Essential advice for those who want to paint but don’t know where to start

Creating your own art to decorate your home might just be easier than you thought. Artist Sasha Compton is here to guide you through the basic steps to painting for beginners.

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Art is often what makes a house a home. Since our lives have become increasingly home-bound, the sentiment is only made stronger. Finding artwork that feels special and unique to you and your space, however, remains quite difficult.

A solution that is growing in popularity on Instagram is making your own art. And there are a handful of wonderful benefits: it’s a fun creative way to spend your time (particularly anyone who’s been feeling the strain of screen fatigue), an opportunity to develop a new skill, and research shows that creating art can also be beneficial to mental health.

Don’t know where to start? It’s not as intimidating as it may sound. Sasha Compton, a British artist based in Amsterdam, has provided her expert knowledge on where to start with creating your own art. 

Sasha launched her business in lockdown and her work is inspired by themes like the female figure. She is a big advocate of using unpredictable creative methods, embracing differences and letting go of the pressure to be perfect, which is the perfect approach to creating your own prints at home.

Here’s Sasha’s comprehensive guide to getting started, complete with her expert tips on how to make this emerging interiors trend your own.

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You will need: 

  • An A4 pad of watercolour paper
  • Paintbrushes
  • Your choice of acrylic, watercolour, gouache and oil paints

Choose your painting method

Before you start painting, do some research into the aesthetic you like. “There are lots of available prints including acrylic, watercolour, gouache, oil paints and inks,” Sasha explains. “Look at artwork you like online, in a book or in a gallery and see what medium it has been created with so you can try to achieve a similar effect.”

Sasha adds, “You can watch tutorials online or simply buy a few of the necessary materials and experiment with what feels the easiest or most exciting to work with.”

Sasha’s favourite painting tutorials:

David Hockney’s acrylics tutorial

Heather Day on creating abstract paintings

Julianna Byrne of painting foraged botanicals

Louis Davidson’s abstract painting tutorials

Once you have decided which method you want to go with, you can buy your equipment. “The paper, paints and brushes make a huge difference to the range of effects that you can create, so it’s definitely worth investing in the right equipment and playing around a bit to find your style.”

Sasha recommends buying high-quality materials – if you can afford to do so – from brands like Winsor & Newton, Jackson’s Art and Cass Art. Sasha suggests buying an A4 pad of watercolour paper and paintbrushes to start, setting aside around £100 if you decide that painting is something you enjoy and want to pursue as a hobby.

Painting at home: the tools you need

How to decide what to paint

“Inspiration is a very personal thing and can be triggered by anything for different people,” Sasha says. “For me, it’s often linked to my emotions and I can be inspired by going to a gallery, reading a book or during a long walk.”

Sasha recommends thinking about your personal interests and taking inspiration from them. If you are into yoga, look at the shapes of your body when you’re moving. If gardening is your thing, take inspiration from the greenery you’re spending time with. Think about, too, how you can look at foods you are cooking and eating, the conversations you are having – look at the things you see every day differently, in order to find inspiration in them too.

Another thing you can try, Sasha suggests, is looking back at old photos you have taken on your phone and use them as a starting point.

How to start painting

Practising on scrap paper can be useful before beginning to paint on the paper you intend to use for your print. Sasha explains. “Just like writing thoughts down in a diary, things can seem clearer when on paper and then there is less pressure when creating your final piece.”

It can also help ensure that you like the look of the painting and make you feel more secure, “I find working in this way gives me more confidence when creating, and it takes away the temptation to keep adding more to the artwork which sometimes overcrowds it.”

Sasha says that there is no right or wrong place to start when it comes to putting your paintbrush to paper. “Creating is all about playing and having fun so it’s important in my eyes to not stick to set rules and to just go with the rhythm and flow that feels right.”

Her personal preference is to focus on the subject first before painting the background, as well as prioritising the areas that feel more exciting to focus on.

In terms of colours, Sarah uses a maximum of four in her prints, so that the overall image isn’t too busy. But that isn’t a set number. “Colour is a huge part of creativity so the key is to figure out which colours go well in your eyes and are representative of your emotions. It should feel right to you.”

Art prints for your home by Sasha Compton

How will I know when my painting is complete?

“As soon as painting feels frustrating or tiresome, which it often can, take a break and come back to it with fresh eyes or start again on a different subject,” Sasha advises. “Don’t worry if it doesn’t turn out how you planned.”

Sasha explains that she spends months on some designs but others are ready in a day – “Everyone’s creative process is different. There is no set time frame.”

“Expressing yourself through art is so exciting and very intriguing, as no one is the same and therefore no-one’s art can be the same. Your painting is finished when you feel it’s finished.”

You can follow Sasha on social media for more inspiration and there are plenty of resources on Stylist.co.uk to help you learn more about art and painting.

  • Sasha Compton, artist

    Sasha Compton, mixed-media artist

    Sasha Compton is a British artist based in Amsterdam who runs her own business selling her artwork. Her mixed-media artwork is colourful and focuses on positive imperfections, negative space and texture. Sarah completed a foundation year at Central St. Martins (UAL) specialising in Illustration and she also has a BA Hons Degree from Chelsea College of Arts (UAL) in Graphic Design & Communication degree.

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