1. Figure out what you'd like to paint- Let's start simple. No portraits or pets (until you get a feel for painting). Trust me, you'll get frustrated. When I am finding inspiration for a painting I will sometimes just browse the internet or my photo files for pictures that I or others have taken that inspire me. Once I have compiled enough I start getting an idea of what direction I want to go in. A similar way you can do this is to go through magazines and cut out pictures that you like. You can fit the pictures together as a collage (think 8"x11" ish sized) or find a large picture that you'd like to try to paint. Print this picture out at its full size (I like Walgreens, its cheap, get the matte if possible).
2. Supplies- Depending on the dimensions of your picture, try to find a canvas in a corresponding size. Go as big or as small as you want. (I recommend Michael's for canvases, bring your coupon). Next invest in a set of acrylic paints (or oils if you're feeling adventurous). A sampler set is very reasonably priced. (You can check Michael's or Walmart). Also get a set of starter brushes. If you find you love painting and want to advance to the next level you're going to need to invest in some more expensive brushes, but a starter set will do for now. Make sure you have some paper plates and cups on hand for paint mixing and brush rinsing. Or buy a small plastic palette if you're feeling froggy.
3. Graph your stuff- Graph out your photograph and canvas (USE PENCIL ON CANVAS). I can't spell this one out for you because canvases and pictures run different sizes, but you need them to correspond. I usually break my photo into 1 inch chunks and then graph my canvas into a corresponding grid. Sometimes I need to knock off a row or column on my photo to make it work. That's OK. You won't miss it. If you have trouble with this step, consult someone who's good at math. That's usually what I have to do.
4. Draw your photo onto your canvas (use pencil)- Using your grid as a guideline, transfer your picture onto your canvas. The grid should make it much easier to get the dimensions right.
5. Figure out what colors you will need to do your painting. If you are using a starter paint set, you're going to have to learn how to mix colors. Its not hard, once you get the hang of it. If you need help, here's a color wheel. Mix your paints and play around with it. If you make a mistake, its no big deal! Acrylics dry fast and you can paint over it. If your photo has a background, work on that first and then work forward to objects in front. Use your pencil drawings as a guideline. If you get stuck, try to view your photo as colors and shapes instead of concrete objects. If you have trouble, try picking a picture to paint that is simpler. Try an abstract piece (like the one I did below). Sometimes these allow you to learn to see colors and shapes instead of objects. Don't give up! Painting is a wonderful hobby that everyone can enjoy if they are willing to take the time to learn the basics.
Kurt Vonnegut - "To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to
make your soul grow. So do it."
I painted this reproduction of Van Gogh's Starry Night using the techniques I described above. I used oil paints on canvas 24"x36".