Category Archives for "Mindset"

How to Mix Paint Colors Correctly Every Time


How to Mix Paint Colors Correctly Every Time

In order to mix paint correctly, there are several important things to keep in mind. 

As painters, paint mixing is one of the most important parts of any piece of art. The ability to properly mix paint and produce the correct hue, value, and saturation that the painting needs is a critical tool. 

Failing to make proper color mixtures in oil paint can lead to value issues and unrealistic paintings. Understanding how to lighten, darken, and make colors more vivid can be the difference between a strong painting and one that falls flat. 

Here are a few ways you can mix the right color for your painting every time!

Value, hue, and saturation are all important parts of color paint mixing. 

Mixing Mid-Tones Properly

Evolve students begin their journey into paint mixing in Block 3, as they learn about color. Using the beautiful Old Holland paints, students start by simply mixing a mid-tone color for each of the color lights in their painting. 

In order to mix the proper mid-tone light for each color, students experiment with small batches of paint, until they find the right mixture. In the beginning, this experimentation is necessary to learn how each paint color reacts. Some colors are richly pigmented, like English red, and can completely take over a mixture. Others may need more amounts to be added in order to make any difference. 

Students are urged to isolate the color they are trying to mix in their photograph or in their still life box, so they can understand what it really is. They then need to consider the hue, saturation, and value of the color that they see. 

Using photoshop or a similar color isolating tool is a good way to start to understand the colors you see in photographs. 

Hue is simply the color itself, for example, red, green, or perhaps blue. Saturation is how rich, strong, or vivid a color appears. The more colorful a mixture, the more saturated it will be, and less saturation will yield a color that appears grayer. 

Value speaks to how light or dark that color is. In the beginning, students only mix colors for their lights and add black to make shadows, keeping it simple. But as they improve, they will mix color shadows just like lights. This is where value comes into play, with students carefully considering the value of the light in order to differentiate between light and shadow.   

Once a student understands how to mix those mid-tone colors, they can begin to experiment with lightening and darkening color values to adjust the hue, value, and saturation. 

White is not always the right paint choice for lightening color paint mixtures. 

Lightening Paint with Color

Most beginner artists will dip immediately into white paint to lighten their paint mixtures. However, white paint doesn’t always lighten colors the best way possible. White paint has a tendency to de-saturate colors, and while they seem lighter, they will look much less colorful. 

Choosing a color like Naples yellow or Scheveningen yellow to lighten a paint mixture will yield a more colorful result. 

In the photo above, you can see the difference that white and Naples yellow have on a color mixture. In order to keep your paint mixtures well saturated and colorful, reach for a yellow, rather than white paint. 

Though it can be helpful while you learn, adding pure black isn't always the right choice to darken your shadow mixtures. 

Shadows Need Color Too

Similar to lightening a paint mixture, there are common mistakes that painters make when making their color mixtures darker in value. Generally, students will reach for pure black to make a color darker. While this is totally acceptable while students are learning, when they have become comfortable with color they then should begin to experiment with mixing shadow values in the same way as color light values. Evolve students learn this technique at the end of block 4. 

In order to make a color value darker, whether light or a shadow, most professional painters reach for an earth tone or other naturally dark colors. Burnt umber, ultramarine blue, greens, or some reds can help to darken a painting beautifully. 

Pure black has the same downfall as white, as it tends to remove the colorful saturation from a color paint mixture. A combination of burnt umber and ultramarine blue will have nearly the same effect as pure black, but maintains the saturation of a color mixture much more.

A beautiful example of the moving parts of an oil painting by Evolve student Sheila J. 

Color Mixing Examples

For the painting above, here are the paint combinations that may be used to mix the colors properly. At the point of this painting in the program, Evolve students would be making their shadow simply by adding black. 

Cat: The cat is a warm pink, which can easily become desaturated if lightening completely with white. A mixture of Naples yellow, with equal parts Scheveningen yellow and Scheveningen red, will get the cat’s lights into the ballpark. Add just a touch of English red, and simply a dot will bring some warmth into the mixture. Because English red is so pigmented, it will overpower any color mixture if the artist is not careful. To lighten the mixture, additional Naples yellow will keep the warm pink color, and if additional light is needed, just a touch of white. 

Color added in, along with shadows. The next step is gradients, reflections, and highlights.

Pear: The pear is also a warm orange color, so too much white will desaturate and cool down the paint mixture. Combining equal parts Scheveningen yellow and Naples yellow with just a bit of English red should bring the pear to where it needs to be. Highlights can be created by adding both naples yellow and white to the color mixture. 

Tennis Ball: The tennis ball is a tricky color to mix. While it looks slightly green, too much Scheveningen yellow and green will create an unrealistic neon color. Mixing yellow-green with Naples yellow will get you close, but again just a minuscule amount of English red will bring an earthy tone to the mixture, preventing it from getting too oversaturated. 


Paint mixing can be a challenge, but with practice and repetition, you’ll start to understand the different characteristics of each color, and how they interact with each other. By careful practice and paying attention to the combinations of colors, you’ll begin to make the perfect color mixture every time. 

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

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Oil Painting Process: The Three Moving Parts of Any Painting


Oil Painting Process: The Three Moving Parts of Any Painting

Oil paintings are comprised of three moving parts: value, color, and edge. (Painting by Evolve student Janette M.)

Looking at an accomplished oil painting can seem unachievable for beginner artists. However, every single oil painting process can be broken down into three moving parts, simplifying both the painting and the process. 

Although each category has many facets and details to it, oil painting can be broken down into three sections: value, edge, and color. These three parts cover every area of a painting and when understood fully, come together to make mastery level work. 

By breaking down a painting’s moving parts at the beginning of their education, students will be able to learn slowly in each section. Then, complexity in each moving part is added as the student learns more. 

Keep reading to learn about the three moving parts of any oil painting!

Even in a grayscale painting, properly placed value explains form and dimension. (Painting by Evolve student Mathu W.)


Value in the oil painting process is an essential part of the painting. For beginners, value can be as simple as distinguishing between light and shadow. However, for advanced and master painters, value speaks to the structural elements of a painting and can be very complex. 

As humans, we see and understand the things around us mainly based on how dark or light they are. Value can explain form, opacity, depth, and so much more. Because value is such a crucial part of how we see and understand, it is essential that students learn how to handle and express value correctly. 

Evolve students begin to learn the moving pieces of value by distinguishing simply between light and shadow. At the beginning of their education, they create paintings with only two light values and two shadow values. This teaches them how to determine light from shadow, and then categorize value within light or shadow.

From this simple start, students expand into reflections, highlights, value in color, and more complex ways of utilizing value to express something in a painting. Value is a critical part of the oil painting process and understanding what it is and how to properly see and apply it should be one of the first lessons a painting student learns. 

If edges are handled properly, even the most simple painting can have dimension and elegance. (Painting by Evolve student Marta L.)


Edges are another important piece of the painting process. Edges create the shapes we see, they explain form, and they can make or break a painting. From the very first exercise in Evolve, students are taught to carefully handle their edges. Without care for edges in your paintings, the entire piece will suffer.

There are two types of edges that Evolve students consider: gradients and sharp edges. Gradients are a gradual transition from light to shadow and express the form of an object. A soft, cleanly painted gradient creates the illusion of a three-dimensional shape. The ability to paint both large, sprawling transitions and small, tight changes from light to shadow is an important tool for an artist. 

An example of beginning gradients and sharp edges within the Evolve program.

Sharp edges are exactly as they sound. These razor-sharp marks are used to define outer edges, explain cast shadows, and bring focus to a painting. When sharp edges wobble or waiver, they eliminate any focus or believability in a painting and are less than convincing. 

Gradients and sharp edges also are crucial to maintaining the proportions of a painting. Along with proportions, properly placed and controlled edges bring focus and clarity to a painting, keeping it as realistic as possible. Even a beginner’s painting done with only four values, and no reflections or highlights can be beautifully realistic if the edges are handled properly. 

Edges are an essential part of the oil painting process, and without this moving part executed properly, the painting will fall flat. 

Color, edge, and value all working together in a beautiful, finished painting by Evolve student Jennifer R.


The final moving part of an oil painting is color. Though Evolve students start their painting education in grayscale, they soon move into color, adding another moving part to their work. Color brings another layer of realism to a painting, and much of learning how to utilize color comes from paint mixing and experimenting to find correct color combinations to express what you see before you. 

Color has both hues and saturation, hue referring to the color itself, like green or red, and saturation referring to how intense that color is. Learning to identify how to mix those color characteristics and apply them to painting is an essential part of a student’s journey. 

Color brings an intensity and realism to painting, and when used properly elevates a painting and brings it to life.

A beautiful example of the moving parts of an oil painting by Evolve student Sheila J. 


Though it seems complex in theory, the oil painting process can be broken down into these three moving parts. Value, edge, and color bring realism and believability to a painting, and when used properly can create incredible work. 

Even for the beginner working in grayscale, value and edge are essential. Without properly placed and executed value, the painting will not be rooted in reality. If it lacks sharp edges and correctly placed gradients, the proportions and dimensions will fall flat. And if color mixtures are improperly made or not carefully considered, even the most carefully painted work will suffer. 

These three moving parts bring control, accuracy, and realism into your paintings, creating works of art that are convincing and lifelike.

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Do Artists Need to be on Social Media?


Do Artists Need to be on Social Media?

Social media for artists: is it helpful or hurtful?

Modern-day artists are continually looking for ways to expand the reach of their art, and one of the most popular ways is social media. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and many more, have millions of users and accounts that cover every interest imaginable. For artists, social media can be a world of opportunity.

Utilizing social media for artists can provide artists with a platform to share their work and reach audiences across the world. But it can also provide distraction, discouragement, and become a waste of time. 

We’ve put together a few pros and cons of social media for artists, and how you can utilize these platforms best to grow as an artist. 

What can social media do for artists? There are some benefits that are worth it for artists to take advantage of!

What Social Media Can Do for Artists

Market your artwork

Social media enables artists at all levels and skills to market themselves free of charge. Places like Facebook and Instagram allow artists to share their process, connect with other artists, and develop a following of people who enjoy their work. As an artist, you will often find yourself looking for every possible opportunity to advance your career and improve your work. Social media provides a free, fairly simple way to do this. 

Develop an audience

Artists need audiences. Regardless of what it is you paint, you want your work to be in front of the people who it speaks to. If you are putting paintings of cityscapes in front of nature lovers, your sales probably won't increase. But when you find your target audience, you can have a big impact on them. 

Social media will enable you to find that audience without leaving your studio. People from around the world with similar interests, looking for the type of art you are making can be found using social media. Utilizing these tools, an artist can develop an audience and following, boosting their visibility. 

Find peers and inspiration

Utilizing social media, you can meet and interact with people around the world. For artists, this can be priceless. The more experiences and interactions artists have with the world, the more their art is influenced and potentially strengthened. By seeing other artist's work and interacting with the artists themselves, you can grow and expand your thoughts, building creative ideas unique to you and your experiences. 

If you find yourself spending more time on your social media art account rather than your studio practice, you may need to set some boundaries to protect your time.

What Social Media Can't Do

Social media can't sell your art by itself.

Posting your paintings online doesn’t automatically mean they’ll sell. In fact, the majority of your followers will never purchase your work. Using social media to foster relationships with potential buyers is a great idea. However, simply posting a picture does not guarantee it will sell without a lot of work put in. 

An online presence can take time away from studio work

Many beginning artists invest too much stock into social media platforms. As an artist, the majority of your work happens at the easel, honing your craft and producing thoughtful, dedicated work. While maintaining a social media presence is helpful, it can be a time trap, taking time that should be spent in the studio. Set boundaries for yourself in order to ensure that you are putting in the necessary work to succeed in your painting techniques before focusing all of your energy on promoting your social media pages. 

It can create pressures and compromise authenticity

If you’ve ever felt pressured by the successful, thriving people you see on social media, you’re not alone. It is easy to share only the beautiful, successful parts of life, while the struggles and messes remain hidden. When social media is used well, it provides a view of hard work, some failure, and successes. But without that, pressures arise that can discourage and turn away many new artists. Comparison steals motivation and quickly derails an artist. 

How do you use social media to make connections? (Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash)

How to Use Social Media Successfully

Protect your time

Track how much time you spend actually preparing content and scrolling through social media. Set a timer to protect your time and make sure that your time is invested, not wasted. 

Put in work in the Studio

Avoid creating work purely for social media. Have a vision and a plan, and use social media to enhance it, rather than creating work solely for an app 

Be social and authentic

Be authentic in what you share and post. Failures and lessons learned can often have a bigger impact on your audience than constant highlights. Authenticity goes a long way to share your real self with your audience.

Provide value

Share your experience! Every artist has something to offer. Be open and honest, share your journey through art, things you’ve learned, and revelations about becoming an artist. Your journey is unique and more people will resonate with it than you think. 

Social media is definitely a beneficial tool for artists.


Social media can be a helpful tool for artists, but it doesn’t guarantee success. By using it as a tool to enhance your skills, meet fellow artists, and gain new insights and experiences, social media for artists can be very beneficial. 

Protect your time, keep working on your craft, and remember that your journey through is worth sharing with an audience!

How do you utilize social media for your art? Leave a comment below!

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What to Do When You Make Mistakes in Oil Painting


What to Do When You Make Mistakes in an Oil Painting

What do you do when you’ve made a mistake in oil painting? Keep reading for some tips! (Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash)

If you create art of any kind, then you’ve had the moment when you realize something’s gone wrong and now you must fix a mistake in your oil painting. Though frustrating, mistakes and missteps are a part of learning and happen to everyone. 

Even if you’re a working professional, you’ll still make mistakes. Now the caliber of your mistakes will be much higher, but you will still make mistakes. 

So how can artists begin to fix and recognize mistakes in their art? Keep reading to learn some ways to learn and recover from mistakes in an oil painting.

Take great care to place your moderate lights correctly. Regardless of how dark an object seems, anything that is in the light must be given a light value. 

Do You Know What's Wrong?

The first step to fixing mistakes in an oil painting is to actually find the mistake. Students will often ask in our school, “Is this done? I know something’s wrong, but I don’t know what”. 

The first question to ask yourself when you see problems in your painting is if you know what the issue is. If you feel like somethings wrong, but you can’t figure out what it is, you need to let the painting be done. If you can’t figure out what’s wrong, you won’t be able to fix it. 

However, when we look at our work, we can usually pinpoint the issue. Whether it is in value, edge, color, or proportion, it usually sticks out to us. 

Then the next question to ask yourself before attempting fixing a problem should be “Do I know how to fix the issue?”.  If the answer is yes, then you can go in and try to fix the problem, which will improve the painting and move along closer to the end goal.

...artists often find themselves painting in circles trying to fix problems they don’t understand or know how to correct.

But if the answer is "No, I don’t know how to fix this problem", then you must stop painting. You can’t fix something if you don’t know what it is you need to fix or if you don’t understand how to fix it! It seems simple, but artists often find themselves painting in circles trying to fix problems they don’t understand or know how to correct. 

If you don’t understand where the problems are in your painting, then nothing needs correction at this point. Correcting issues that you don’t understand will create more problems and mistakes. Better to leave a mistake that you don’t understand or know how to fix, rather than creating additional problems. 

But, if you can find the mistake and know how to fix it, then you are ready to begin making corrections to your painting. 

This painting by Evolve student Craig H. shows careful control and care from the very beginning, which results in a beautiful painting.

Can You Fix the Mistake?

As you work on a painting, stepping back to look for mistakes is important for several reasons. As you work, if you step back and see an easy issue that you can fix, the fix is fairly easy when the paint is wet. 

With a rag or small piece of paper towel, parts of the painting can be wiped away and restarted, or the wet paint manipulated, an edge sharpened or softened, or really any simple fix. As you go in to make a correction in wet paint, it is important to ask yourself if fixing the issue will help the painting or cause additional issues. 

If correcting a minor problem seems like it will cause a chain reaction of issues you’ll then need to correct, it is better to leave it alone. Also, depending on where you are in the painting, it may be best to leave the issue. Minor problems at the beginning of a painting are easier to correct than problems that you spot at the very end. 

But what happens when a major issue arises? Major issues in paintings stem from not enough care in the beginning of the painting, and the artist simply needs to take greater care and focus with the beginning stages of their painting.

Looking back and forth between the reference and the painting, see if you can find the issue with the painting and ask yourself if you understand how to make the fix. Then ask yourself if by fixing the major problem, will the rest of the painting suffer and will you have to repaint other large areas. If the answer is yes, it might be best to leave the painting and start again. 

Knowing when to stop and restart or move on is an important part of painting. (Photo by Gary Chan on Unsplash)

Know When to Let Go

When major issues arise in your painting and you don’t know how to fix them, sometimes you need to let the painting be and start again. Overworking a painting never helps to achieve what you want. Making bold, informed decisions in your painting is what creates solid work, not guessing. 

Each stroke past a certain point either helps or destroys your painting. This means you need to weigh each stroke with extra intensity after a certain point. You can muddle about forever making tiny, inconsequential moves. 

Sometimes it is best to just stop or restart. And sometimes it is ok to leave some mistakes in your painting if you don’t know how to fix them. If you don’t know what the mistake is or how to fix it, chances are that with time you will learn how to. Each painting has the opportunity to teach you through its mistakes. Know when to let go of a painting and start again or move on. 

Learning how to spot and mistakes in an oil painting is a big part of the Evolve education. Here, Lisa S. shows how she carefully controls each part of her painting to make a solid Block 3 piece.


Mistakes are a part of learning. This post offers some simple ways to think about mistakes and how to begin to understand correcting them. Remember that sometimes the best thing you can do for your painting is to know when to stop

And if you find mistakes in your work, don’t worry! All artists make mistakes, no matter how knowledgable they are or how long they've been painting. But those artists who are most successful have learned that mistakes are opportunities to learn, not a final word on their skills. Learn from your missteps and continue to grow as an artist. 

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Developing Creativity as an Artist


Developing creativity as an artist

Where do new ideas come from? Can you become more creative? If you’ve asked yourself this question, this article is for you!

Have you ever sat in front of your blank canvas and wondered when the creativity will hit? Maybe you’re just out of ideas and feeling completely uninspired. The good news is that creativity as an artist is something that can be exercised and developed, it's not always natural and free-flowing. 

Many people have the false impression that artists are simply born filled with creativity. Here at Evolve, we believe that while some people are indeed gifted with a natural ability to express themselves artistically without much training, the majority of artists cultivate their creativity and carefully develop it with training and practice. 

So if you're looking to develop your creativity as an artist, keep reading for a few ways to dig deeper into growing and exercising this artistic skillset! 

Experiencing museum exhibits, peer work, and new ideas are all ways to improve your creativity. (Photo by iSAW Company on Unsplash)

Experience and Investigate

The best way to develop more ideas and creativity as an artist is to have as many experiences as possible. Creativity is built off of experiences. The more experiences you have, both as an artist and as a human, the more ideas will flow towards your artwork. 

In order to generate new ideas, you also need to spend time investigating the experiences you do have. If you are interested in painting a subject, you must go and investigate and have experiences within that subject. 

If you want to paint birds, you have to have an understanding of those birds. You must watch how they move, discuss them with knowledgable professionals, view other artists' work of the same subject; these are the things that will increase your creativity towards the thing you wish to paint. 

Make expanding your horizons a personal policy and standard behavior for yourself. If you see something interesting, go up to investigate and understand what it is in order to cultivate and jumpstart your creativity.

In order to boost creativity, you need to make work, and lots of it!

Try New Things to Boost Your Creativity

One of the reasons we often feel less creative or out of ideas is due to the fact that we aren’t experimenting enough with the ideas that we do have. In order to boost creativity, you have to make things!

When you have a whisper of an idea, no matter how basic, or are inspired by something you have been investigating or experiencing, begin to sketch it out. 

Our first sketch, almost every time, is going to be the weakest sketch we produce. Once that is on paper, it generally looks remedial and uninspired. We're not very creative in our initial impulses. But getting on paper is just the first step. 

When the information is out of our head, we can work on what we want it to become. Experiment with different angles, lighting, and mentally walk around your subject. As you explore, you will find fresh ideas and creative bursts that emerge from the experimentation.

In order to become more creative, you need to make work, lots of work! 

Sketch and paint and work through ideas. Spending more time digging into an idea after an experience is what helps us to generate new creativity as artists. 

Journaling and sketching are great ways to develop and grow your creativity as an artist. (Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash)

Exercise Your Creativity

Just like a muscle, creativity needs exercise. With regular practice and stimulation, the creative capacities of our brains can grow and be triggered. Here are a few simple ways that you can exercise your creativity to form new ideas:


Sketching everything around you, from your breakfast to your train ride, can help you to start to see the world around you in a new way. Getting into the ritual of doing this every day can also help to build good creative habits, where something becomes a necessary part of your day. 


Writing down your ideas, thoughts, and reactions can be a useful tool for artists. Some artists feel fulfilled simply by sketching their reactions and emotions, but others find more understanding in their experiences by writing things down to later process. Take a journal to a museum, and write down your reactions and what catches your eye. 

Find a Creative Space

Whether it be nature, a studio space, a museum, or a busy coffee shop, find a place where you feel the urge and need to create. Make sure it’s not too distracting, and settle in to develop and create ideas. 

Ask Questions

Reach out to artists and ask questions. Ask peers how they develop and exercise their creativity. Remember that experiences become fuel for creativity. 

In order to develop your creativity, simply keep experimenting, exploring, and exercising!


Creativity for artists needs to be exercised and developed. It is a skill that takes attention, but once cultivated, it can enable you to make work stronger than you could have thought possible. 

Don’t be shy about investigating the world you live in, because the world that you live in eventually makes its way into your work. It makes its way in either as you found it or in some augmented fashion that fits your needs.

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Meet the Evolve Artist: Alex Vinciguerra


Meet the Evolve Artist: Alex Vinciguerra

Evolve Artist and college student, Alex, makes time to grow as an artist with a busy schedule.

Learning to become an artist looks different for each individual. Every student’s path is unique and can offer up guidance and encouragement for fellow students.

Evolve is proud to be the home of many working artists and students who generously share their experiences on how the program brought and is bringing them success. We hope you enjoy learning more about our students and instructors in these Evolve artist interviews!

Block 4 painting by Alex V.

Meet Alex

Since 2018, Evolve artist and student Alex Vinciguerra has been developing his skills into fantastic works of art. Currently, Alex is finishing up Block 7, speed painting, and has worked through grayscale, direct painting, vacant shadows with great success. 

Before college, Alex had no intention of making art a large part of his life. Though interested in doodling and drawing, it was not until college that he began seriously pursuing art. 

Currently a senior graphic design major at college, Alex balances school and Evolve. He has some fantastic tips for students who may find themselves in the same busy phase of life, and how he capitalizes on the time he does have in order to keep growing as an artist. 

As an Evolve student, Alex is proving that even as a busy college senior, he can still succeed and reach his goals with art. His hard work and diligence have produced beautiful paintings that show careful planning and execution. 

Block 1 drawing from direct observation.

Art Journey

Has art always been an interest of yours?

I’ve been drawing in an informal sense for as long as I can remember, though I never really even considered trying to make a living off of anything creative. Now that I’m more interested though I would love to be able to make a solid living off of it.

How did your art education journey begin?

I’ve only been seriously pursuing art for around 3-4 years. Then in my first year at college, I was majoring in Computer Science, and that was the most excruciatingly boring experience of my life (no offense CompSci people), and I did a major review of my life goals.

Eventually I decided I should go for something a good deal more creative, but I also didn’t really trust anyone for teaching fine art (I hadn’t even heard of ateliers at that point and I figured you’d need connections or something for an apprenticeship) so I settled on Graphic Design for my new major, which I do enjoy a lot and am in my final year of. 

One of Alex's early speed paintings. 

Evolve Journey

How did you come to find Evolve?

I was subscribed to Mitch’s Pencil Kings newsletter because of some YouTube artists that I was watching...and one day I saw the email that talked about how there was some painter in NJ who could teach anybody how to paint. 

And at first, I was thinking “probably either exaggeration or scam,” but still checked it out because “what if?” And the results examples were so consistent and impressive that I started thinking “maybe?” 

Especially the charcoal from block 1, that was super convincing for me because on the one hand, I could see how it was simple, but also how it looked better than anything I had done, and it convinced me that at least this program could teach me that. Then I started hyping it up in my head, imagining myself in two years doing super cool paintings… I got in and started up in February of 2018.  

The vacant shadows technique. 

Tips for Artists

What do you see yourself doing with your art?

First, make great paintings that provide a stable source of income...I’d also love to do paintings for churches...Portraits of people I like/admire would be cool too, and nerdy stuff with knights and/or wizards, and/or dragons are definitely on the list. And recreating scenes from good books would be really fun. Oh, and historical events. Maybe some landscapes. A lot of stuff I guess!

Do you have a personal favorite piece you’ve completed recently?

The one I just probably my favorite recent one. It’s one of the chess pieces, probably because it almost fits that nerdy category I was talking about earlier (there’s a king and a knight, good enough for me).

What tips would you give to a beginning student?

To a beginning student...don’t stop…

I mean it’s not like I never stop. In fact, I bet if you look at the submission dates for my assignments you can tell exactly when my summer and winter breaks start and end because my output is pretty consistent at 1 per day during breaks, then drops drastically to 1 every 1-2 weeks during school. 

But even when I’m not doing a painting a day, if I have a minute I try to set up for when I have a longer stretch of time. 

I think of what objects I might use for direct observation...or do the transfer sketch for a photo. Even just taping up the canvas to the piece of wood makes it that much easier to start painting when I have time. So do that.

Alex's favorite piece to date. 


We hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know one of our Evolve students, and are encouraged to take the little steps to start painting more and begin to evolve as an artist! Even with the busiest of schedules, you can make time for your art.

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Making Time for Art: Tips for Busy Artists


Making Time for Art: Tips for Busy Artists

How can busy people make more time for art?  Consistently carrying a sketchbook is a good way to start getting in the habit of making art whenever you have time. (Photo by Kamila Maciejewska on Unsplash)

How many hours each week or each day do you spend making your own art? If you have even a slightly busy schedule, it's probably not as much time as you’d like. 

If you work a full-time job, are raising a family, or have other non-negotiable things that take up a lot of your day, making time to set aside for art can seem like an impossible luxury or a stressful addition.

Making time for art is a discipline that needs to be both flexible and concrete. So if you feel as though your days are filled to the brim and art just keeps getting pushed down the list, this post may be for you. And if you only have small pockets of time and never quite feel as though you can accomplish your art goals at that time, keep reading and let’s explore some simple ways to find time to make art.

Evolve students learn how to manage their time and organize paintings, like this one by Dimitris M. in order to complete complex work. 

Reclaim and Reutilize Time

The first step to making time for art is to find the time in the day that you can reclaim.

Start by doing just a little, several times a day. 

Maybe this means sketching at lunch or after dinner. It could be drawing or writing down notes of what you’d like to do while on hold on the phone. Perhaps there is a 15-minute time slot when you are waiting in the pick-up line that you can pull out your journal and sketch out ideas or practice new techniques. 

Bring a blank journal with you everywhere.

When pockets of time open up, you can bring out your sketchbook and draw or brainstorm ideas. Draw the world around you or little details. Practice finding light and shadow and differentiating between the two. Draw out ideas for paintings or still-lives and how you would light them. These quick, little sketches don’t need to be perfect, but they will get you into the habit of making art. 

Reduce your screen time.

Use the time you normally spend scrolling through social media or watching tv for making art instead. Calculate the time you spend watching tv or scrolling through social media and instead push yourself to fill that time with something that you enjoy doing and will help you to achieve your goals. Set timers on social media accounts to allow yourself to stay caught up with friends while also setting healthy boundaries on this time and reclaiming it for your art practice. 

Reducing screen time and time on social media often yields extra time to grow in your artistic abilities. (Photo by Dai KE on Unsplash)

Set Boundaries for Your Art

How important is art to you? Is it important enough to commit time to? If it is one of your higher priorities then you might consider treating the time you spend on it a bit differently.

Treat your art practice like a class.

Block out sections of time in your weekly calendar to make art, no matter how small, and do not allow anything else to take over that time. Find a time that is free and treat your art like a class, one you have to show up to and that cannot be canceled. Do not schedule things over your “class” and take that time seriously, trying your best to show up every single week at the exact same time. Even if it is only 30 minutes or an hour, doing a little bit each week might not seem like a lot, but over time, it adds up. Give yourself a time that is only for art. No distractions, no cancelations, and no booking things during this class. 

Establish deadlines and goals.

Having clear goals is one key to staying productive in the time you have. Setting monthly, weekly, and even daily goals in your art practice will help you to break down your long term goals into doable objectives. For example, if you want to complete two homework assignments a week for Evolve, divide up the workload into manageable sections and assign those tasks to each day of the week in order to reach your goal by the end of the week. 

Establishing these deadlines and goals will help you to keep moving forward and reduce the chances of putting off your work and allowing other distractions to take the place of your art. 

Start planning out your week in order to accomplish goals in your art, no matter how small. This chart by Kristine Oller can be very helpful for artists!

Get Involved and Get Organized

Being engaged and organized is important for artists. Isolation can lead to discouragement and a disorganized artists rarely completes tasks.  

Find an art accountability partner. 

Having an accountability buddy for your artistic practice will also help you to meet your goals. While ultimately the responsibility is on your shoulders, having someone to encourage and motivate you can be incredibly helpful. Meeting with another artist in person or online once a week can help you build momentum, have a sense of responsibility and accountability, and turn isolating art practices into an encouraging environment. 

Get organized!

Establishing deadlines, goals, and accountability often sounds too restrictive for creatives, but getting yourself organized is the key to sustainably making time for art. While flexibility is important as an artist, establishing boundaries and goals will help you avoid putting off tasks and projects that are less fun. Organized artists can stay focused and move forward, making the most of the time they have. 

Encouragement and accountability can be found in other artists. 


Ultimately, making time for art is on your shoulders. If you find yourself saying "I wish I had time to make art", know that you will never have the time; you have to make the time. 

With responsibility, jobs, and family, things will come up that distract us from our art. But by starting small, reprioritizing, and focusing on the things you can control, you will make so much more time for your art. 

This week, try scheduling your art and setting some achievable goals. What time can you reclaim?

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3 Common Misconceptions about Oil Painting


3 Common Misconceptions about Oil Painting

Oil painting is a versatile and beginner friendly medium, contrary to popular belief! Keep reading to learn more about it. (Photo by Andrian Valeanu on Unsplash)

Have you ever wanted to try oil painting, but been put off because of things you’d heard about the medium?

If so, you’ll know that there are plenty of myths and misconceptions about oil painting and oil paints. Many people who have not tried oil painting can have preconceived notions and ideas about the negative effects of oils, and these ideas hold them back from ever trying the medium.

Don’t let misinformation hold you back from learning how to oil paint and becoming a great artist. Keep reading and let’s debunk a few oil painting myths!

Rather than oil paints, there are mediums like turpentine that are the toxic components of oil painting. However, these toxic mediums can be swapped out for safer mediums like linseed oil. (Photo by  Old Holland)

Oil Painting is Toxic

This oil painting myth is fairly common. However, the majority of oil paint is not toxic. In fact, unless you eat your oil paint, which is never recommended, there are no adverse effects to most oil paints. Oil paint is made up of natural oil and pigment, and the majority of pigments are completely safe and non-toxic. There are a few toxic ones, like lead-white, cadmium, and cobalt, but they are only toxic if you eat or breath in the dry pigment before the oil is mixed. These slightly toxic colors can also be substituted out for synthetic alternatives. 

​Oil paint itself has no smell. The unpleasant, toxic smell many people talk about comes from the solvent (turpentine or white spirits) many artists use to help the fluidity of paint, cleaning, or drying time. Leaving open turpentine lying around will indeed fill a room with a toxic fume. However, there are safer alternatives to use, like linseed oil, which is a fairly scentless, safe alternative to turpentine. Brushes can also be cleaned with a bar of simple ivory soap, rather than turpentine to keep children, pets, and yourself away from the smell and touch of turps. 

In addition, if you are using a high-quality paint, you can get away without using medium, using the paint straight from the tube. Medium is only necessary to change the characteristics of the paint. It can speed or slow drying, increase transparency, or increase fluidity, but can also be left out of your painting process entirely. 

So the myth that oil painting is toxic really has little to do with oil painting, and more to do with unsafe practices and unnecessary mediums. 

While some oil paints are expensive, because they are high quality and well pigmented, they last much longer, saving you money. (Photo by Old Holland)

Oil Painting is Too Expensive

Investing in top tier oil paint can be expensive, but lower quality paint lends a less desirable effect. Consider this: if you could invest in very pigmented, expensive paint that lasts longer and get better results, wouldn’t you take that over watery, inexpensive oil paint? 

The lower quality paint, while more affordable, can hold you back. Better paint won’t make you a better artist, but as you learn, it won’t hold you back. 

Student grade paint often yields the same result. Because extra binders (oil) is added to stretch the paint, there is less pigment and an excess of oil. This makes painting more difficult because the tools will prevent you from making your best work.

Investing in quality paints will also mean your tools last much longer. Because of the density of the pigment, the paint can be stretched farther with medium (and you can choose a safe one, like linseed oil). So rather than purchasing cheap paint constantly as you run out, a top-quality tube of paint can last much longer, saving you money.

Some techniques, like impasto or puddling, do take longer to dry. But by working in thin layers or directly painting, the oil paint is dry within 24 hours. (Puddled painting by Michael B.)

Oil Painting Takes Too Long to Dry

This common oil painting myth can be avoided. Oil paint only takes a long time to dry in very certain circumstances. Depending on the color, some oil paints will dry a bit slower than others, but if you are working with a smooth, thin, opaque layer of paint, your painting will most likely be dry within 24 hours. 

However, certain colors like white may take a bit longer to dry depending on the application thickness. Painters who use the impasto technique, or puddling, will often have to wait a week or two for their paint to dry. Very, very thick impasto can take several months. But if you choose to work in a thinner manner, your paint will dry very quickly. 

A medium can also change the drying time of the paint. Linseed oil helps paint to tack up and dry within six hours and be fully dry in about 24. Using just an alkyd, your paint will start to dry within four hours. But if you choose a medium like a clove oil, your paint may stay wet for several days to weeks. 

These mediums can be helpful if an artist likes to work into wet paint, but certain mediums can also help to speed up the drying time. 

The myth that oil painting takes too long to dry really depends on how you are painting, and in general, oil paint dries quite quickly. 

Don't let misconceptions hold you back from learning how to oil paint! 


There are many oil painting myths, but by looking a bit deeper, we can see that they can easily be disproved. Oil painting is a simple, safe way to create art and paintings and is suitable for students and professionals alike. 

Now that you know some of the truths behind common oil painting myths, you’re ready to tackle the medium and discover the benefits of oil painting

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How to Varnish an Oil Painting


How to varnish an oil painting

Varnishing an oil painting is an essential part of the painting process. (Photo by Will Kemp)

Varnishing an oil painting is an important part of the painting process. If you’ve completed an oil painting, you’ll notice that once completed and dry, the surface of the painting isn’t quite even. It has areas that shine and others that appear quite dull and matte. 

Varnish comes into play in these situations to protect, even out, and improve the aesthetic finish of an oil painting. Along with this, it can protect a painting from environmental damage, like dust, dirt, or smoke. When a painting is finished with a removable varnish it can be cleaned by removing that layer, and the dirt from decades or centuries that has affixed to the top layer can be eliminated without damaging the painting. 

Learning how and why artists varnish their work in an important part of an oil painting. The process can be done quite easily and can improve and protect the final oil painting.

An example of before and after varnish, with the colors brought back to the luster of when they were wet. (Photo by Cowans)

What Does Varnish Do?

Applying varnish to an oil painting helps to combat the uneven drying of paint layers. Because some oil paint pigments contain more oil than others, they may dry more glossy than others. Others contain less oil and dry with a matte finish. Darker color especially tend to dry and lose their original luster. Varnish helps to even out the final painting at the very end to unify the layers and different colors of paint. 

In addition to aesthetic uses, this protective coat offers a dust-resistance and protective final coat for the painting. Many varnishes have UV light resistors to protect the paintings from fading when exposed to light. Most are acrylic, some removable and mineral spirit based rather than water-based. For this reason, varnish should always be used in a well ventilated or preferably outdoor area. 

The in process restoration of "Portrait of a lady with a dog" 1590s, by Lavinia Fontana 1552-1614, restored by Rebecca Gregg Conservation. The left side has had the original varnish removed, while it remains on the right half.

Varnish in History and Restoration

The old masters used varnishing often in their painting process, with select artists writing about their experiences. Many renaissance painters favored a glossy finish to complete their paintings, which not only increased the feeling of a glow and atmosphere but increased the feeling of dimension in the painting. 

However, many historical varnishes became cracked, dirtied, and discolored over centuries. Due to the lack of knowledge behind the proper compounds to create a clear, colorfast protective coat, many famous paintings have had to undergo restoration to remove their varnish and restore the painting’s former luster. 

Fortunately, because of the use of ancient varnishes, many masterpieces have been cleaned, restored, and preserved. A restorationist will use a removing solution to carefully strip away the old varnish, without damaging the painting beneath. The painting can then be recovered with a modern solution to protect from dust, light, and other elements. 

An unique view of the layers of a painting and the protective varnished layer. (Illustration courtesy of Gamblin)

Which Varnish Should I Use and How?

Varnishes used for oil painting are typically acrylic and can be applied by either a spray or brush. Using a brush can often produce unexpected results, ranging from uneven coverage to bubbles on the surface of the painting. Here at Evolve, we urge our students to use a spray varnish, which evenly and lightly coats the surface of the painting. 

Aside from the application process, varnish can be roughly broken down into permanent and temporary. Permanent varnish, also called picture varnish, is just as it sounds: permanent. It can only be applied after the painting thoroughly dries, anywhere from 2 months to two years. Though conservationists can carefully removed it, the permanent version usually protects paintings that will not be retouched or cleaned for many years. 

Temporary varnish, also known as re-workable, temporarily restores colors and can be reworked upon. It is thin and can be applied to the painting as soon as it is dry to the touch. Because if it's thin nature, it allows the paint to continue to deeply dry without cracking. 

Choosing a varnish depends on your painting style, but re-workable options prove a good choice for beginner painters. 

An painting in the process of varnishing by Jason Walcott.


Varnishing a painting is an important part of the oil painting process. Both for aesthetic and protective purposes, this important layer should be applied to every painting a student creates once they dry. Remember to choose a reworkable varnish, so that your painting can always be restored to its final luster. 

For one of the Evolve recommended spray varnishes, click here.

For more information on historical varnish and conservation, click here.  

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How to Choose the Right Paintbrush for Oil Painting


How to choose the right paintbrush for oil painting

​Choosing the right paintbrush is an important part of learning how to paint.

As any beginner artist knows, choosing the right oil paintbrush can be tricky. With hundreds of styles and sizes, finding the right brush for your painting can be confusing and even frustrating.

But utilizing the right size and style tool for the area where you are painting is an important choice. While good tools don’t make good paintings, the right tools can help you to do better work.

Fortunately, there are a few easy things to learn about paintbrushes and their styles that can help you to make an informed choice before you begin to paint. Keep reading to learn more about your brushes and find out how you can choose the right oil paintbrush!

There are several different shapes of brushes that work well for different techniques and areas in your painting. (Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash)

Parts of an Oil Paintbrush

Each paintbrush has the same anatomy, and it is made up of three parts. These three sections of the paintbrush are the bristles, the ferrule, and the handle. The bristles of the paintbrush are simply the hair that carries the paint. They can be stiff or pliable, each one leaving a unique mark. Stiffer brushes are often made of hogs hair or a synthetic bristle that can be used for scrubbing paint onto the canvas or leaving behind texture. A softer bristle, often made up of  soft hair, will yield a smoother result and more control. 

Bristles can be made of natural animal hair or synthetic hair. Natural hair brushes are often the most sought after, as they tend to be very soft and fine. However, synthetic brushes are a fantastic choice and can come in a range of very soft to very firm. Here at Evolve, our students use a range of synthetic brushes for their paintings.

The ferrule is the metal band that attaches the bristles to the handle. It holds them in place and keeps them together. It is important never to allow the paint to reach up to the ferrule. If this happens, the paint can dry close to the metal and become hard to clean. Once it dries near the ferrule, the bristles often spread, making it difficult to gain control with the brush. 

The handle of the paintbrush can be long or short  and made up of wood or plastic. If you choose a longer handled paintbrush, you can get some distance from your painting, but a shorter brush can enable you to render details with greater control. 

Difference in sizes between brush styles. (Photo by Anna Daudelin on Unsplash)

Different Types of Paintbrushes

There are several different styles of paintbrushes to choose from. Time and practice will help you to discover which one you prefer, but the size of the are in which you are working and your painting style can also help to inform your brush choice. 

Here are a few different oil paintbrush shapes:

  • Round: Round shape with a pointed tip, that is often used for fine details with a smaller brush or signatures. The stroke of a round brush doesn’t vary, so it is ideal for control in small areas. 

  • Flat: Flat bristles with squared ends that can be used for filling large spaces or blending paint. Because they can carry more paint, they can cover larger areas and create smooth edges and encourage a sweeping stroke. 

  • Filbert: A flat brush with rounded ends that can be used to apply paint or to create softer edges. Evolve students start with mostly filbert brushes, as these brushes are ideal for blending gradients. 

  • Fan: These brushes are flat and shaped like a fan. They are excellent for blending paint or softening edges, or a well-used brush can create patterns and interesting marks. Each brush comes in a variance of sizes, ranging from very fine to larger than an inch. Keep in mind that different styles and brands of paintbrushes may vary in sizes, so always check before you buy. 

Differences in marks are due to pressure and brush shape. (Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash)

Which Brush Should I Use?

Finding the paintbrush that works best for your particular situation may take some time and trials. Start with a simple filbert, maybe in a 2, 6, and 12, and see where that gets you. You may want to explore a wider brush, or perhaps a round. 

Evolve students start their painting journey with mostly filberts, and as they grow in their techniques are able to experiment with different styles and sizes. 

Consider investing in a few, quality, medium to large stiff brushes, and a few smaller soft brushes. Explore which ones fit you best in your painting style. Don’t give up on a brush if it feels uncomfortable at first, instead, hold on to it as it may come in handy later. 

Evolve Paintbrushes are, at first, mostly filberts ranging from a size 2 to a size 12.


Finding the brushes that suit you best takes time. Just remember that in order to find out what you like, you must paint and practice! 

Take your time and experiment with different brush styles until you find what works best for your painting technique. 

Remember to take good care of your brushes

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