How to Paint Anything Confidently by Mastering the Alphabet of Art

Learn how to paint anything

Kevin Murphy, of Evolve Artist, teaches artists how to master the alphabet of art.

If you want to create art and learn how to paint anything (regardless of whether you want to paint in watercolor, draw portraits, or be a digital animator), you need to actually speak the language of art.

Just like any other sort of education, in order to become a successful artist, you need to understand the “alphabet” of art. This means that you commit to learning from the ground up and mastering the foundations.

So how can you do this successfully? Keep reading to find out how to master the alphabet of art in order to learn how to paint anything.

In order to learn how to paint anything, you need to master the foundations of art. Photo by Evolve Artist

Art is a Language Allowing to Paint Anything

It helps to start thinking about art as a language with an alphabet, vocabulary, and grammar. In order to learn a language and paint anything at all, you must have an alphabet.

So we start with the alphabet which forms the foundations of learning to oil paint. In our painting curriculum, Evolve Artist, we develop an alphabet in the first portion of the program. Once students understand the alphabet, they move into more advanced techniques, where we’re dealing in vocabulary and grammar (think of painting like writing in poetry).

Moving Past the ABCs of Learning How to Paint Anything

By the time we get into the grammar and the vocabulary for art, the alphabet has fallen away, and we don’t even think about it anymore. When was the last time you thought about the letters that make up the words you use?

You speak all the time, you write all the time, and you’re not thinking about the letters that comprise the words anymore because you’ve moved beyond that. At that point, the foundations that hold language together are taken for granted.

You wouldn’t be able to speak without the alphabet, but the foundational elements of language like the alphabet disappear into the background once they’ve been learned well.

Credit Zoe Zylowski

So What Is The Artistic Alphabet?

The alphabet for art consists of a few basic things. There are three basic moving parts: Value, color, and edge.

In the beginning, a simple artistic alphabet looks like one shadow and one light per object, simple color, and only two types of edges. By simplifying everything, defining edges as cast or form, and even starting in grayscale to eliminate color, you can learn the basic letters.

Once that simple alphabet is in place, you start to build upon it. Color is added, reflections and highlights included, and edges become more complex and carefully considered.

This slow build of the artistic alphabet leads to simple language, which can then be built upon to create words, poetry, and more - thus allowing you to know how to paint anything.

Credit: Kevin Murphy

Use the ABC's to Paint Anything

Think back to when you learned how to read. Were you taught, or did you make up the words to go along with the letters?

Like any type of learning, it is important to have a guide to walk you through the foundations of the language you wish to learn. Art can be simplified and taught in a manner that makes sense to everyone. But, unless the basic alphabet is taught, students will go about painting without core, foundational knowledge. They will build on top of shaky foundations and their work will never reach its potential.

In order to learn how to paint anything you have to start simple. Later on in the process of making art, we can start expanding on the use of these things but to begin, no matter how complex the piece becomes, we stick to our alphabet. The alphabet provides us with the perfect building blocks to create art.

An understanding of the foundations of art, will allow you to learn how to paint anything you put your mind to. Credit: Daniel Folta

Final Thoughts on Learning How to Paint Anything

Do you feel you are not consistently creating the art you want?  If not, we encourage you to go back to the basics and learn the 'alphabet' (values, color, and edge).  Having a solid foundation will allow you to build on those skills feel confident enough to know how to paint anything.

If you want to learn more about how we train artists using a fundamental approach to mastery, you can visit our website or watch our masterclass for free. 

Want to learn more about oil painting? Check out this post about a few oil painting techniques you should know!

The 4 Part Framework to Develop Artistic Excellence in 12 Months

Take the FREE Evolve Masterclass

Register to learn the 4 Part Framework taught at Evolve to develop professional level art skills in just 12 months.