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Oil, Acrylic, Watercolor & Pastel
Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
Online Academy
Building Blocks
Student Comments
"Thereís no
way your
paintings canít
improve after
this course"
"Iíve been painting on my own for a while and thought I was doing okay. Now that Iím taking this course I see so many things I can learn from that will make my work so much better. This is the stuff you canít get in art school anymore, sadly. Thereís no way your paintings canít improve after this course. Thatís how strongly I feel about it." ... Bob Akers., Crystal Lake, IL, United States

"...really superb"

"I find your courses really superb in two ways: first they are very complete and comprehensive, and second they go straight to the point, to the essentials. Both my wife and I paint and we both agree that these art instruction courses are one of the best sources of education for people who want to learn to paint in a direct or alla prima style" Bernado Martin, Alicante, Spain.

Erika is
her dream
"This course is truly well run, professionally handled -- and I can only echo the great comments of other students: I am glad, I enrolled in this course!! I got so much out of it already -- lots of explanations, areas to study up on, other artists to learn from. AND I am not at the end of the course, yet. I am getting more and more confident and bold enough to follow my dream -- to become a proficient and sensitive artist. Erika, USA, 2009
"...already noticed
in my work"
"In my opinion, your material is the best I have found. It builds the basics, from the ground up, recognizing that there are no short cuts.....Your course puts all the right info into one package, and even more important, it gives me an organized, building block way to get these things into my head, and I have already noticed an improvement in my work," George, USA
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Building Block: Brushwork

Powerfully enhancing your visual music.
What is included in the Brushwork Building Block?
Brushwork in oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings enhances the visual music of your work by giving it a second level of abstraction. If you zoom in on any part of the painting, it becomes an abstract painting in itself. This is one of those other skills that differentiates the real master artists. You can also apply dry media such as pastel or graphite for the same effects.
Some of the things you will learn:
Basic brushwork techniques - basic brushwork techniques such as how to hold the brush and how to achieve different brush effects. You will also learn how to use brushwork to give your paintings a more interesting abstract quality when
viewed close up.
Descriptive brushwork - how to use brushwork to describe you subject matter - the critical factor in developing interesting brushwork and in improving the abstract quality of your paintings.
Focal areas - how to make your painting more interesting by varying the amount of detail in different parts of the painting.
Suggestion - various techniques for taking advantage of the
principle of suggestion to make your work much more interesting
Edges - how to incorporate a full range of edges in your paintings, from hard to soft
Optical color mixing - a look at various approaches to allow the viewer's eye to mix the color rather than mixing them fully on the canvas
How does it work?
Buy Membership
  Academy membership costs $79 USD per month and gives you a private account on our system where you can access our lessons, assignments & online community. Access to the online campus means you can upload your assignments and share them with other students from across the world, as well as access to supplemental learning materials such as videos and examples. You can cancel your membership at any time.
No Risk Trial
There are no commitments to the Painting Academy. You can cancel at any time, there are no contracts. You're free to go, free to stay.
"The material is very well presented and easy to understand - no lengthy explanations but short and condensed paragraphs with a load of very valuable information. Along with plenty of illustrations, this makes it a fun and easy study."

What is included in each course unit?


Unit 1 - Techniques

The way you apply the paint to your painting is important. For example, paint your darks using thin paint and your lights using thicker paint (referred to as "impasto"). WIth thin areas of dark you prevent light bouncing off ridges of paint and destroying the dark effect. When you paint light areas thickly, light bounce off the ridges of the brushstroke when the painting is viewed making the lights brighter. Interesting brushwork is one of the things that makes a painting a "painting" and not a photograph.
In this unit you will learn basic brushwork techniques, and how to use brushwork to give your paintings a more interesting abstract quality when viewed close up. You will learn:
  • how to and how not to hold the brush
  • how to use the brush to draw accurate thin vertical straight lines
  • the difference between control brushstrokes and free brushstrokes and when to use them
  • a technique for drawing thin wavy stokes such as tree branches
  • how to prevent your painting breaking up into a series of disjointed small shapes
  • how to use the carving out technique to paint complex shapes, and create hard edges
  • when to use thick and when to use thin paint, and why
  • how to use glazes to fix a color that is out of place, or to make your colors more luminous
  • the importance of point, line, and mass
  • how to enhance the surface of your painting with thick and thin passages
  • how you can emphasize elements of your composition using contrast
  • how working large to small helps you build a solid abstract foundation for your work

Unit 2 - Descriptive Brushwork

Each brushstroke must make a contribution to the description of your subject, and should not be applied randomly. This has two advantages: your painting gains strength since the visual field is simplified into broader shapes of a single color and value, and you can paint more quickly and so are in a better position to capture changing subject matter more accurately and more true to nature.
Tip: When you are learning how to create good brushstrokes, use larger brushes (sizes 12, 10, and 8) to cover most of the canvas, and use smaller brushes only for detail work.
This unit shows you how to use brushwork to say more with less - the critical factor in developing interesting brushwork and in improving the abstract quality of your paintings. You will learn:
  • how to improve the three-dimensional quality of your paintings using directional brushstrokes
  • how to create and simulate texture
  • how to convey the impression of movement
  • how and why brushwork establishes the emotional mood of a painting
  • how to use brushwork to communicate perspective in painting
  • why speed is important in helping you develop your own individual brushwork, and how to use it

Unit 3 - Focal Points

When you look at a scene that inspires you to paint it, remember that your eye sees only one part of a scene clearly in focus. You see the rest of the scene in a more generalized way using your peripheral vision. A painting should do the same for your viewer: the objects in the focal point or focal area should be in sharper focus compared with objects in other parts of the painting. Do not make the painting look like a photograph in which the whole scene is in focus.
In this painting of Calla Lillies and Oranges, notice how there is more detailed brushwork in the flower closest to the viewer, and more suggestive shapes as you move towards the distance.
In this unit you will learn how to vary the amount of detail in different parts of the painting. You will learn:
  • when to put detail and when to stay loose
  • the difference betwen freehand and control hand brushstrokes and when to use each type of brushstroke
  • when to work carefully and with a high degree of control, and when to work freely and loosely in an intuitive manner
  • the mop/rigger technique for differentiating your focal area from the rest of the painting

Unit 4 - Suggestion

Old master artists knew how to suggest a lot of detail without actually rendering it. Look closely at any John Singer Sargent painting and you will notice that an elegant dress is no more than a series of abstract brushstrokes. Old masters knew how to increase the viewer's involvement and interest in the painting by making viewers exercise their own imagination, which is almost limitless. No longer are you just showing the viewer what you, the artist, is thinking about, but you are stimulating them to contribute their own thoughts and images to the work. In this way, the viewer becomes a participant in the experience. If you depict everything to make it look like a photograph, you leave nothing up to the imagination of the viewer, who becomes just a spectator of the work, rather than a participant in it.
Look closely at the bunch of grapes in this still life painting. They were massed in using the general color of the grapes, then a few of the grapes at the edge and inside the large mass were picked out by modeling them with some reflected lights and highlights. This way the few rendered grapes suggest the whole bunch.
In this unit you will learn the various techniques for taking advantage of the principle of suggestion to make your work much more interesting. Suggestion is all about painting a little, but saying a lot. You will learn:
  • why suggestion is much more powerful than detailed rendering
  • how to paint highly complex areas such as roof tiles, bunches of grapes, or detailed foliage
  • how to turn mistakes to your advantage and make use of old discarded paintings
  • how to use transparent pigments to increase the power of suggestion
  • the importance of the silhouette for suggesting form
  • why accurate color spots are critical for suggesting form

Unit 5 - Edges

The mistake a lot of artists make is to forget to incorporate a full range of edges, with hard to soft brushstrokes. It is important to develop and refine edges because they enhance the atmospheric perspective in landscapes, as well as in still life paintings and interior scenes. They also create the three-dimensional quality of forms, by making them "turn". In this still life painting, the tips of the asparagus leaning against the tin are painted with a hard edge, in this case a sudden change of value from light to dark. The asparagus pieces laying on the surface are painted with soft edges in a gradation of values.
This unit deals with one of the most important topics relating to brushwork - edges. You will learn:
  • how to incorporate a full range of edges in your painting, from hard to soft
  • how to use the direction of the brushstroke, and changes in value to soften edges
  • how to develop an edge by adjusting the background, rather than working directly on the edges of objects in your painting
  • how to use edges to move objects forwards and backwards in space and give your paintings more depth
  • how to use edges to create eye movement in a painting
  • how to use "lost and found" edges to improve the realism of your painting
  • how to use color changes at edges to enhance your painting

Unit 6 - Optical Color Mixing

One technique that the French and California Impressionists used successfully in their artwork is optical color mixing. You do not have to do all the work for the viewer, a painting can me much more interesting and exciting if there is still some work for the viewer's eye to do. If you view two adjacent color spots from a distance, the eye mixes them to form a third color. The result of mixing two saturated colors is a third, less saturated color. There are several benefits to this approach. The first is that by letting the eye do the mixing, more light reaches the eye than if you were to fully mix the colors physically on the painting. This gives the painting luminosity and makes the color in the painting carry further into the distance. Another is that the vibration created by this approach adds visual interest to otherwise flat areas of color in the painting.
In this painting of Bastia Harbor, Corsica, the wall is painted using equal amounts of two complementary colors, blue grays and burnt siennas, which creates a luminous, almost neutral gray. In this unit we are going to look at various approaches for using brushwork to let the viewer's eye mix colors, rather than mixing them fully on the canvas. This effect is called optical mixing, and can enhance your painting in many ways. You will learn:
  • what is optical mixing, and how it works
  • the difference between triadic, complementary, and analogous optical mixing
  • how to make effective use of an imprimatura to create an optical mixing effect, and what pitfalls to avoid when using this approach
  • when to use a warm and when to use a cool imprimatura
  • how to create an optical mixing effect when you are working directly (using the wet-in-wet mixing approach)
  • how to achieve optical mixing by using washes
  • how to build up a painting in layers to create an optical mixing effect and to make the surface of the painting more interesting
  • how Monet captured the effect of light in his "series" paintings
Our comprehensive 4 year program of study
for all levels

The Painting Academy is designed to be both suitable for beginners and professionals alike. If you are serious about improving your painting skills, no matter your current level, and you want to become an excellent artist and you are looking for a comprehensive in-depth program of study that's expertly organized, then look no further. You will get immediate access to:
192 Lessons
340 Assignments
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