind and what really happened to me with my first canvas , I bought the set and couldn’t draw or put any color until I searched on YouTube and watched your video ” how to Prepare canvas and put a ground colour ”
    I cant describe how was my excitement and pleasure to come back next day to the canvas to put my first paint :)

    1. Great to hear it Mona, really hope you enjoy the tutorials.


  25. Hi again Will.
    I’m having problems thinking of a subject to paint. I always find myself daydreaming about these amazing paintings I could create. But then I worry that I won’t have enough experience or talent and that I’ll screw it up. So maybe I should just start with some basic still life’s or something until I become more experienced and then move on to bigger and more detailed subject matters. I’m just afraid of being too simple, boring, or cliche. Do you have any ideas of something easy I could paint that will help me learn but at the same time be unique??

    1. Hi Karlena, even a simple still life painting with one object can teach you loads about the potentials with paint and give you an idea of the style or techniques that suit you. I would start simply and don’t put too much pressure on yourself, otherwise it can be easy to become overwhelmed and not paint at all.

      Try working through one of these free lessons, just as an exercise. Most of the breakthroughs that happen with painting happen when you’re actually painting



  26. Hello Will!
    *warning* sorry about my english :(
    First of all i want to thank you for this website and the things you brought my life! I love drawing and painting since i was little, in fact in classroom , my friends made me their paintings so that they get a good mark.I always wanted to be involved in art.But somehow my decisions gone different.Now i study italian language and literature (do you speak italian.that’d be great)but i think those two arent that different,are they? Anyway thanks for everything!
    Love from Turkey.

    1. Thanks Sinem, so pleased you’re finding the lessons helpful, my Italian is a a little rusty with my favourite word being Gelato!


  27. Best starting lesson ever!

  28. Hello Will,

    I am a beginner with acrylic paint and I need a lot of help.

    One of my project I have in mind is to do a white silhouette on a black background. How difficult will this be and how many coats will I have to do of the white to stop the black from showing? I plan on sketching it out first before painting of course, but I wonder if I should just sketch it and color in the spaces with black and white paint. I am using craftsmart premium satin acrylic paint. It is only a small personal project so I did not go all out on the paint.

    I will not be surprise if you have gone over a similar subject but I cannot seem to find it on your page.

    Most appreciative!

    1. Hi Serena, painting the white silhouette on a black background will be very easy to do, the main issue will be on the thickness and quality of your white paint, you might find this video comparison of white paints of interest.
      Hope this helps,


  29. Hi Will,
    Just found your site……and tapped in…….I am suffering with “painters / artist block”…. For many years…..
    you are so right…..I have supplies galore, and have moved them with me, as my life changed…….I am retired now, have time, and a deep desire to “do something” with this urge inside of me……yet I freak out at the thought of going to a workshop, or whatever……I have a beautiful easel, sitting in my den……nothing happens…..

    I am creative in nature, I am a pianist, studying now, I also write poetry…….I love the thrill of an accomplished challenge …….yet this one thing I cannot seem to overcome……

    I have searched through your sight….and like what I see…’s thanksgiving in Canada this weekend….and I mentally have devoted one day to “start an acrylic piece”. I read the basic instruction re “yellow ochre”……. And will start there! Thanks for your work….
    Hope this works………this time…..

    Regards, Cally (Canada)

    1. Hi Cally,

      Thanks for your kind words, really hope you enjoy the lessons on the site.

  30. Awee…what a treasure I landed on today…bookmarked this beautiful place for motivation, learning and removing the painter’s block.
    Thanks for this resourceful tutorial !

    1. Pleased you’ve been enjoying the articles and lessons.

  31. Hello
    Thanks alot for describing the exact feeling, iv loved colours and art all my life and had an idea that i cant paint at all.
    But recently i felt like i cant resist painting ant more so i decided to start whatever the result is.
    i am a writer and a novelist and writing is the love of my life but i will start painting, cos it feels right and i will not feel any fear about it.
    Thank you so much Will and i will keep reading and watching everything you post.
    You are a real artist.

    1. Hi Diana, pleased you’ve taken the first steps in painting, really hope you find the lessons helpful in your journey.

  32. Hello Will,
    i am a beginner painter and have seen a lot of paintings online, on canvas panels and stretched canvases both. I want to use the panels (because somehow i cant find good quality stretched canvases and the ones i have are not stretched to the full extent and are quiet loose) but I’ve read reviews about paint sliding off the surface. Do you recommend using panels for beach or forest sceneries?


    1. Hi Neha, you can use panels for any subject, problems with the paint sliding on the surface is usually due to a protective coating that is painted onto the surface that can stop the surface being as absorbent. Try dropping a few droplets of water on the surface and seeing if it soaks in or beads on the surface. If it beads, paint on a coat of acrylic gesso to add absorbency.
      Hope this helps,


      1. Thank you so much !

  33. let’s say the most outstanding color in my landscape is green and I wanted to prime my canvas with a red background color to make the painting more efficient, would I be better off priming the canvas with white gesso and then painting red acrylic onto the painting?

    1. Hi Jake, yes, I would paint a coloured ground ontop of a white gesso.

  34. Hi Will,

    Really glad I found your site. I’ve been buying medium/rough surface pre-stretched/primed canvases from the local craft store. I find these have too much texture for the way I paint. I like to paint flat color but in long loose flowing lines. Someone suggeseted I try linen canvases. I will, but in the meantime, what can I do to the canvases I have already to make them less rough. Or maybe I need to add something to the paint? Thanks!

    1. Hi Sue, the roughness or the smoothness of your canvas is to do with the fineness of the weave when the canvas is first made. Look out for a canvas that is called a ‘portrait canvas’ or a fine weave canvas. For your existing canvas you can apply a few coats of gesso to smooth out the surface although the paint costs would probably outway the costs of using a new canvas, because you loose the absorbency and tooth of the canvas the more paint layers are applied. You might also find working on board suits your style for smooth lines.

      Hope this helps

  35. Hello, I just ran across this website which I think is pretty cool. I haven’t painted and drawn in years, but a young guy I know inspired me to start pagan. I went to Michaels and purchased some canvas and brushes. But I don’t know where to start. I haven’t purchased any paid, makers, color pencils, nothing. I want to get the ball rolling but I don’t know how.

    1. Hi Madeline, I would just start really simply, just with one brush and a couple of colours. Getting painting one colour on canvas is the best way to start. Have a look through the free tutorials and just follow along.
      Really hope you find them helpful.

  36. Dear Will,

    Thank you very much for your free tutorials and courses. I have enjoyed them very much, They are very helpful. I struggle with the following:
    I want to paint, I really do. I just do not seem to think I haver enough time to do it properly. I will explain this below and maybe you can help me with some solutions:
    – I work full time doing something else than art and my free time available is at night. From the moment my children go to sleep that is 20:00 . My question is, is it possible to paint at night? maybe with some good artificial light? If so, which artificial lightning do you recommend?
    – If I want to just draw at night (i like graphite drawing) which light do you recommend?
    – I just have a few hours at night for painting as I have to get up early the next morning. What if I do not finish my painting. I have a stay wet palate but I could not be able to work wet on wet on a canvas. Do you have some ideas on this?

    Thanks Will for your answer!



    1. Hi Eliana, nice to hear from you, to answer your questions:

      My question is, is it possible to paint at night? maybe with some good artificial light? If so, which artificial lighting do you recommend?

      Yes, many of paintings are created at night, and many studios only work under artificial light, the easiest light to use is called a CFL bulb, get one that is around 5000 – 5500 Kelvin (kelvin is the name for the colour temperature of light) You can read an in-depth article on lighting for an art studio here.

      – I just have a few hours at night for painting as I have to get up early the next morning. What if I do not finish my painting. I have a stay wet palette but I could not be able to work wet on wet on a canvas. Do you have some ideas on this?

      If you haven’t finished your painting just carry on the next day, try to work to a certain stage of the painting, for example in many of the tutorials you’ll see I start with one colour and complete the painting to a certain stage, and then introduce more colours for the next part of the painting.

      So you could just work on stage one and stop when that’s completed, depending on the painting that might only take you 10 -20 minutes. The next day might take an hour, but you’ll soon find your paintings getting finished.

      Try working from the cherry tutorial, it’s a great lesson to start with.
      Hope this helps,


  37. Hello, the only problem I have a blank canvas is what I’m going to paint and what to start with. I was wondering if you had any tips for me because I love to paint and everyone says I’m really good, but I never know what to paint and even if I figure it out I’m unsure and I end up not even knowing how to start.

    Thank you,
    Lesley R.

    1. Hi Lesley, the best way to find inspiration for your painting is to start any painting. The subject matter doesn’t have to be perfect, you don’t need the exact colours or brushes you just need to put into motion the actual process of painting. Then you’ll find during the painting you’ll start to think of new ideas or be drawn to certain colours. So start with the next image you see in a magazine and paint that, or try one of the free painting tutorials.
      Hope this helps,


  38. hello will, i have been watching your tutorial and you have inspired me back to paint.
    you are a great teacher.I just bought canvas this new year and gonna start with it.
    Really appreciate your efforts.
    thank you
    Avineet Singh

    1. Hi Avineet, so pleased you’ve been enjoying the tutorials, and hope your first paintings go well!


  39. Hi Will,

    Thanks for creating the tutorials and sharing them. I am a beginner and started looking for a point of inception where I can get the details on how to paint. I simply say that your tutorials are going to engross me for enough hours, learn and apply. I am hoping that one day I share my paintings to you :)


    1. Great to hear it Sarah, really hope you enjoy working through the tutorials and understand some of the underlying principles of painting.

  40. Hi , you really inspired me , I’m gonna watch all the videos that you shared before .
    I’m still so young but I will reach my goal to be a creative artist, but my problem is that I don’t know how and I tried to draw but it doesn’t looked like what I expected
    Also that I have a lot of ideas but I can’t put it or draw it on the paper or on the canvas but I will try my best to improve my skills ,
    Thx u a lot to share all of those videos. :)
    Sweet lele

    1. Hope you can find the tutorials helpful Sweet lele.

  41. Hello Mr Kemp.

    I’m Ethan Bradberry and your videos have really inspired my art and social experiments. I feel like after watching your videos I am a real artist. Your lesson also help me feel confident in my art even if goofers like E K from H3 make fun of me. I like to fill vape up to the brim an just paint.

    Papa Bless
    Ethan Bradberry

    1. Good one Ethan, really pleased you’ve been finding the tutorials helpful.

  42. Hi will,
    I’m from Iran and I don’t have good english Knowledge ,any way Thank you very much for your nice website and courses They are very useful .I’m graduated about Islamic art and persian painting (miniature) the materials and techniques is so Different with your modern act.
    my Master Thesis in cultural object conservation is about acrylic easel painting and your articles can guide me about the technology these kind of paintings ,thank you .

    1. Really pleased you’ve been finding the articles and courses helpful with your studies Saeede.

  43. Hello Will,

    I’m so glad I stumbled across your website. I’m a beginning acrylic painter and am sort of obsessed with it right now. While I believe a have a natural affinity for it, there is so much I need to learn, so much I didn’t even know I needed to learn! But right here in one place you’ve answered so many questions and shown in basic steps what you’ve learned. Thank you! I can’t wait for my next painting! (And I also love your accent!)



    1. Good one Lori, pleased you’re finding the tutorials helpful and glad you’re enjoying learning about acrylics.

  44. Well I’ve got the primer on!!! that’s something

  45. Well, if I could go back and start again knowing what I know now, and I’ve only been painting for 8 months, here’s what I would do:

    I would buy three colors: Ultramarine Blue, Cad Red and Cad Yellow Light, plus Titanium White, and no other tubes. I had so much fun buying dazzling colors, and then I felt some inexplicable responsibility to open them all and use them right away. So I didn’t learn much about mixing, which hurt my progress tremendously. And I spent too much money.

    After a few days experimenting with those three, I would go back and pick up another tube the color of which was really catching my eye, as a reward for being so dutifully patient. And I’d try to incorporate that with the other three. And I’d also mix it with different amounts of Titanium White and try to paint with those tones only. I was so certain I needed to have A LOT OF COLORS in every painting. And while I’m still partial to a lot of bright colors, those colors come from far fewer tubes of paint than they used to.

    Even though going to the art supply store and grabbing a new color makes me happy, I know now that I don’t have to have a crowded palette to be a good painter. I just have to know how to work whatever I have in front of me as far as it can go.

    And I have to pay attention to Will Kemp’s advice.

    And I have to go to museums a lot.


  46. Will – I have been an artist all my life, but have never painted. For some reason, it is haunting me now. I have acquired all of the acrylic paints you recommend in your cherry and apple series, brushes, some canvases and an easel. What type of lighting do you recommend, since I’ll be doing this inside (now that it’s raining outside)? I am a perfectionist when it comes to drawing detail (graphite) and always have been. Your painting style makes me very happy and I’m curious to see if I can “ignore” some of those minute details with a brush in my hand instead of a pencil. Thank you for all your wonderful videos and helpful tips. I hope to one day take your 4 hr. acrylic class if I can make it past the cherry and apple!

    1. Hi Terry, nice to hear from you, you might find this article of interest about artist studio lighting. Hope you enjoy the cherry and apple studies.

  47. Thanks Will! This article resonated with the first line, ““An artist’s career always begins tomorrow” I love art, creating something beautiful out of nothing. But I don’t do it, I have tons of paints, yarns, beads etc. fear of failure/unknown is what holds me back. Thank for a deeply insightful article.

  48. Will, I have been perousing through your website, and I found it amazing and full of greatiinspiration thank you !
    Will, my I have a real problem, I’m not a great artist but used to love drawing and painting when I was younger.
    Now I would like to go back to those years and d do start painting again but my inspiration is pretty much gone. Every day I said to me today is the day to start, but now I don’t know how, I have a lot of ideas, but I don’t know how to make them work.
    I know I’m a little to rusty, with plenty of spider webs all over my brain.
    I need help, where should I begin ?
    Thanks in advance for your help !
    Keep the good

    1. Hi Lou, glad you’ve been enjoying the site, I’d start with one of the free tutorials (the cherry painting gets great results) just to get you started. It’s often when we’re actually creating that new ideas for our own work come to light.

      Hope you enjoy the tutorial.


  49. Will ,I cannot believe I found your wonderful site, years ago I used to paint and now I want to start again and I want to use acrylic paint ,but I just cannot manage mixing the the colours .I am so looking forward to learn from your tutorials.Thank you

    1. That’s great to hear Helen, welcome along! hope you find the lessons and tutorials helpful in your journey back to painting.

  50. I received a boxfull of Apple Barrel paints. I have a feeling these are not exactly artist quality paint. Should I give them away and order real paints or can I start with these?

    1. You could try with them to start with Patricia, but I’d purchase an artist quality titanium white to give you much more opacity in the mixes.

      1. Thanks!

  51. Hey Will!! You don’t know me but I’m your deiend already!!!! LOL. I’ve always had a dream to learn how to paint but have never had the resources or when i manage to have some extra money i didn’t have the time. Now at 50 ears old i just manage to combine both and enrolled myself in a paint course called “Painting for the terrified”. For my disappointment it wasnt a beginner course as I expected. So I started to look in the internet turorials which could help me to catch up with pleople in my class and thanks God I found you. Bought 2 of your courses and i am loving every moment. You have a natural talent to teach, a pleasant voice (specially for me as a foreigner, i am Brazilian) and a very sweet domina. Thank you so much for sharing your talent and knowledge with us. I really appreciate! ❤️

    1. So nice to hear from you Ana and fantastic to hear you’ve been enjoying the courses. Thanks for your kind words, hope the paintings are coming along well.

  52. Hey Will,
    I am happy I came across your website.Being an architect I love to sketch and draw but have not really ventured into serious acrylic paintings.I really hope to learn a lot . Thankyou for putting out so much knowledge and techniques for us begginers.

    1. Really glad you’ve been enjoying the lessons Meghna.

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